Information on Major Military Benefits and Programs

When you serve in the military, you are eligible for benefits based on your service. These benefits vary by state and territory. As a veteran, you are eligible for benefits through major veteran benefit programs, PTSD support and additional training for education such as the GI bill.

Major Veteran Benefit Programs

There are several programs run by the Department of Veterans Affairs that provide financial, medical and other assistance for veterans. American military veterans who received an honorable or general discharge are eligible for four major benefit programs.

They are:

• Disability compensation

• Veterans pension programs

• Free or inexpensive medical care through VA hospitals and medical facilities

* Education programs

There are also benefit programs for job training, small business loans through the SBA, counseling, housing and home loan guarantees. There is also support for memorials and burials for families of veterans who have passed away while serving in the military.

PTSD Support

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is a condition that occurs after a life-threatening event, such as personal assault, natural disaster or military combat. The effects can be traumatizing and debilitating ranging from nightmares to insomnia, social isolation, fear, depression and conflict. PTSD symptoms can vary greatly in intensity and duration. The Department of Veterans Affairs offers free counseling sessions and each military branch has programs for its own service members.

Visit the National Center for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder website.

Preparing Ahead of Time

Given that there can be long lines in some of these programs and you will be required to provide some documentation, it is advisable to prepare ahead of time. You will want to have important documents on you when you apply for VA benefits whether it is in office or online.

1. Service Discharge Form

When you apply for VA benefits for the first time, you will need a copy of your service discharge form (DD-214, DD-215, or for WWII veterans, a WD form). This form documents your service dates and the type of discharge. It provides your full name, military service number, branch and dates of service.

Keep your service discharge form safe and also accessible to you and your next of kin or designated family member, partner, spouse or friend. You also must have your preference for burial in a national cemetery and the use of a headstone documented and kept with this form.

In Case of Death

In the likelihood of death of a veteran, additional forms will be required such as a veteran's marriage certificate for claims of a surviving spouse or children; veteran's death certificate if the veteran did not die in a VA health care facility; children's birth certificates or adoption papers to determine children's benefits; and veteran's birth certificate to determine parents' benefits.

Eligibility:

To be eligible for veteran benefits, you have to have been discharged from active military service under honorable conditions. Active service means full-time service as a member of the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, Coast Guard, or as a commissioned officer of the Public Health Service, the Environmental Services Administration or the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

For Selected Reserve Members:

For both current and former members of the Selected Reserve, you can receive specific benefits such as home loan guarantees and education, if you meet the time-in-service and other criteria.

Only honorable and general discharges qualify a veteran for VA benefits. A dishonorable or bad conduct discharge issued by general court can prevent a military veteran from receiving VA benefits. Veterans who are in prison and parolees may be eligible for certain VA benefits. In this case, you must check with the VA regional office to determine eligibility.

Apply For Veteran Benefits:

As a veteran or family member, you can apply for veteran benefits or contact the department regarding claims and questions at http://www.va.gov or calling VA Toll-Free: (800) 827-1000.

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