How You Can Save Money – Military Edition

Saving money in the military is not difficult, but the key is to start saving early. Saving money and getting out of debt to stay out of debt are the two keys to becoming financially stable. It’s easy to start saving in the military, and the advice below will explain how.

Start a Thrift Savings Plan (TSP) or an Individual Retirement Account (IRA), which can be started through Navy Federal or USAA

These may sound intimidating, but they are simply savings accounts that allow your money to grow over time at a higher percent than a normal savings account. The main difference between these and a normal savings account is that the money you deposit into a TSP or IRA cannot be withdrawn until retirement age (usually 59 ½ years of age) without penalty.

You determine the amount that will be contributed whether it be per military paycheck or monthly, which will allow the money to accrue over time. Before you start either, speak to a financial counselor to determine what option would be best for you. The TSP is only available for current service members, but can remain upon discharge and continue with you as a veteran. An IRA can be separate from the military. If you did not start a TSP as a service member, you can start an IRA as a veteran through your employer or bank.

Set-up recurring transfers into your savings account

The easiest way to start saving money is to set up automatic transfers to a savings account. It does not need to start big, any little bit will add up fast. To get started, set up a recurring payment of $5 each time you get paid. Monitor your savings account and see that soon you will have $20 saved, then $100, then $500, and so on.

Scheduling recurring transfers can easily be set up through the bank’s mobile app or online, and you control the transfers. Changing the amount or the frequency can be done at any time, and it can even be cancelled as easily as it was set up. If you prefer to speak to a representative, don’t hesitate to call your bank’s customer service.

Once you are feeling confident, start putting away more money. The more money you put away, the more money you will save.

Set a savings goal

You may find that you need more motivation to deliberately put money into your savings account. Admittedly, it can be hard to control instant gratification. If this is the case, choose something pricey you would like to purchase or perhaps a travel destination you would like to visit. For instance, you want a motorcycle. A used motorcycle can cost approximately $3,000-$4,000, though it can certainly cost more. A new motorcycle might cost $12,000, or more so start saving for that motorcycle!

Choosing to save for a goal rather than using a credit card for instant gratification will automatically save money because savings accounts pay interest, while purchasing with credit will cost interest. It will also save you the stress of having to pay off a debt that you may find out later that you couldn’t afford when you thought you could.


Everyday tips for saving money

Bring coffee, bring lunch. Daily coffee for $2.00 doesn’t seem like much that morning, and neither does a $3.00 energy drink that afternoon after a nice $10.00 lunch. That’s $15.00 spent just on Monday. If this is your habit everyday, that’s $75.00 just on food and drinks for your typical work week. That’s $300.00 you could have put in savings that month, not to mention what a year’s worth of $4 coffee would look like.

Get gas on base. Wherever you are stationed, most likely gas is the least expensive on base. If you happen to find a gas station that has an even better rate, go there. It really does add up – the extra $3-$5 you may be paying each time you fill up could be $20 put in your savings account that month. You can also use the free GasBuddy app to see gas prices near you and weed out overpriced stations.

Shop around. Don’t buy a new item as soon as it gets your heart racing. It might be new Under Armour workout gear or electronics, but check multiple places before making that purchase. You can probably find a better deal at another store, or online, making the delay worth the wait. Sometimes just by waiting you may also realize that the item no longer seems so attractive, allowing the wait to save you money.

If you are taking steps toward financial responsibility, using the steps above to build a financial foundation is a great start. For a more thorough explanation of personal finance, visit educational financial centers offered to military and dependents.

25 Money-Saving Tips for Military Families

Want to protect your hard-earned cash? Military discounts go a long way. Always ask retailers, restaurants, airlines, motels and other establishments, “Do you have a military discount?” Meanwhile, here are 25 other money-saving tips. Go ahead, wave your frugal flag.

Save at home

1. Trade time/repair skill with a neighbor. Swap services or trade time (a Saturday, for example) with a neighbor. You may know plumbing and your neighbor may be handy with a hammer. Trading time with a trusted neighbor can extend beyond home repairs to other ways to help — lawn, babysitting, etc.

2. Do-it-yourself repairs and maintenance. Whether it’s painting a room, doing yard work or bathroom repairs, even those with all-thumbs can pull these off. If you’re already a DIY’er you can take on bigger projects. Check out service member deals at home improvement stores.

