Services, Sites Help Veterans Navigate Benefits Maze
Veterans returning to the U.S. from their tours of duty face a fresh challenge at home: making the switch from soldier to civilian. To make veterans' transitions easier, the federal and state governments offer a long list of benefits that address health, career, financial and other needs.
The military also offers debriefings before servicemembers are discharged to inform them of the benefits available and how to apply for them. Despite these efforts, many veterans are missing out on their fair share of entitlements.
That's likely due, in part, to timing: Veterans' advocates observe that many homebound servicemembers would rather focus on their families and the future than on learning about and applying for benefits. Those who do want to pursue their entitlements can find the amount of information and the application process daunting.
That's where nonprofit veterans' organizations and local agencies come in. Even though veterans can contact the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs directly for assistance, service providers like the National Veterans Foundation and County Veterans Service Office enable veterans to avoid the federal bureaucracy, at least for the moment, by providing individualized benefits information and case management services. And since these types of veterans organizations are typically staffed by fellow veterans, the men and women who use the services can begin the process by talking to someone who can relate to what they're going through. That kind of connection can be the key to seeing the process through.
According to the VA, approximately 74.5 million people, or about a quarter of the U.S. population, potentially are eligible for VA benefits and services as veterans, family members, or survivors. Though veterans' benefits won't provide a windfall for individuals, they can be significant and long lasting, and are worth the time and effort it takes to pursue them.
Just a few of the many resources available to returning servicemembers include:
- Returning Service Members
- VA online directory of Veterans Service Organizations
- Fund for Veterans' Education
- Operation Helping HEAL
- Injured Marine Semper Fi Fund
- Homes for Our Troops