Veteran’s Benefits: A Tool for Financial Planning

Many people are familiar with the basic benefits available to veterans. Did you know there are other benefits that could be beneficial tools in building a financial plan? In this post, I will discuss several programs, resources, and benefits that are available to veterans who qualify.

I am a veteran of the United States Marine Corps, and was discharged honorably about 10 years ago. I take advantage of several programs and benefits offered by the Department of Veteran’s Affairs (VA) and I am familiar with many of the resources available to veterans and their families. Even if you are not a veteran you probably know someone that is– so read on!

Education

Obtaining a quality education is often times one of the motivating factors in a person choosing to join the military. Most people have heard that serving in the military will earn you benefits for college tuition; however, the VA also offers benefits beyond monetary assistance. The VA has an education and career counseling program.

The program is for veterans beginning six-months prior to discharge and continues for up to one year following discharge from active duty. This program offers veteran’s services including assistance with a career choice based on skills and interests; and it offers coaching to ensure the veteran is taking advantage of all available resources. Having a quality education can be a key step on the path toward the veteran getting a job post-service, starting a career, and working towards their life and financial goals of home ownership, raising a family, traveling, or saving towards a comfortable retirement. Read more about education and career benefits here: https://www.vets.gov/employment/

For those still serving on active-duty that also joined after 9/11/2001, unused educational benefits may be transferrable to a spouse or dependent. More information on this can be found here: https://www.benefits.va.gov/GIBILL/post911_transfer.asp

VA Home Loans

Buying a home is a huge part of life’s journey and should be planned for accordingly. The Department of Veteran’s Affairs has a program to help make purchasing a home a reality for veterans who qualify. Many veterans are eligible to purchase or refinance their home through the VA Home Loan program.

Basic eligibility guidelines include:

  • A veteran that served a minimum amount of active-duty time, based on when he/she served and whether it was during war or peace-time. The active-duty requirement varies, anywhere from 90 days to 24 months (may be less if you were discharged for a service-connected disability)
  • Your discharge type cannot be dishonorable
  • A Reservist or National Guard member who was discharged honorably, placed on the retired list, or transferred to the ‘Ready Reserve’
  • The un-remarried spouse of a veteran who died in service or from a service-connected disability, or is a ‘Prisoner of War’ or ‘Missing in Action’ veteran

The VA gives what they call a “home loan guaranty” to lenders. Because the VA does this, the lender provides the homebuyer with more favorable loan terms than a traditional mortgage lender would offer. Some of those include: no down payment, no private mortgage insurance requirement (PMI), a limit on closing costs, and no early pay-off penalty.

Veterans can use the benefit more than once in their lifetime, and it is not necessary to be a first-time homebuyer to take advantage of a VA loan. There is an eligibility process, which can take some time. Veterans who want to take advantage of the program should allow plenty of lead time to obtain the eligibility decision from the VA. Veterans can apply online for the ‘Certificate of Eligibility’ (COE) here: https://www.benefits.va.gov/HOMELOANS/purchaseco_certificate.asp

Find out more about VA Home Loans here: https://www.benefits.va.gov/homeloans/index.asp

Life Insurance

Life Insurance is a key topic to cover when building a financial plan. Several programs offered through the Department of Veterans Affairs may provide affordable coverage for veterans and their family members. Often the rates are discounted from what another insurance company would charge for similar coverage. Coverage ranges from traditional life insurance to traumatic injury protection and service-disabled life insurance. These life insurance options are a valuable asset, especially for veterans who may have sustained injuries during service and may have difficulty getting approval for coverage outside of these programs.

When a veteran obtains a life insurance policy through one of the previously mentioned programs, they qualify for free basic will preparation. Veterans have access to an online program where they answer a few easy questions and then they will be provided a legal will, valid in all states, that is ready to print and sign. Find out more about these programs here: https://www.benefits.va.gov/insurance/bfcs.asp

Long-term Care

Long-term care is not something we like to think about, but we must consider it when planning for the future. LTC can be very expensive and unfortunately is often necessary to provide care for aging relatives. Through both the Aid and Attendance and Housebound programs, many veterans that are eligible for a VA pension and require the aid and attendance of another person may be eligible to receive additional monetary assistance. This assistance would cover the cost of care in a nursing home, an assisted living facility, or other long-term care programs. This benefit could help reduce some of the burden of long-term care costs. There are criteria that must be met in order to qualify for these programs. To learn more, please visit https://www.benefits.va.gov/pension/aid_attendance_housebound.asp

Caregiver Support

Do you or someone you know provide care to an aging veteran at home? The VA offers a caregiver support program. Although this program does not offer any monetary support to caregivers, they will have access to a caregiver support line where they can reach a licensed professional who can answer questions and offer aid. The program also provides the caregiver access to a ‘Caregiver Support Coordinator’ to help them navigate the complexities of caring for a veteran and take advantage of all of the benefits that are available. Read more about this program: https://www.caregiver.va.gov/

Memorial and Burial Benefits

Did you know that many veterans are eligible to be buried in a national cemetery and have military honors at their ceremony, at no cost? There are 135 national cemeteries, and if space allows, a veteran can choose to be buried in any one of them.