3. Use coupons. Use coupons or join a coupon exchange for home services that require a pro.

4. Shop garage/yard sales and second-hand stores. You can get great deals on things like furniture, dishes and clothes.

Save on entertainment

5. Host a pot-luck dinner. It’s cheaper, you get a variety of tastes and you don’t have to do all the cooking. It’s also fun and social. Tip: Have everyone bring a specific or assigned dish.

6. Think free outings. Check out the local parks, memorials and art galleries. Take a picnic. Go on a walk, hike or stroll. Have kids? Take them fishing, skipping rocks or to playgrounds.

7. Have a leisurely lunch. Have lunch out and eat dinner in. Think mid-afternoon. Lunch often is cheaper than dinner. Or when you’re out for dinner, split an entrée and each get an appetizer.

8. Seek discounts at amusement parks and museums. Most offer military discounts. Google “military discounts at amusement parks”— you’ll find a bunch, especially at the well-known ones. Same goes for museums. Better yet: Visit the Morale, Welfare and Recreation Digital Library available on Military OneSource to find a range of fitness, recreational and skills development programs, tickets and more — some at reduced rates.

9. Shop online. Sure, you’re already doing it. But you can shop for just about anything online and compare prices. You can also look for online coupons.

Save on clothes and school supplies

10. Look for deals. Shop at your military installation’s commissary and exchange. Shoppers typically save more than 30 percent compared to shopping in town. Or shop at outlet and discount stories. Consignment and thrifts shops are good too. And look for deals online.

11. Stock up on basics during sales. When you find good deals on socks and underwear, buy a few extra pair to lock in the savings.

12. Get the most from your wardrobe. Uniforms also can be worn off duty. Sticking to similar color combinations or buying clothes in neutral colors lets you do more with fewer clothes.

Save with military travel deals

13. Fly for free. Service members and family can fly free or at very low cost when space is available on military flights. Space-available Passenger Transportation, or Space-A Travel, can be tricky at times but can save you lots of money on flights.

14. Visit national parks for free. National Parks and Federal Recreational Lands Pass is your ticket to more than 2,000 federal recreation sites. A free annual pass is available for current U.S. military members and dependents.

15. Go camping. It can be cheaper and more fun than hotels. If camping isn’t your family’s thing, pick kid-friendly hotels that don’t charge extra for children.

16. Travel off-season, with a group or on a tour. It’s cheaper than going on your own or on-season.

17. Use Department of Defense Lodging services. Military families are eligible to use military lodging around the world, ranging from cottages on the beach to world-class resorts or recreational lodging facilities. Destinations include resort towns, big cities, oceanfront getaways, mountain top retreats and overseas locales.

Save on transportation

18. Walk, bike or use public transportation. It’s cheaper and healthier for you and the environment. If you can’t, carpool.

19. Shop for car insurance. If you must drive your own vehicle, compare rates online and consider a higher deductible on collision coverage if your car is older. While you’re at it, keep your car maintained — and DIY, if you can.

20. Buy a used car. A two-year-old car with some mileage can save you thousands versus a new car. Have your mechanic check it out, however.

Save on utilities

21. Do the basics. Turn off the lights when not using them. Unplug computers, appliances, charging cables when not using them. Visit the Department of Energy’s Energy Saver website. Don’t heat or cool rooms you don’t use. Close your fireplace damper when not in use.

22. Insulate your attic or other unfinished spaces. Use storm windows and weatherproof your home to reduce heat or cooling loss.

23. Watch the thermostat. Setting your temperature between 68 and 72 degree may be comfy, but it can kill your wallet. Set the air conditioner at 78 in the summer when home (consider running fans instead). Turn the heat to 64 or so and wear extra layers of clothes.

24. Buy energy-efficient appliances. Look for the Energy Star label.

25. Double check your cell phone and cable bills. Make sure you’re not paying for needless services. Also, bundle your phone, internet and cable, if you can. And watch your data use on mobile devices. That can break tight budgets.

10 Military Discounts for Spouses

Military discounts are all around us. Some offer better deals than others. Some are advertised. Some are little known secrets that are revealed only when requested. Some expire, some are seasonal, and some last forever. And while there are some military discounts that are custom-made for service members, there are some that are perfect for military spouses.

