This country has a lot of veterans. Many of them are not maimed, don’t have PTSD, aren’t in the poor house and don’t qualify for many of the benefits defined for US service member veterans.
My spouse is a veteran. He is not maimed or damaged by his service in any way. He served during the Vietnam war, but did not fight in the war or go to Vietnam. He served two years. He has done well in life. Consequently, just because he is a veteran does not mean he is eligible for many of the VA benefits.
His Grandfather was a WWI Vet, who died of complications from disease that he contracted while on active duty in a war zone. For many years, this man’s wife and family lived near poverty after the Grandfather died of this disease. Unbeknownst to her, she was eligible for a VA Survivor’s Pension . Many years later, one of her daughter’s husbands helped her apply for it – just a few years before her death in her 80’s. Knowing about and utilizing this pension would have made my Mother-in-law’s life somewhat easier while she was growing up in that deceased Veteran’s household.
VA benefits are not explained in detail to soldiers upon leaving the service, at least they weren’t explained to my spouse. You have to go figure out what they are and whether you may be eligible.
Of all the official Veteran’s Administration veteran benefits, these are the ones it seems he may qualify to receive if he so elects.
We don’t like debt. Consequently, now that we are financially independent we tend not to take out mortgages. We paid cash for our vacation condo and paid off our last mortgage in 1993 (Yeah!).
We should have applied for a VA mortgage right after he got out of the Army in 1974 instead of waiting 4 years and saving up a down payment to get a commercial mortgage. We would have been in a home much faster and could have gotten one in a better neighborhood than where we ended up.
It is worth checking out if you think you may qualify. There are also VA land loans if you want to build your own home.
Burial in a veteran’s cemetery
We have a family cemetery in which I hope both my spouse and I are buried. One of my great-uncles on my Mother’s side of the family bought enough plots years ago for all of my Grandmother’s side of the family. When Mom died, my brother purchased additional plots adjacent to hers so that family coming after could rest there as well. I bought those plots from him several years ago. So, my spouse and I won’t be taking advantage of this VA benefit, but you might want to, especially when you consider the cost of a funeral and burial which can cost from $7000 to $10,000.
According to the VA
“Burial benefits available include a grave site in any of our 131 national cemeteries with available space, opening and closing of the grave, perpetual care, a Government headstone or marker, a burial flag, and a Presidential Memorial Certificate, at no cost to the family.”
If you choose to bury your veteran in a private cemetery and pay for the funeral and burial as we plan to do, you may be eligible to get some reimbursement from the government. For us, it would be “$300 toward burial and funeral expenses (if not hospitalized by VA at time of death), and a $700.00 plot-interment allowance. ” Not much compared to that average cost of $7 – 10K, but hey it helps.
Check it out using the Burial Fact Sheet put out by the VA.
Grave headstone, marker or medallion
You can get a free government headstone or marker, engraved OR you can get a medallion to affix to your own privately purchased headstone or marker.
If we do either, it will most likely be the medallion – it sound’s like they are designed so that even family members can put them on the headstone – which would cut out any opportunity for the funeral home or cemetery to charge you to do it.
Military funeral honors
I’m hoping (and think it is true) that my Veteran will be eligible for this as I think he deserves it. He is proud of his service to his country and volunteered at a time when many of his peers were dodging the draft by skipping over the border to Canada.
The VA says:
“Upon the family’s request, Public Law 106-65 requires that every eligible Veteran receive a military funeral honors ceremony, to include folding and presenting the United States burial flag and the playing of Taps.”
Memorial Presidential Certificate
This certificate would be a nice touch to include in the family history archive, showing that my Vet served.
What other benefits are there?
Here are some of the eligibility and needs based benefits that we aren’t eligible to use. Check them out if you have a veteran in your family as they may be of help to you.
If you qualify via the veteran’s service injury and/or because of income levels, the VA provides an extensive medical network.
If your veteran is or is about to become, homeless, there are programs to help with food, housing and education.
Commissary and exchange facilities
Several groups of veterans remain eligible to shop in the military commissaries and exchange facilities – including but not limited to surviving un-married spouses of veterans who died in the line of duty, medal of honor winners, military retirees and more.
Education and training
The famous GI bill has been updated several times, but still provides significant benefits to veterans to obtain education and training. It is now known as the Post 9/11 GI bill. You do have to use these within a certain number of years, so, unfortunately, my veteran is no longer eligible for them. This isn’t too big of an issue, because he has no desire to get added training or education at this point in his life.
Other perks for veterans.
The VA is not the only place that gives benefits, perks and discounts for veterans. Here are some that most anyone (if you are a vet) can take advantage of.
Veteran’s Day Freebies
Outback, Applebees, Krispy Kreme and many others (both national and local) offer free meals to active, retired and former military personnel. Its a smart move on their part, because how many veterans are going to go out to eat alone?
Retailers such as Bass Pro Shops, Bed Bath and Beyond, Lowes and more offer percent’s off for a period of time around Veteran’s Day.
National Parks free day
Anyone can enter any national park free of charge on Veterans day as well as the other ‘free’ days (January 19; Feb 14 – 16; April 18 – 19; August 25 and September 26).
We have a senior pass, which for $10 allows free lifetime entrance and discounts on certain other services.
Theme parks offer discounts on certain days. for example:
Knott’s Berry Farm, the theme park south of Los Angeles, which is offering free tickets to present and former military members and a guest until the beginning of January 2015.
Airlines (American); trains (Amtrack); car rental (Budget); Cruise lines (Carnival) all offer discounts to veterans. For some of these, though you need to join a program called Veteran’s Advantage – which has an associated fee.
Do you know of any other benefits or perks to which veteran’s may have access?
Thanks for all the information! I’m a veteran, I knew about the VA Mortgage, but there are other benefits I didn’t know about. Definitely this post will help a lot of other veterans and their families.