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Resources for Veterans

Various benefits are available from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs to veterans and their spouses and children. These include compensation and pensions, survivor benefits, education, vocational rehabilitation, home loans, and life insurance.

1. Compensation and pensions

 Disability compensation is paid to veterans who suffer from injuries or diseases incurred during their time on active duty, or were made worse because of military service. Additional payments may be made to a veteran who has a spouse or children, or who has a very severe disability, or who has a disabled spouse. The benefits are not taxed.

A Veterans Affairs pension may be paid to veterans aged 65 years and over. A person under 65 may qualify if he or she is totally and permanently disabled. An income test applies. Disabled veterans may also receive an aid and attendance benefit if the veteran needs the assistance of another person with their day-to-day activities such as washing and eating, or is bedridden, in a nursing home, or blind. A housebound benefit is also available. Both are paid in addition to the pension.

A death pension benefit is payable to surviving spouses and dependent children. There is an income test to qualify.

Burial allowances include a gravesite in a national cemetery, a headstone or a marker, a flag, a presidential memorial certificate, and ongoing maintenance of the grave.

2. Survivor benefits

Veterans Affairs offers a number of benefits to the spouse and children of a veteran who died in service or from a service-related disability.

Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (DIC) is a monthly payment of $1,154 (in 2009) available to a spouse. He or she will receive an extra $286 a month for each child. This is a tax-free benefit. A spouse who remarries at age 57 years or over can continue to receive the benefit. A $250 transitional benefit is also paid each month for two years if the spouse has children under 18 years.

A lump sum DIC for surviving children if there is no surviving spouse is currently $488 for one child. This amount reduces with the greater number of children in the family, right up to nine children who each receive $217.66.

A parents' DIC may be paid as a monthly benefit to the parents of a veteran who dies in active service. The benefit is means tested.

The Survivors' and Dependents' Educational Assistance program pays a monthly education or training allowance. The spouse or children can receive this monthly payment for up to 45 months.

Work-study employment is available to a spouse or children who study full time or at least three-quarter time toward a degree or a vocational or professional qualification.

Other benefits include Vet Center bereavement counseling, and beneficiary financial counseling services, as well as those listed under other headings.

3. Education

Benefits for training and education are available under various programs. The benefit can usually be used for a degree or certificate course, apprenticeship, flight training, or a correspondence course. Under some circumstances, a remedial, deficiency, or refresher course might be approved.

From Aug. 1, 2009, the new Post-9/11 GI Bill will pay tuition and fees to an institution of higher learning, as well as for books and supplies to the value of $1,000. It will also pay a monthly housing allowance and a one-off payment for those in rural areas. The education benefits will be available for 15 years after release from active duty and can be paid for up to three years.

Montgomery GI Bill - Active Duty also provides up to three years of education benefits for veterans. Benefits under this program are available for up to 10 years.

The Montgomery GI Bill - Selected Reserve offers similar benefits to the active duty program but to members of reserve forces such as Army Reserve and Navy Reserve.

A Reserve Education Assistance Program gives education benefits to reserve officers called up to war or national emergency.A $600 buy-up program allows certain service persons and reservists to contribute up to $600 to the GI Bill and receive extra benefits up to $5,400.

Veterans Education Assistance Program is for veterans who first entered service between 1977 and 1985 who made contributions to this program from their pay. The government will contribute $2 for every dollar and the money can be used for various courses.

The Survivors' and Dependents' Educational Assistance Program pays for education and training of dependents of those who died on active duty, or died or became totally disabled due to a service-related condition. Special restorative or vocational training may be available.

4. Vocational rehabilitation

The Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment Program assists veterans with a service-related disability to prepare for work, find a job, and keep it. This includes services such as an evaluation to determine a veteran's abilities and skills, learning job seeking skills and resume writing, help finding a job, on the job training, and tertiary training at a college or a vocational or business school.

Free vocational education counseling is available to veterans and dependents. Services might include aptitude and interests testing, exploring different occupations and setting goals, and examining education or training options.

5. Home loans

A Veterans Affairs Home Loan is available to eligible veterans. This includes those who served in World War II or the Korean, Vietnam, or Gulf wars for at least 90 days, or less than 90 days if discharged due to disability. It also includes those who served at least 180 days during peacetime.

A departmental loan counselor can be appointed to a veteran who is experiencing mortgage difficulties. Services to help avoid foreclosure include a repayment plan, special forbearance, loan modification, extra time to arrange a sale, short sale, and a deed in lieu of foreclosure.

A Veterans Affairs Home Loan to a surviving spouse may offer a better interest rate than other home loans. Under the Home Loan Guaranty, a spouse may be able to secure a guaranteed loan through a private lender. This could be for a new or existing home, or renovations, or to refinance an existing mortgage.

6. Life insurance

Veterans Affairs offer life insurance benefits to veterans who cannot get private cover due to a service-related disability. Service members' Group Life Insurance (SGLI) members who are discharged due to totally disability may be able to stay covered for up to two years without cost.

All SGLI members automatically qualify for the Traumatic Injury Protection program. This is effective from Dec. 1, 2005, and applies retrospectively to Oct. 7, 2001 for injuries sustained in the Enduring Freedom or Iraqi Freedom operations.

Payments are available to spouses of deceased veterans under SGLI. The maximum amount is $400,000 and is not taxable. Payment can be a lump sum or 36 equal monthly installments. Family SGLI provides a further amount of up to $100,000 for a spouse and $10,000 for each child.

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