Here’s a list of 10 military discounts that spouses love:

1. Disney

Have you always wanted to take your family on vacation at Disney World but tossed the idea aside because you thought you couldn’t afford it? Well, with a military ID, you can afford it. Through Disney’s Armed Forces Salute program, military personnel can get discounted tickets to Disney theme parks, as well as discounts off select rooms at Disney Resort hotels. These deals are good for military spouses of eligible service members even without the member being present.

2. BuildASign.com

Deployments are a regular part of military life. And that means homecomings are a regular part too. Ready to celebrate the end of a deployment with a memorable homecoming? BuildASign offers free homecoming banners to welcome your special service member home.

3. Home Depot/Lowes

Owning a house is hard work. There’s always something that needs to be done, whether it’s the grass that needs mowing or pictures that need hanging or appliances that spontaneously break. Then, once you think you finally have a handle on all those home improvement projects, it’s time to PCS and start all over with a different house.

That’s why spouses love the 10% year-round military discounts offered at both Home Depot and Lowes. If your house needs it, Home Depot and Lowes will have it.

4. Restaurants

Whether you and your significant other are heading out for date night, or the deployment is leaving you in need of a night off from cooking, going out to eat is even more enjoyable when you’re not paying full price for that yummy meal.

From Hard Rock Cafe to Ryan’s to the Melting Pot, lots of restaurants offer military discounts. Keep in mind that even though some chain restaurants may offer a military appreciation night or a discount in one location, it doesn’t mean all of them do.

5. Amusement Parks

Who doesn’t love taking a family vacation to LEGOLAND or Universal Studios or Colonial Williamsburg? Amusement parks are a fun way for military families to spend time together, whether on vacation, celebrating a homecoming, or heading out for a random day trip.

Do you have an amusement park in your area? Make sure you call ahead, check their website, or visit your local ITT office to ask about military discounts.

6. Clothing and accessories

Clothes, shoes, accessories. We need them. But putting together a wardrobe sure is expensive. That’s why military spouses love the discounts offered at stores like Kohl’s, Old Navy, Banana Republic, New York and Company, Rack Room Shoes and many more. Some stores offer discounts both in-store and online while others may not, so it’s best to call or check the website for details.

7. Crafts

Maybe you want to try to make that awesome Pinterest project people keep talking about. Maybe the kiddos have school projects due soon. Or maybe you want to put together a care package for a deployed loved one. Spouses can head over to Jo-Ann Fabric, Michaels and A.C. Moore for discounts on just about any crafting needs you can think of.

8. Movie theaters

Is it a rainy day and the kids are bored? Take them to the movies. Do you finally get to have a date night and you need something to do after dinner? Go to the movies. But don’t forget your military ID because many movie theaters, like Cinemark and Regal offer military discounts on tickets.

9. Cruises

Cruises are another way to enjoy family vacation time. And thanks to military discounts offered by cruise lines like MSC Cruises and Disney Cruise Line, it’s more affordable than you think.

10. Local discounts

National brands and chains aren’t the only businesses that offer military discounts. Local businesses also like to show their support for the military by providing discounts, especially in cities with a large military presence. Don’t know what businesses in your area offer military discounts? Your best bet is just to ask, “Do you have a military discount?” It never hurts to ask, and you might end up pleasantly surprised with a great deal.

Military Benefits At a Glance

So, you are considering your options for the future and thinking about the military. Joining the military is unlike any other option because there are benefits you won’t find anywhere else. An important step is understanding the many tangible and intangible benefits of joining the military:

  • Option for full-time or part time service
  • A guaranteed paycheck and Cash Bonuses
  • Education Benefits
  • Advanced and Specialty Training
  • Travel
  • Tax-free room, board and allowances
  • Health and Dental Care
  • 30 days annual paid vacation
  • Use of commissary and Military Exchange stores
  • Special home loans and discounts
  • Unparalleled sense of patriotism, duty, honor and selfless service
  • Highly sought-after skills, leadership and training experience

The Money

There is a myth that the military’s benefits and pay are not competitive with the civilian sector. The military offers highly competitive pay and benefits packages. Active duty is a full-time job with guaranteed pay, cost of living adjustments, allowances, unparalleled opportunities and bonuses. The Reserves, though part-time, offer most of the same benefits. The longer you serve and continue to grow in rank, the more you earn.

Special Pay. Depending on your job and service, you may receive Special Pay on top of your base salary. Examples of Special Pay are enlisted flyer incentive pay, submarine duty pay, and hazardous duty pay.

