Planning for the Future: 3 VA Benefits You Should Know

By: MJ Boice, Staff Writer

 

Military families often wonder when they should begin the planning process to transition out of military life. Some start planning one to three years out, others decide 6 months prior to separation is enough time to get all their ducks in a row. The best time to begin planning, no matter where your service member is in their military career, is right now—especially if they plan on utilizing veterans benefits. And it’s always the right time for military spouses to educate themselves on their service member’s transition process, something the Department of Defense (DoD) hopes is becoming easier to do.

The DoD allows spouses to attend Transition Assistance Program classes with their service member (when space is available), so military families can be on the same page with information about the transition process. Most of the week-long class is geared towards the transitioning service member, however, there are many segments spouses should absolutely be a part of; specifically, the Veteran’s Benefits Briefings.

You can never be too prepared when it comes to Veterans Affairs (VA). While the vast majority of VA benefits solely impact the soon-to-be veteran, there are some benefits that directly affect the spouse and family, too. Here are just a few examples of what your family should know before the final count-down begins:

1. Disability Compensation

Disability Compensation is a tax free monetary benefit paid to veterans with a service-connected disability rating of at least 10%. The disability must be the result of an injury or disease incurred or aggravated while on active duty, or active duty for training. Physical and mental disabilities as a result of military service are also eligible to receive compensation.

Once your veteran receives a rating based on their disability, the VA will determine what their benefits rate will be. If your veteran has a 10%-20% disability rating, the VA will not factor the number of dependents into their payment. Once a veteran has a 30% rating or higher, the VA will begin to factor in dependents, and payment would likely increase.

For example, if a veteran with a spouse and one child receives a 10% disability rating, they would currently be receiving $133.57 per month and their dependents would not be factored in. But if that same veteran received a 40% disability rating, the VA would then factor in dependents and the veteran would currently be receiving $702.12 per month.

You should talk to your service member about filing for VA disability compensation even if they have several years before they plan on transitioning out of the military. Be sure they document all injuries and illnesses in their medical record and make sure they request their medical records at least 9 months prior to separation, if possible.

For more information on disability compensation benefits and rates, learn more here.

2. VA Home Loan

The VA provides a home loan guaranty benefit and other housing-related programs to help you buy, build, repair, retain, or adapt a home for your own personal occupancy. The VA doesn’t get involved in the loan process, but instead “backs” the loan by allowing private lenders to execute the home loan guarantee. Basically, the VA will guarantee a portion of your loan, which allows the lender to provide you with more favorable terms, limits closing costs, and doesn’t require a down payment on your home.

The VA does charge a funding fee, which typically increases each time you use this benefit. However, if your veteran receives disability compensation for a service-connected disability rated at 10% or more (see number 1.), the funding fee will be waived no matter how many times you use it.

3. Life Insurance

Most active duty service members have Servicemember’s Group Life Insurance (SGLI) through the military, but will have to switch to a commercial plan or Veteran’s Group Life Insurance (VGLI) once they separate from military service.

Many active duty service members also choose to insure their dependents through Family SGLI. While there is no family coverage offered for dependents once the service member separates, spouses can opt to convert their Family SGLI policy to a commercial plan without having to prove good health.

If you choose to convert your policy, make sure you do this within 120 days of your service member’s separation or retirement.

Posted September 18, 2017

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