Veterans serve the country and sacrifice a great deal financially while in service. As an act of gratitude, the government offers benefits to service members and their families, with many being tax-related. These financial benefits and programs are designed to assist veterans with reaching major financial goals that include reducing debt, paying off student loans or housing, or saving for retirement. To capitalize on these benefits, it is imperative to gain all the knowledge necessary to pursue them..
Defining Veteran Status and Associated Benefits
A veteran is formally defined as someone who served in the active military, navy, or air service that was released or discharged honorably. It is important to understand status to determine eligibility for the various veteran benefits available. Disabled military veterans or those that have lost a spouse during military service also qualify for certain benefits. With financial benefits dependent on status, interested veterans should research thoroughly to ascertain which services are available.
1. Low-Cost Investments
With some of the lowest retirement savings plans around, service members can utilize the Thrift Savings Plan (TSP) to select among five index mutual funds that become more conservative over time automatically as veterans get closer to retirement age. There is also the Roth TSP, which is similar to the Roth IRA, but with no income restrictions.
Veterans can also take advantage of the Savings Deposit Program to invest up to $10,000 with each deployment and receive 10 percent interest annually compounded quarterly. The program lasts up to three months after returning from a deployment. It offers an excellent way to save money as veterans transition from military service towards retirement.
2. VA Home Loans and Living Expenses
Military members are granted access to Veterans Affairs (VA) loans as an opportunity to purchase a house with no money down and also no private mortgage insurance required. This is a great benefit as a high credit score isn’t necessary. Plus, veterans can utilize a VA mortgage calculator and get great low-interest rates that allow homeownership to be that much easier.
Through the United Services Automobile Association (USAA) program, veterans can receive discounted homeowner’s insurance, a move-in housing allowance, home renovations, rental agent fees, and much more. It is important to always consult with a real estate agent that has experience working with veterans before purchasing a home.
3. Educational Benefits
Education through vocational schools or colleges creates an avenue for veterans to expand their skills and transition into civilian life more efficiently. Through the GI Bill, military veterans are eligible for free in-state tuition to attend university and up to $17,500 to pay out-of-state tuition for up to 36 months. In addition to tuition, veterans can also receive a housing stipend and money for school books and supplies. Another great benefit to the GI Bill is that service members can transfer these benefits to a spouse or children.
While in service, many skills are learned you can transfer that to the civilian world. Through the College Level Equivalency Program, it is possible to get credit for skills already attained and even test out of certain programs after finishing a military career. An additional option is to transfer college credits from Excelsior College to a chosen university. For those in the military that had college loans before their service career, veterans may be eligible for a loan repayment program to lessen debt.
4. Veterans Benefits Banking Program (VBBP)
The VBBP empowers veterans to make safe and informed financial decisions. They offer saving and checking accounts and access to educational programs and financial advice geared towards military personnel. The VA created the program to give veterans more financial freedom and streamline the benefits of various sources. Participating banks also offer more assistance in granting veterans the knowledge they need to enhance their financial standing.
5. Career Programs
Qualified veterans interested in learning a trade can enroll in transition programs that offer networking workshops, interview training, and job skill assessments. It is also possible to update your resume through Veterans.gov, a site that allows veterans to match up skills with the civilian work world. Through the U.S. Department of Labor, military members also receive preferential treatment for certain federal jobs.
Benefits Earned in Service
Military service requires sacrifice, but the returns that come with service provide many opportunities for veterans to benefit financially. Research everything and learn about the educational, housing, and tax benefit qualifications. With careful preparation, veterans can fully capitalize on what the government provides after serving their country.