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If you are someone who counts on veteran family benefits, you should pay close attention to the current political atmosphere and make sure you're aware of any changes made to the options available to you. There are many resources for veterans returning home, and family members of disabled and deceased veterans have many types of support services available to them as well, and while some are very familiar, others are lesser known. We are going to do a brief review of many of these issues to help you make the very most of your veteran family benefits, whether your loved one served in the Marine Corps, Army, Navy, Air Force, or other Armed Services.
As you might know, veteran's pay is usually supplied to surviving spouse or dependents upon a service member's death. However, the DIC, or Dependency and Indemnity Compensation plan, is an option if a spouse died in active duty or afterward, or passed away due to a disability. This also applies if your spouse was deemed permanently and totally disabled by the VA.
The Survivor Benefit Plan is also an option to spouses and/or dependents if the service member was paying into it when they retired. There is also the death gratuity, which is applicable if a service member designated a family member to receive it in the event of their death in active duty or while drilling. Lastly, income may come from the benefits program known as the Survivors Pension.
If families of veterans are struggling with mortgage issues, there may be mortgage assistance available through the VA, and access to foreclosed properties is another way that veterans and their families may find economic support in purchasing a home.
Education Related VA Benefits
Financial and health care benefits are not the only issues considered by the Department of Veterans Affairs. Some families (spouses and children) are eligible to receive education benefits and support.
The first of these veteran family benefits, and one of the most important things for veterans to know about GI benefits, is that many veterans will have the option to transfer GI Bill benefits to a dependent. As one source explains, "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 is there for those who did not make the transfer and simply allows the family to use the GI Bill for educational expenses.
The spouse or child of a veteran who has been ruled by their VA regional office to be permanently and totally disabled with a service connected disability, or has died from their service connected disability, can also seek the education benefit known as DEA or Dependents' Education Assistance Program.
A lesser known educational benefit among veteran family benefits is the use of GI Bill funds for certification courses and vocational training programs. The GI Bill offers up to $2,000 to help cover the cost of certification courses or other vocational training programs.
Health Insurance and Veteran Family Benefits
CHAMPVA is the program under which veterans and their families can access health insurance coverage. They qualify if the veteran is permanently and totally disabled due to their service (or, as is the case with many veterans benefits, if they died from a service connected disability or died in active duty, this coverage applies). Tricare is a program of veteran family benefits that applies to families of those who died in active duty, specifically.
The Comprehensive Assistance for Caregivers Program (which is part of a set of anticipated changes to VA benefits due to a 2018 bill) pays the veteran's primary caregiver a small amount in exchange for the work they do.
Some lesser known veteran family benefits include the Aid and Attendance Program, for which some veterans are eligible and which covers the cost of nursing homes, assisted living programs, and other long-term care options. This includes the ability for couples to receive up to $25,020 a year, and surviving spouses of veterans are also eligible to receive up to $13,560 a year to cover their long-term care costs.
And while looking at health insurance and veteran family benefits, it is a good idea to consider life insurance options, too. The Servicemembers’ and Veterans’ Group Life Insurance program allows wartime veterans and others to purchase up to $400,000 in life insurance, and at very good terms or rates.
Additional Veteran Family Benefits
There is some confusion about access to commissaries and exchanges for veterans and their families. This is understandable, but the rules are fairly clear. As there are many ways you can get discharged from the military, it is important to note that only honorably discharged veterans who can shop online, and veterans deemed 100 percent disabled due to service, and their spouses, who can shop in any on-base commissaries or exchanges. They must have an ID card from the base. Children cannot shop on bases or online.
All veterans and their families can access free tax preparation services on most military bases, too. This is through the Volunteer Income Tax Assistant offices found in most locations.
There are also death benefits available to families beyond financial ones. There is the U.S. flag that is draped over the casket, a Presidential Memorial Certificate, and free headstones or grave markers obtained through the Department of Veterans Affairs. Additionally, spouses and children of veterans may also be eligible to be buried in a national cemetery, and this includes the parents of single service members without dependents. If that individual is buried in a national cemetery and died during active duty after October 7, 2001, their parents may be buried in a national cemetery, too.