Helping Veteran Clients Receive Their VA Benefits
Veterans are eligible to receive a number of federal benefits upon separation from active military service. Unfortunately, signing up for benefits, or knowing what benefits a veteran is eligible for, is not a straightforward process. While the Benefits section of the VA’s website has improved in recent years, many of the forms and benefit eligibility descriptions are filled with long passages of difficult-to-understand legalese. Certain benefits have a waiting period before eligibility begins, other benefits expire, while other benefits have income thresholds.
To help veterans navigate the complexities of veteran benefits, the VA has created fact sheets to make it easier to understand the available benefit and the eligibility requirements. Each year, the VA’s Office of Public Affairs releases a Benefits Book containing all federal benefits for veterans, their dependents and survivors. If you prefer a hard copy of the book, one can be ordered from the Government Printing Office’s U.S. Government Bookstore. The 2016 edition of the book can be purchased from the GPO for $5.
The VA also participates in Benefits.gov. Benefits.gov strives to provide an “innovative, technology-based solution to benefit information delivery.” Using the Benefit Finder, veterans can answer a series of questions and find the federal benefits programs they are eligible for. One of the advantages of Benefits.gov is that the Benefit Finder looks for benefits available from 17 federal agencies, allowing veterans to see benefits they are eligible for that are administered by agencies other than the VA.
While technology has improved access to information, and in some cases simplified the enrollment process for benefits, sometimes it is helpful to visit with an expert. Fortunately, since 1993 the National Association of County Veterans Service Officers has been recognized by the Department of Veterans Affairs “for the purpose of preparation, presentation, and prosecution of claims under laws administered by the Department of Veterans Affairs.” By some estimates, up to 90 percent of claims filed with the VA each year originate in a County Veterans Service Office. With 2,400 employees across 28 states, County Veterans Service Officers are local advocates helping veterans, and their dependents and widows, navigate the VA Benefits system. To find a County Veterans Service Officer, click here. If you live in an area not served by a County Veterans Service Officer, your next best option is to visit with a representative at a VA Regional Benefit Office. You can find a list of Regional Benefit Offices and their contact information here.