Enlistment Bonuses. The first cash award opportunity for enlisting is an enlistment bonus. Enlistment bonuses vary by branch and change to meet the needs of the service, so be sure to ask your recruiter about the availability of bonuses.

Advanced Enlistment Rank Pay Opportunities. In addition to enlistment bonuses, recruiters can offer opportunities to enter the service at higher pay grades (Advanced Enlistment Rank). Most recruits start out at E-1 (Enlisted Pay grade 1 of 9 pay grades), however qualified enlistees may enter at E-2 or E-3 resulting in higher base pay.

College Tuition And Repayment Of College Loans

Going into the military right out of high school does not deprive you of a college education. The military can help pay for college or pay off college loans. Most enlistees are eligible for up to 100 percent of college tuition through the Tuition Assistance Program (TAP) while on active duty. Additionally, the Air Force has the nation’s largest community college, the Community College of the Air Force for which enrollment is automatic upon enlistment in the Air Force. Armed Forces education benefit programs include the Forever GI Bill, Army, Navy, Marine and Navy College Funds, College Loan Repayment (including Student Loan Forgiveness) and Student Loan Deferment and Forbearance.

  • The Army, Navy, and Marine College Funds: The College Fund, also known as a “GI Bill kicker,” is an additional monthly benefit for college that can be offered to Active Duty and Reserve servicemembers as part of an enlistment or reenlistment contract. Qualifications and amounts vary from service to service.
  • The Forever GI Bill (FGIB): The Harry W, Colmery Veterans Educational Assistance Act is effective August 1, 2018. Also known as the “Forever GI Bill,” it expands upon the Post 9/11 GI Bill and will bring significant changes to Veterans education benefits over the coming years. Most changes enhance or expand education benefits for Veterans, servicemembers, families, and survivors.
  • Tuition Assistance Program (TAP): TAP is a benefit paid to eligible members of the Armed Forces. Congress has authorized each service to pay up to 100% of the tuition expenses for its members. TAP is available to active duty, National Guard and Reserve Component service members for vocational, technical, undergraduate and graduate programs.
  • College Loan Repayment Program and Student Loan Deferment Program: The Military College Loan Repayment Program (CLRP) is an enlistment incentive for new recruits. The Military’s Federal Student Loan Forgiveness Program is a benefit that eliminates up to $65,000 in existing student loan debt. The Air Force, Army and Navy offer Student Loan Repayment programs for qualified candidates. The Army and Navy will repay the maximum allowed by law for non-prior service active duty enlistments. The Air Force repays up to $10,000 for non-prior service, active duty enlistments and the Air National Guard repays up to $20,000. The Army and Army National Guard repay up to $20,000 for Reserve enlistments and the Navy Reserve repays up to $10,000 for Navy Reserve enlistments. While deferments don’t reduce your debt obligations, they can be helpful in delaying them. Eligibility rules are determined by status, lender requirements and other conditions. Not all branches pay CLRP benefits. The availability and amount depend on the branch of service. The Marine Corps, Coast Guard, and Air Force Reserves do not offer the College Loan Repayment Program.

Housing, Health And Dental Care Benefits

The military considers the health and welfare of servicemembers and their families to be one of its most important priorities.

Health Care for Reserves and Guard: Reserve members and their families are eligible for health care when activated. Members also may be eligible for either full or partial insurance coverage.

Housing, Room and Board: The Military has a tradition of providing room and board, including meals (rations) as part of servicemembers’ pay. While on active duty, you are eligible for free dining or an allowance to cover the cost of your meals if dining facilities are unavailable.

Although military housing varies by rank, location and family situation, new recruits start their military careers living on base. During basic training, recruits live in group quarters with shared bathroom facilities. As servicemembers move up in rank, their housing options expand.

Servicemembers and their families live in well-designed and modern on-base housing communities that emulate what civilian communities offer, including schools, church facilities, gyms, libraries, banks, commissaries, theaters, restaurants, shopping and many other community support services.

Insurance, Health and Dental Care: Hospitals, clinics and dental services are provided for active duty personnel and their families on or near most military installations. Active duty servicemembers are eligible for $50,000 to $400,000 in affordable life insurance.

