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7 VA Benefits Often Overlooked by Veterans

Many vets miss out on what they earned while in uniform​

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Complex rules and the selflessness of veterans mean that some VA benefits don’t get used.

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You can subscribe here to AARP Veteran Report, a free e-newsletter published every two weeks. If you have feedback or a story idea then please contact us here.

“Too often we hear that those who are eligible feel their service wasn’t enough to qualify or that they are taking benefits from those that may need them more or there are others worse off than me,” Michael Figlioli, deputy director of National Veterans Services for the VFW, told AARP Veteran Report.

Here’s what many veterans are missing:

1. In-home help for those who can’t leave

Aid and Attendance, and Housebound benefits, can help pay for someone to visit to help you, said Hillary Wootton, of Homewatch CareGivers. “If a veteran has received a ‘Housebound’ rating, the VA will allow the veteran to deduct all fees paid to a non-licensed, in-home attendant, as long as the attendant provides ‘custodial services’ or assistance with at least two Activities of Daily Living (ADLs).”

Examples of ADLs include grooming, mobility and transportation, cooking and feeding, showering and getting dressed.

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2. Extra time to deal with debt

The COVID-19 pandemic caused financial stress for many. What some veterans don’t know is that Veterans Affairs extended financial hardship benefits for debt through 2022. The benefits were originally due to expire in September. It’s worth checking for a further extension.

Benefits include debts related to disability compensation, non-service-connected pensions and education. The VA offers debt management services online or by phone.

3. Help with a career shift due to disability 

Medically retired Army veteran Markia Brown served for nine years, but her disability prevented her from going back to her old job as a truck driver. So she applied for the VA’s Veteran Readiness and Employment (previously the Vocational Rehabilitation benefit).

“It is helping me get a degree in education so that I can teach personal finance,” Brown told AARP Veteran Report. The VA is paying for the degree. Brown had a case manager who helped her ease into her new working life. In some cases, family members qualify for this benefit.

4. Access to free emergency services

The Mission Act means that veterans enrolled in the VA in the past two years can go to the emergency room or urgent care and submit their VA card rather than face hefty bills.

“The veteran or their significant other must contact the VA within 72 hours and state that they were in an emergency room at a community hospital and a bill will be forthcoming,” said Dr. Darwin Hale of Advocate Health Advisors.

5. Use of a VA loan to become a homebuyer (more than once)

There is no limit to the number of VA home loans a veteran can get. “Veterans also overlook that they can often obtain their VA loan with a lower credit score than a conventional loan,” said Andy Tillman, a former Marine and Military Relocation Professional (MRP) and real estate agent with Abundance Real Estate. “These loans come with other benefits, especially if the borrower is a veteran with a service-connected disability.”

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Veterans can get a rush on an appraisal to help close faster on their homes. “This allows families separating from the military to move into their new house within two weeks,” Tillman said.

6. Women’s health care

Female veterans often assume that because women make up a smaller percentage of the veteran population, there aren’t specific services for them.

That assumption is incorrect. “The VA provides services specifically for women, including treating symptoms of menopause, urinary incontinence and other reproductive health aspects of aging,” said Gina Jackson, a VA spokesperson.

7. Hearing aids

“A government benefit that many veterans often neglect is the ability to receive hearing aids through Veterans Affairs Medical Centers,” said Annette Harris, a financial coach and Army veteran who served in Afghanistan and Iraq — and who herself has saved more than $20,000 in hearing aids and accessories through the VA

Bottom line

Veterans should never be reticent about claiming benefits, the VFW’s Figlioli insisted. “You spent time in service to your country. You sacrificed a part of your life to serve an ideal higher than oneself,” he said. “You were injured in that service, and the VA has the obligation to provide your earned benefits and make you whole.

“None of this happens without utilizing the system.”

You can subscribe here to AARP Veteran Report, a free e-newsletter published every two weeks. If you have feedback or a story idea then please contact us here.

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