May 15 is Armed Forces Day, celebrating soldiers, sailors, airmen, marines, guards and coast guards. Service members don’t have to wait to break up to reap the benefits they deserve.
Here are seven ways service members can use VA.
1. Buy a home
Private lenders such as banks and mortgage lenders offer VA home loans. The program guarantees part of the loan so that the lender can offer more favorable terms. VA Home Loans offer no down payment and no mortgage insurance. Service members and veterans can take advantage of the benefit over and over again as the benefit never expires. Service members and veterans can use a VA home charge to buy, refinance, or use home equity. VA home loans also have no cap on the amount a veteran service member can borrow. Learn more at https://www.benefits.va.gov/homeloans/.
2. Learn more about the GI invoice
GI Bill benefits help service members and veterans pay for college, graduate, and training programs. Since 1944, the GI Act has helped qualified veterans and their family members get money to cover all or part of school or education costs.
The GI Bill website provides information on tariffs, eligible schools, transferring unused GI Bill benefits to a spouse or dependent child, and more. Learn more at https://www.va.gov/education/about-gi-bill-benefits/.
3. Visit a veterinary center
Veterinary centers are community-based advice centers. They offer a wide range of social and psychological services, including professional readjustment advice. Eligible veterans, active duty members, including National Guard and Reserve components, and their families may use the services.
Confidentiality is very important and veterinary centers recognize this. Vet centers are safe places to discuss feelings or emotions that may arise after retiring from the military, experiences made while serving in combat, due to sexual assault or trauma experienced while serving.
Records are not linked to records of mental or behavioral disorders. It will not be released to VA Medical Centers or the Department of Defense without a signed release of information from the veteran or service member, unless there is a serious intent to cause harm.
Veterinary center advisors and staff, often veterans themselves, are experienced and ready to discuss the tragedies of war, loss, grief, and post-trauma transition.
Find a veterinary center at https://www.va.gov/find-locations/?facilityType=vet_center.
4. Create a VA.gov account
The VA website at https://www.va.gov/ enables veterans to access and manage VA benefits and health care. It is important to keep contact information updated so VA knows how to contact a veteran. Learn how at https://www.blogs.va.gov/VAntage/50992/veterans-can-now-update-contact-information-online/.
5. Sign up for the VetResources newsletter
The weekly VetResources newsletter provides information on VA and non-VA programs and services that veterans, their families, carers, and survivors can currently use. Often these also contain information for active duty members. The newsletter includes articles like free and discounted event tickets, free access to national parks, recovery support programs, stories pertaining to veterans, and even free tele-yoga sessions. Log into VetResources at www.va.gov/VetResources.
6. Connect to VA Social Media
VA publishes stories on VAntage Point, the official blog at https://www.blogs.va.gov/VAntage/. Social media users can also find VA on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/VeteransAffairs, Twitter at https://twitter.com/DeptVetAffairs, Instagram at https://www.instagram.com/deptvetaffairs/ and YouTube at https://www.youtube.com/deptvetaffairs/.
7. Download the VA Welcome Kit
Navigating the benefits and services of VA can be challenging at times. Many service members do not realize the full scope of the resources that are or will be available to them. The VA Welcome Kit is a quick, step-by-step guide to understanding what’s available. It also provides a breakdown of which service members need to apply or who to contact for assistance. Download the VA Welcome Kit at https://www.va.gov/welcome-kit/