Veterans’ Benefits

The Federal Government and most states offer support programs for Veterans such as home loan guarantees, Small Business Loans, Health Care, and more. One of the most popular veteran programs is the VA Guaranteed Home Loan Program which enables qualified buyers to obtain zero-down financing, making it easier for veterans to own their dream home.

Travel Benefits And Vacation Time

With installations throughout the world, the military pays relocation expenses for you and your family. In addition to seeing the world while serving your country, military members and their families are eligible for “space available” military flights to almost anywhere in the world at little or no cost and for space available lodging at any military base. Additionally, there are world-class resorts only for military personnel, like Shades of Green near Walt Disney World , the Hale Koa Hotel on Waikiki  and resorts in Japan, Germany and South Korea.

The Intangible Rewards Are Priceless

Your military experience will impact your entire life. Through military service, you learn self-discipline, earn respect and demonstrate work ethic. The experience, training, and leadership skills you earn in the military are exactly what employers seek, but that’s just an additional benefit.

A feeling of patriotism, sense of duty, honor, selfless service, and of purpose that can be gained only through military service are some of the sentiments that veterans and servicemembers share. All this plus leadership skills, doing work that matters, camaraderie, and accomplishment are just some of the intangibles that are perhaps the most rewarding of all military benefits.

10 Veterans Benefits You May Not Know About

Many veterans know about the basic health care and education benefits available to them through the Department of Veterans Affairs: Tricare and the GI Bill.­­­ While these benefits alone are substantial, numerous other programs help provide more benefits to veterans and their families. Even within the health care and education programs are little-known benefits to improve the lives of veterans and help ease the financial burden of medical care or other expenses. Here are 10 veterans benefits you haven’t heard about that all veterans should see if they qualify for.

1.     Long-term Care
Long-term care is expensive, but often necessary to provide care for aging relatives. Through the Aid and Attendance program, many veterans are eligible to receive money to cover the cost of nursing homes, assisted living programs and other long-term care options. With the ability for couples to receive up to $25,020 a year, the Aid & Attendance benefit will help take care of a significant portion of long-term care costs. Surviving spouses of veterans are also eligible to receive up to $13,560 a year to cover their long-term care costs.

2.     Death Benefits
When a veteran dies, families have a few unique benefits available to them. A U.S. flag may be requested to drape over the casket and families may request a Presidential Memorial Certificate to honor the deceased loved ones service. The Department of Veterans Affairs also provides free headstones or grave markers.

3.     Certification Programs
In addition to receiving credits to use toward a college degree, the GI Bill offers up to $2,000 to help cover the cost of certification courses or other vocational training programs. This benefit will work well for veterans who wish to change careers or pursue a career path that does not require a college degree.

4.     Caregiver Support
Should you choose to take care of an ailing Veteran at home, the Department of Veterans Affairs offers a caregiver support program. While this program does not offer any monetary support to caregivers, they are provided with a free support line and a caregiver support coordinator to help navigate military benefits and the stress of care giving.

5.    Transferring GI Bill® Credits
Unused credits through the GI Bill may be transferred to spouses and dependents of veterans. There are service limits required to transfer the benefits.

6.    Life Insurance
Many veterans have trouble obtaining traditional life insurance, particularly if they sustained an injury during their time of service. Through the Servicemembers’ and Veterans’ Group Life Insurance program, veterans may receive up to $400,000 in life insurance. This program also offers competitive premium rates.

7.    Mortgage Help
Veterans having trouble making their mortgage payments are eligible for repayment assistance through the Department of Veterans Affairs. Options for help include special repayment plans, loan forbearance and loan modification programs. Additional benefits are available for veterans with VA loans and for homeless veterans.

8.    Free Tax Preparation
Veterans and their family have access to free tax preparation services through the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance offices on military bases. The individuals who work in the offices have expertise working with the complicated nature of military-related tax issues.

9.    VA Foreclosures
The VA maintains a list of homes serviced by VA loans that have gone into foreclosures. Veterans have the ability to search the list of VA acquired properties and purchase homes at a discount. You do not have to be a veteran to search the properties, but all properties qualify for VA financing.

10.    American Corporate Partners
American Corporate Partners connects veterans with top companies to help them obtain a job after their time of service. Along with being connected to job opportunities, veterans have the opportunity to receive one-on-one mentoring and other career development services.

FAQ

How do I get life insurance as discussed above?

Visit the VA’s Servicemembers’ & Veterans’ Group Life Insurance website. It provides everything you need to know.

