America is going through a new era of appreciation for our military veterans -- and there are plenty of veterans out there to receive both our gratitude, and some important financial benefits. There are roughly 23 million living veterans of the American military. Younger veterans who have served since the Gulf Wars comprise about 25 percent of the veteran population.
But it appears that many veterans -- of all ages -- aren't aware of, or taking advantage of the benefits available to them. Here are a few that are being overlooked -- and a reminder that if you know of a vet who is eligible and could use these deals, you should send them to the Department of Veterans Affairs website, which allow them to explore all the possibilities.
These special mortgages are perhaps one of the best deals around. But more than 70 percent of our younger veterans have yet to take advantage of this low, fixed-rate 30-year mortgage -- currently 4 percent (4.273 percent APR) with a ZERO down payment. That good deal exists because the VA guarantees the loan for the full amount, removing all risk from the banks that make the loan.
(For more information, contact the VA mortgage loans help desk at 800-983-0937, Monday-Friday, 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. EST. Or contact VA mortgage loan specialist and military chaplain, Daniel Chookaszian at firstname.lastname@example.org.)
The VA has issued more than 20 million of these special loans since the program began in 1944. But currently there are only 1.7 million VA loans outstanding. With about 5.75 million younger Gulf War era veterans in America today, more than 4 million veterans have yet to benefit from using their VA loan eligibility.
I wrote about the details of these VA loans in a Huffington Post blog for Memorial Day on VA mortgage loans. So if you know a veteran who served a minimum of 90 days service active duty in wartime, or 181 continuous days of service during peacetime, and was honorably discharged, you should encourage them to look into getting a VA loan -- either for a purchase, or a refinance.
The GI Bill
The original GI bill, which provides assistance or free education to qualifying vets, was started after World War II, and it helped a generation of young Americans rise into the middle class. Today, the largest program is the Post-911 GI Bill, which provides up to 36 months of education benefits -- including full tuition and fees for in-state students, paid directly to the accredited college. Veterans may also qualify for a housing allowance and a stipend to pay for books.
Qualifying veterans are eligible to apply for this assistance for up to 15 years after they are discharged, yet many fail to apply -- perhaps because they lack information about this program.
With all the discussion about the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare), the VA healthcare benefits for veterans remain unchanged. There is no need for veterans to change their insurance. And veterans may enroll at any time after leaving service. Here's a link to both explore the benefits program, and to apply for enrollment.
The VA operates the nation's largest healthcare system, with more than 1700 hospitals and clinics, caring for more than 6.3 million veterans annually. Those who qualify based on household income and assets, receive free care. Others use their VA benefits to supplement private health insurance and cover copayments required with private policies.
In recent years, mental health benefits for veterans have also been expanded. While the system is not perfect, and its failings have been widely discussed in the media, the VA does provide a significant healthcare benefit that should not be overlooked -- even if a veteran is discharged without needing immediate care.
Family members of veterans should keep track of their military separation papers, which may have been issued long ago, after WWII or the Korean War. But those documents will be needed to qualify for a number of benefits available to families of deceased veterans -- including a free headstone offered to veterans, and a free gravesite and burial services at any of 131 national cemeteries.
On Veteran's Day, let's salute those -- young and older -- who have kept our country safe. And let's remind them of the many benefits they should access. That's the way our truly thank them for their service. And that's The Savage Truth.