With the financial outlook for Baby Boomer retirement looking bleak for all but the wealthy, one thing veterans definitely should not overlook is taking advantage of the VA benefits! Most are aware of – and have taken advantage of – VA education and home purchase benefits. But there are a host of other benefits that may have been overlooked, such as:
- Health Services. The Veterans Health Administration is America’s largest integrated health care system, providing care at 1,243 health care facilities, including 170 medical centers and 1,063 outpatient sites of care of varying complexity (VHA outpatient clinics), serving 9 million enrolled Veterans each year. If you are a Boomer veteran and having trouble getting affordable healthcare, it pays to contact the VA to determine your eligibility for free health services.
- Prescriptions and Prosthetics. Boomer veterans who cannot afford their prescriptions or prosthetics may be able to get them free through the VA.
- Disability Compensation. Disability compensation is a monthly tax-free benefit paid to Veterans who are at least 10% disabled because of injuries or diseases that were incurred in or aggravated during active duty, active duty for training, or inactive duty training. A disability can apply to physical conditions, such as a chronic knee condition, as well as a mental health conditions, such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Even an issue like tinnitus from being around jet engines, engine boiler rooms or explosions in the military is eligible for compensation. Plus, there are certain health issues (e.g., Parkinson’s) that are “presumed” to be the result of service in Vietnam, for example, which automatically qualify for free VA health services and perhaps disability compensation.
- Assisted Living and Elder Care. Low-income Boomer veterans (and surviving spouses) may be eligible for assisted living and elder care benefits. See VeteranAid.org and Paying for Senior Care for details.
- Death Benefits. When a veteran dies, families have a few unique benefits available to them. A U.S. flag may be requested to drape over the casket and families may request a Presidential Memorial Certificate to honor the deceased loved ones service. The Department of Veterans Affairs also provides free headstones or grave markers.
- Children of Veterans with Exposure to Agent Orange. If your child has a birth defect including spina bifida, a congenital birth defect of the spine, and certain other birth defects may be entitled to VA benefits. These include monetary benefits, health care, and vocational rehabilitation services.
- Re-Use your VA Home Loan. One of great parts of the VA home loan program is that eligible service members have the VA Home Purchase benefit for life. Even if a veteran has used most or all of their entitlement to purchase a home, that entitlement can be fully restored once the loan is repaid in full. Under certain circumstances, vets can also use any remaining eligibility to purchase a second home.
Where to Find Help
Start with ExploreVA and VetsFirst. Veterans service organizations like the Disabled American Veterans Organization, Veterans of Foreign Wars and American Legion are great resources for free help in navigating the VA eligibility requirements. Also check out MilitaryBenefits.com.
The Bottom Line for Baby Boomers
If you are a veteran with an honorable discharge, there are a variety of benefits for which you may be eligible. This is especially helpful for Baby Boomers who are struggling financially. Accessing these benefits can dramatically reduce your monthly expenses. The best way to find out what benefits you may qualify for is to contact one of the organizations listed above rather than going to the VA directly – they will work for you, not the government.