1. Long-term Care, – “With the ability for couples to receive up to $25,020 a year, the pension;” does pension here mean a Vet must be receiving a military pension to be eligible for this benefit?

You must establish eligibility for basic VA pension first. However, this enhanced pension is based on a higher income limit so even if you’re not eligible for the VA basic pension you may still be eligible the the A & A program. The VA Pension for Veterans programs is a benefit paid to wartime Veterans who have limited or no income, and who are age 65 or older, or, under 65, and are permanently and totally disabled, or, a patient in a nursing home, or, are receiving Social Security disability payments.

Who should be contacted in regards to American Corporate Partners for job employment / training?

Here is the American Corporate Partners website link to contact them.

How can you acquire a list of VA Foreclosed homes & properties?

Find local Veterans Affairs offices here.
After the VA acquires a foreclosed property they are added to the local Multiple Listing Systems or MLS which local veterans affairs offices and/or real estate agents have access to.

Wendy’s Military Discount Promotion: Up to 10% off

I find that Wendy’s is a great fast food location, their fresh but never frozen beef patties allow them to stand out of the crowd along with a great value menu option. Military members can further benefit from this deal by receiving a 10% off discount.

Wendy’s supports their troops by giving them a quality fast food experience. I find that whenever I go down to Wendy’s I find their beef patties and salads to be fresher than other fast food joints. If you are looking for quality fast food that is hard to find these days I recommend dropping by Wendy’s.

Make sure to call your local Wendy’s, each store is different and may offer different military discounts. When you show up all you have to do to qualify is present your military ID when you dine. Now sit back and enjoy a piping hot Baconator or home style chicken sandwich.

Wendy’s Military Discount Promotion

  • Discount: 10% off
  • Eligibility: Servicemen and Servicewomen who are serving or have serve in the Military.
  • Availability: Nationwide (Locator), in-store only
  • What To Do: Present your military ID at checkout.

Bottom Line

If you are a military member that is sick of the normal fast food joints Wendy’s gives not only a more quality experience but gives a discount of 10% off your order.  Don’t worry this discount applies at any time, just be sure to show your military ID to be able to get this awesome discount.

What I love about Wendy’s besides their quality options, is that their value menu gives some of the best deals, they can act as great additions to your meal or add up for a great cheap meal.

VA Has Refunded All Home Loan Funding Fees Charged in Error, Officials Say

The Department of Veterans Affairs says it has made refunds to all veterans who were mistakenly charged a funding fee on their VA guaranteed home loans.

Generally, all veterans using the VA Home Loan Guaranty benefit must pay a funding fee. That funding fee is a percentage of the loan amount, which varies based on the type of loan as well as other factors.

The average funding fee the VA charged veterans during the period of inspection was $4,483.

Veterans eligible for disability compensation, as well as surviving spouses of veterans who died as a result of service-connected issues, are exempt from the fee.

A June report by the VA’s Inspector General said that from Jan. 1, 2012, through Dec. 31, 2017, the VA improperly charged disabled veterans funding fees despite their exempt status.

“VA staff worked diligently throughout the summer reviewing 130,000 cases, which is an average of 16,000 loans reviewed per week,” said VA Secretary Robert Wilkie in a statement. “This effort included loans dating back nearly 20 years. Our administration prioritized fixing the problems and paid Veterans what they were owed.” VA officials say that more than $400 million in refunds has been issued as a result of their review.

Those who believe they paid a funding fee in error are strongly encouraged to contact their VA Regional Loan Center at (877) 827-3702 to find out if they may be due a refund.

Veteran Family Benefits

The Department of Veterans Affairs offers a variety of veteran family and veteran child benefits. Whether you qualify for any or all of them depends on many factors, including the veteran’s disability rating and whether he or she is still living.

Veteran Child and Spouse Pay

Payments to the children and spouses of veterans or troops are generally reserved until after the service member’s death.

Some surviving spouses may be eligible for a monthly payment known as Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (DIC) if their spouse died on active duty, died after active duty as a result of a service-connected disability, or died after being rated as permanently and totally disabled by the VA.

Spouses or disabled dependent children might be eligible to receive payments from the Survivors Benefit Plan if the service member elected to pay into the plan when he retired from the military.

A surviving family member designated by the service member could be eligible for a benefit known as the death gratuity if the service member dies while on active duty or in a drilling status.

