Thanks to our twitter follower @Rmart73 for the request sparking the idea for this article series. We often discuss the benefits available to disabled veterans, but overlook the many millions of non disabled veterans who are also out there. There are VA benefits that are available and have no contingency upon a disability determination. Here are some of those benefits. Take note, the most basic eligibility requirement is that a veteran has received a discharge of anything other that what the VA considers dishonorable. For some who received a discharge designated “other than honorable,” this does not immediately constitute a dishonorable designation. In this case the VA will look over your discharge circumstances and make a decision.
Part 1: Health Care and Life Insurance
Part 2: Education, Including Vocational Rehabilitation
Part 3: VA Home Loans
Part 4: Upgrading a Discharge Designation
Education, Including Vocational Rehabilitation
Education benefits are one of the hottest subjects in the veteran community. The Post 9\11 GI Bill is a huge step up in help to veterans who wish to pursue and education after service than previous education benefits. While the Montgomery GI Bill is still available, usually, only veterans who joined the military prior to September 11, 2001 generally use this benefit. Often, these veterans who joined prior to, but were discharged after September 11, 2001 are eligible to transfer their MGIB eligibility into Post 9\11 GIB eligibility. Due to changes in the Post 9\11 GI Bill, which take effect August 1st, 2011, the benefits explained here are those that will become effective in August.
Tuition: The general idea of the Post 9\11 GIB is to pay the tuition costs of the college the veteran is attending, as well as a yearly book allowance, and a month housing allowance. These benefits are paid per month. So even though schools usually charge the whole semester’s worth of tuition in one lumb sum, paying it off will be done via monthly payments from the VA. Students concerned that their school may not keep them in good standing because of drawn out payment should contact either their school’s veterans office or cashier’s office to explain the situation and reach an acceptable arrangement.
The Post 9\11 GIB pays all public school tution and fees. The amount of tuition that the Post 9\11 GIB will pay a private school is based on the state of residence in which the veteran resides. This table shows the maximum cost of a public university in each state. That is the cap allowed to veterans of their state. This may present difficulties in students who reside in a state with very low cost schools but want to attend a school in another state that has a higher tuition cost.
BAH: Housing allowances are based upon the number of credit hours taken. This is for any amount of hours, so that students who now attend classes at a half-time or lower designation will still be able to receive some housing allowance assistance.
Housing payments are made only during the dates of classes. The easiest way to explain this is to think of receiving your housing allowance per day, as opposed to per month or school session. You receive a certain amount per day, paid at the end of each month. For this reason, the housing payments may be different from month to month because of the start and end dates of sessions or breaks. Benefits are not paid over breaks such as Christmas holiday break or spring break week. Students enrolled in online classes are able to receive housing payments in the amount of one half the national average for an E5 with dependents.
Covered Educational Programs: College is not the only type of education that the Post 9/11 GIB will pay for. Other types of education include some non degree programs, on the job training, and flight training.
The Voc-Rehab program is open to veterans, who have a minimum service connected disability rating of 10%. This eligibility lasts for twelve years. The twelve years begins on either the day the veteran was discharged or the day he or she received notification of a disability rating; whichever date is later is the one the VA uses to establish time frame eligibility.
Eligibility and entitlement are different for voc-rehab benefits. After applying to the VA for participation in this program, and proving eligibility, an appointment is made with a Vocational Rehabilitation Counselor. In this meeting, the goal is to prove that the veteran is hampered by an employment handicap. An employment handicap is the inability to garner or retain suitable employment that falls within the veteran’s abilities and interests. This inability must be greatly attributed to the veteran’s service connected disability. If this link is established, then the veteran is entitled to Voc-Rehab benefits.
Once the veteran has established entitlement, he or she draws up a contract with the Voc-Rehab Counselor. The veteran and the counselor work together to determine which job skills the veteran possess, in addition to relevant aptitudes and interests. They explore the labor market, and research training requirements for employment types the veteran is interested in. They design a rehabilitation plan which includes a VR&E VetSuccess program aimed at helping the veteran reach suitable employment goals.
The VR&E VetSuccess program is a choice the veteran makes. There are five options, and the veteran and counselor pick the one which is most fitting to the veteran’s needs. The five options are,
1. Re-employment with a previous employer
2. New employment
4. Employment via long term services and training
5. Independent Living services — this is for veterans who have such a severe employment handicap that they first need help establishing a healthy, independent lifestyle before finding employment.
Once a rehabilitation plan is developed, the counselor will continue to provide assistance by training in various job seeking skills, referrals, payment of a training allowance if the veteran is receiving one, and other counseling services.
If a veteran is determined to be not entitled to Voc-Rehab benefits, the initial interviewing counselor will direct the veteran to other employment help agencies such as city or state vocational rehabilitation programs.
Photo thanks to Jonathan Ah Kit under creative common license on Flickr.