If a veteran qualifies, he/she receives a gravesite, opening and closing of the grave, ongoing care, a government-issued headstone, a burial flag, and a Presidential Memorial Certificate. Burial benefits are also available for spouses and dependents who wish to be buried in the national cemetery with the veteran at no cost; those family members may be buried, even if they predecease the veteran. Obtaining eligibility, confirming available space at the preferred cemetery, and getting the burial flag and Presidential Memorial Certificate all take time, so it is good to take care of these arrangements ahead of time if possible. This program is called the pre-need burial eligibility determination program. Learn more here: https://www.cem.va.gov/cem/pre-need/index.asp

 

Veteran’s benefits are very complex and vary widely depending on the veteran’s status and eligibility. From a financial planning standpoint, many programs could help the veterans and their families plan for the future. Our veterans have earned these benefits and are wise to take full advantage of what is available to them.

Lori King, FPQP™

 

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10 ways to celebrate Independence Day:

Visit a historical site:

Western North Carolina is rich in history. One of my family’s favorite locations is Cherokee. In particular, we like to visit the Oconaluftee Indian Village. We always enjoy walking the trials and making new friends. Staff members are eager to share stories and have live demonstrations on how the early Cherokee people made jewelry, clothes, weapons, shelters, and canoes. We always seem to learn something on our trip back through time.

Read the Declaration of Independence

While many of us can recant passages of the document such as, “We hold these truths to be self evident,” how many of us have read or can recall the 27 grievances in the original writing leading to the declaration?

Get active – go for a hike, fishing, or camping:

Did you know that WNC has some of the arguably best trout fishing in the state? We have well over 3,000 miles of trout streams and each year the Wildlife Commission closes 1,000 miles for restocking and delayed harvesting. Currently, fishing season is wide open with a 7 daily keeper limit.

Make it memorable:

Consider investing in a decent photo or video camera. We took the plunge a few years ago and bought both types of cameras. We have a lot of fun capturing memories. Occasionally, we will look back on these priceless photos and videos to relive the moment and found this to be a great pass time. One of the things I like to do is compile short video clips and then set them to music; this makes a great way of preserving memories in a fun and engaging way.

Pack a picnic and watch the fireworks:

Admit it, many reading this cannot recall the last time they sat on a blanket and enjoyed a picnic dinner. How about trying a new recipe or pick up a box of fried chicken while picking out the perfect viewing area? Don’t forget to pack a frisbee to toss around. Looking for fireworks? Find them here!

Treat a veteran to lunch or dinner:

What better way to honor our nation’s heroes by treating them to a lunch? We see active duty servicemen and women at restaurants near the Asheville airport. Something we like to do is anonymously pay for their meal.

Make a difference:

Everyone has something they are passionate about. Why not take this passion and introduce it to someone new? For instance, an outgoing person might go to a nursing home and visit a resident. Someone who enjoys soccer could visit a local park and start a pick-up game.

Throw an Independence Day themed BBQ:

On a recent visit, the client arranged for a catered Low Country Boil as incentive for his staff to stay after hours for my education presentation and one-on-one meetings. This was my first boil and I was impressed at the simplicity of the food and great conversations. So much so, this inspired my family to invite a few good friends over for our first boil this summer! (If any have advice about how to make this go off without a hitch, please email me with your thoughts and suggestions.)

Watch the local 4th of July parade:

Remember when you were a kid and watched the parade? The nostalgia of candied apples, popcorn, marching bands, and waving the American flag just oozes fun and happy memories! It just doesn’t get much better.

Declare your independence, financially that is:

The Declaration of Independence is roughly 1,400 words. Financial independence does not require a formal “declaration” per se, but it does require a well thought out plan.   Just as our forefathers were resolute in their desire for independence, our decision to save and invest for our future should be a high priority. Things that should be considered are having adequate cash reserves, health, life and disability insurance, long-term savings and investments, and estate planning documents to name a few. The internet has a wide variety of tools and resources that may be helpful. However, the advisors at Parsec take a unique and tailored approach for client recommendations and advice. More importantly, our advice is consistent whereas information on the internet will vary. Our belief is that with proper savings, planning, and investment oversight most people can achieve financial independence. If you have questions or concerns that you would like us to address, please call or write.

I hope everyone has a happy and safe 4th of July!

Neal Nolan, CFP®, AIF®
Senior Financial Advisor
Director of ERISA Services

Neal

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