Some low-income surviving spouses, dependents or permanently disabled children of deceased veterans might qualify for a payment known as the survivor’s pension.

 

Veteran Child and Spouse Education Benefits

Families might qualify for veteran child education benefits or education help for veteran spouses through several different programs.

Military members who meet certain qualifications, which can include time in service and a service contract extension, can transfer their post-9/11 GI Bill to their dependents. The transfer must be officially made while the service member is on active duty, but the money can be used after he or she leaves the military.

The Fry Scholarship allows spouses and children of those who died on active duty to use the post-9/11 GI Bill even if it wasn’t officially transferred before the service member was killed.

Spouses and children of living veterans who have been ruled by the VA to be “permanently and totally disabled” due to service, who died from any cause while considered permanently disabled due to service, or who are ruled by the VA to have died due to a service-connected disability qualify for an education benefit known as the Dependents Education Assistance Program (DEA).

Depending on the circumstance under which a veteran died, children and spouses of veterans might qualify for both the Fry Scholarship and DEA. Although children who qualify for both may be able to use both benefit programs, spouses must choose to use one or the other.

 

Veteran Family Health Insurance

The VA provides veteran family health insurance to some veteran families through a program known as CHAMPVA.

A family can qualify for that coverage through the VA if their veteran is rated permanently and totally disabled due to service, died while under the rating, is ruled to have died from a service-connected disability, or died on active duty but the family is not eligible for Tricare coverage.

A family might also qualify for CHAMPVA if they are a part of the Comprehensive Assistance for Caregivers Program. That program pays a veteran’s primary caregiver a stipend for his or her caregiving work.

Some children born with birth defects to Vietnam or Korean War veteran, or families who were stationed at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, between 1953 and 1987 might also qualify for coverage.

 

Commissary, Exchange and Shopping Benefits

Although all honorably discharged veterans qualify to shop at the exchanges via their online stores, that benefit does not extend to their families.

Veterans who have been ruled 100 percent disabled due to service and their spouses can shop on base at the exchanges or commissaries using an ID card issued on base. You can visit your local base ID card office to find more about how to apply for that ID.

Grown children of a veteran, regardless of the veteran’s service or rating, do not qualify to shop on base or through the online exchange program.

 

Veteran Family Memorial Benefits

Spouses and dependents of veterans or service members may be eligible for burial in a national cemetery. To qualify, the spouse must either be married to the service member at the time of death or be an non-remarried spouse of a deceased veteran.

Dependent children who were under 21 at the time of their death, children who were under 23 but enrolled in school full time at death, or those who were ruled permanently mentally or physically disabled before age 21 may also be eligible for burial benefits.

Parents of unmarried service members with no dependents who are buried in a national cemetery and who died on active duty after Oct. 7, 2001, may also be eligible.

 

Other Veteran Family Benefits

The spouses and families of veterans are eligible to use MilitaryOneSource, including the system’s free non-medical counseling services, for up to one year after leaving active duty.

Veteran caregivers can access support resources, including mentorship and a help line, even if they do not qualify for payment through the Comprehensive Assistance for Caregivers Program.

 

Veteran Family Nonprofits

Many nonprofits also serve the families of veterans. National nonprofits such as Team Red, White & Blue, the Wounded Warrior Project and Operation Homefront all have resources for both veterans and their families.

Other nonprofits, like the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors (TAPS), specifically serve surviving family members. Families should also check in their local area for nonprofits that assist with local needs.

VA Health Care Eligibility

The number of veterans who can be enrolled in the health care program is determined by the amount of money Congress gives VA each year. Since funds are limited, VA set up Priority Groups to make sure that certain groups of veterans are able to be enrolled before others.

Once you apply for enrollment, your eligibility will be verified.  Based on your specific eligibility status, you will be assigned a Priority Group. The Priority Groups range from 1-8 with 1 being the highest priority. Based on eligibility and income, some veterans may have to pay copay for treatment, and some may not be eligible for enrollment.

You may be eligible for more than one Priority Group. In that case, VA will always place you in the highest Priority Group that you are eligible for.

Depending on your Priority Group, the VA may reimburse you for your travel costs from your home to a medical facility.

Priority Group 1

  • Veterans with service-connected disabilities rated 50% or higher
  • Veterans determined by VA to be unemployable due to service-connected conditions

Priority Group 2

  • Veterans with service-connected disabilities rated 30% – 40%

Priority Group 3

  • Veterans who are former Prisoners of War (POWs)
  • Veterans awarded a Purple Heart
  • Veterans whose were discharged for a disability
  • Veterans with service-connected disabilities rated 10% – 20%
  • Veterans awarded special eligibility classification under Title 38, U.S.C., § 1151, “benefits for individuals disabled by treatment or vocational rehabilitation”
  • Veterans awarded the Medal Of Honor

Priority Group 4

  • Veterans who are receiving aid and attendance or housebound benefits
  • Veterans who have been determined by VA to be catastrophically disabled

Priority Group 5

  • Nonservice-connected veterans and noncompensable service-connected Veterans rated 0% disabled by VA with annual income below the VA’s and geographically (based on your resident zip code) adjusted income limits.
  • Veterans receiving VA pension benefits
  • Veterans eligible for Medicaid programs

Priority Group 6

  • Veterans with service-connected disabilities rated 0%
  • Veterans exposed to Ionizing radiation during atmospheric testing or during the occupation of Hiroshima and Nagasaki
  • Project 112/SHAD participants
  • Veterans who served in Vietnam between Jan. 9,1962 and May 7,1975
  • Veterans of the Persian Gulf War who served between Aug. 2, 1990 and Nov. 11, 1998
  • Veterans who served on active duty at Camp Lejeune for not fewer than 30 days beginning Aug. 1, 1953 and ending Dec. 31, 1987
  • Combat veterans who were discharged on or after Jan. 28, 2003, are eligible for enhanced benefits for 5 years after discharge.

Priority Group 7

  • Veterans with gross household income below certain limits and who agree to pay copays

Priority Group 8

  • Veterans with gross household income above certain limits and who agree to pay copays

VA Travel Reimbursement

Reimbursement for mileage or public transportation may be paid to the following:

  1. Veterans with service-connected disabilities rated at 30% or more;
  2. Veterans traveling for treatment of a service-connected condition;
  3. Veterans receiving a VA pension;
  4. Veterans traveling for scheduled compensation or pension examinations;
  5. Veterans whose income does not exceed the maximum VA pension rate;

Mileage reimbursement is made at the current rate of 41.5 cents per mile. The deductibles are $3 for a one-way trip, $6 for a round trip, with a maximum of $18 per calendar month. However, these deductibles can be waived if they cause a financial hardship to the veteran.

The deductible is also waived for veterans traveling for scheduled compensation or pension examinations.

Got a VA Rating? You Can Get a Free Lifetime National Parks Pass

A little-known benefit from the Interior Department gives military veterans with any disability rating from the Department of Veterans Affairs a free lifetime pass to national parks and other recreation areas, as well as discounts on some fees.

The lifetime Access Pass is advertised as available to those who “have been medically determined to have a permanent disability … does not have to be a 100 percent disability.”

But a National Parks official confirmed to Military.com that any veteran with a disability rating from the VA should be able to access it.

“If a veteran has [a] disability paper that states they have a 10 percent disability, etc., the ranger would accept it,” Kathy Kupper, a National Parks spokesperson, said in an email.

An Interior Department website also gives examples of proof of disability paperwork accepted from the VA, including awards letters and benefits summaries — but the examples do not include “permanent and total” disability ratings.

The discrepancy between the Interior Department’s “permanent disability” statement and what does and does not qualify as “permanent” to the VA is likely a matter of bureaucratic definitions.

While the VA defines a “permanent disability” as something 100 percent disabling that will not improve over time, the Interior Department defers to the Americans With Disabilities Act, which defines a disability as a “physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities.”

Just like the annual free military America the Beautiful Pass, which is available to active-duty troops, Guardsmen and reservists and their dependents, the Access Pass will give free entrance to the pass holder and any other passengers at “per vehicle” locations. But unlike that military pass, the Access Pass is good only for the pass holder at “per person” locations.

The Access Pass also offers benefits the military pass does not, such as discounted “expanded amenity” fees. Those could include discounts for individual campsites, some guided tours and some in-park transportation or special use permits.

The pass can be obtained in person at one of these locations. It can also be received by mail for a $10 fee by filling out and mailing in a paper application.

Kupper said if a ranger will not accept a veteran’s VA disability rating paperwork for some reason, he or she should fill out the by-mail application.