Veterans and Finances

We’re creating this guide to help veterans, as well as their friends and family, find information, programs, and resources of value.

This article is for information purposes only. If you believe you may be eligible for any of the benefits discussed below, you should contact the Department of Veterans Affairs at www.va.gov to see if you qualify.

Pension

The Veterans Affairs Pension is a needs-based benefit for wartime Veterans who have limited or no income and who are: 1) 65 or older, or 2) have a permanent/total disability that is not a result of military service, or 3) a patient in a nursing home for long-term care because of a disability, or 4) receiving Social Security Disability Insurance or Supplemental Security Income.

Other eligibility requirements include:

The Veteran must not have received a dishonorable discharge, and
The Veteran’s yearly family income and net worth satisfy the limits set by Congress.

In addition, the Veteran must also satisfy one of the following requirements:

The Veteran commenced active duty before September 8, 1980, and served at least 90 days on active duty and at least one of the days was during wartime.
The Veteran commenced active duty as an enlisted person after September 7, 1980, and served at least 24 months or the full period which the Veteran was called or ordered to active duty (some exceptions apply) and least one day during wartime.
The Veteran was an officer and commenced active duty after October 16, 1981, and hadn’t served on active duty for at least 24 months previously.

If a Veteran is eligible for the pension but is housebound or requires the assistance of another person to perform daily activities, then he/she may qualify for the “Special Monthly Pension” which is higher than the standard pension.

Survivors Pension

The Survivors Pension (offered through the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs) pays monthly payments to spouses and unmarried dependents of wartime Veterans, provided they satisfy net worth and income limits that are determined by Congress. The Survivors Pension is tax-free and is sometimes referred to as a “Death Pension.”

In order to qualify for the Survivors Pension, the deceased Veteran must have met the following:

For service on or prior to September 7, 1980, the Veteran must have served on active duty for at least 90 days and at least one of those days must have been during a wartime period*.
If the Vet commenced active duty after September 7, 1980, in general, he/she must have served at least 24 months OR the full period they were called or ordered to active duty and one of those days must have been during a wartime period*.
The Veteran was discharged from service under conditions other than dishonorable.

Even though a spouse who has not remarried is eligible at any age, the child of a deceased wartime Veteran must meet the following requirements:

Less than 18 years old, OR
Under 23 if attending a VA-approved school, OR
Permanently unable to support himself/herself due to disability prior to age 18.

*The VA has a preset list of dates that constitute eligible “wartime periods.”

GI Bill

The GI Bill allows qualifying service members, Veterans, and their family members to pay for some or all of their education or training costs. There are various programs within the GI Bill, so it’s important to explore the various choices to see if you qualify. However, it should be noted that once a program is selected, the decision cannot be changed later.

Post-9/11 GI Bill – this program is offered to service members and Veterans who meet at least one of the following requirements:

The service member or Veteran served at least 90 days on active duty (breaks in service are permissible) on or after September 11, 2001.
The service member Veteran received a Purple Heart on or after September 11, 2001, and received an honorable discharge after any amount of service.
The service member or Veteran served for at least 30 continuous days (breaks in service are permissible) on or after September 11, 2001, and received an honorable discharge with a service-connected disability.
The recipient is a dependent child using benefits transferred by a qualifying Veteran or service member.

Under the Post-9/11 Bill, recipients are eligible to receive up to 36 months of benefits, including the following:

Tuition and fees. If the recipient qualifies for the full benefit, the program will pay for the full cost of public, in-state tuition and fees. Rates are capped for private and foreign schools.
Housing. If the recipient is in school more than half-time, the program will cover funds for housing. The monthly allowance is based on the cost of living where the school is located.
Books & Supplies. The program will cover up to $1,000 per school year.
Moving. The program will offer to those who qualify a one-time sum of $500 if the recipient lives in a county with six or fewer people per square mile and has to move to attend school at least 500 miles away or have no other choice but to fly to get to the school.

Montgomery GI Bill Active Duty (MGIB-AD) – this program offers funds for school to persons who have served at least 2 years on active duty. To qualify, the Veteran must have been honorably discharged and meet the requirements in at least one of the following four categories:

Category I

All of the following must be true:

The Veteran must have a high school diploma, GED, or 12 hours of college credit, and
Commenced active duty for the first time after June 30, 1985, and
Had their military pay reduced by $100 per month for the first 12 months of service.

At least one of the following must be true: the Veteran served continuously (without a break) for:

3 years, or
2 years if that was part of the agreement when the Veteran enlisted, or
4 years if the Veteran entered the Selected Reserve within 1 year after leaving active duty (this is also known as the 2 by 4 program).

Category II

All of the following must be true:

The Veteran has a high school diploma, GED, or 12 hours of college credit, and
Commenced active duty before January 1, 1977 (or before January 2, 1978, according to a delayed enlistment program contracted January 1, 1977), and
Served at least 1 day between October 19, 1984, and June 30, 1985, and remained on active duty through June 30, 1988 (or through June 30, 1987, if the Veteran entered the Selected Reserve within 1 year after leaving active duty and served 4 years), and
Possessed at least 1 day of entitlement under the Vietnam Era GI Bill (Chapter 34) as of December 31, 1989.

Category III

All of the following must be true:

The Veteran must have a high school diploma, GED, or 12 hours of college credit, and
Doesn’t qualify for the MGIB pursuant to categories I or II, and
Had their military pay reduced by $1,200 before separation.

At least one of the following must be true:

The Veteran was on active duty on September 30, 1990, and involuntarily separated (not by choice) after February 2, 1991, or
Involuntarily separated on or after November 30, 1993, or
Opted to voluntarily separate pursuant to either the Voluntary Separation Incentive (VSI) program or the Special Separation Benefit (SSB) program.

Category IV

Both of the following must be true:

The Veteran has a high school diploma, GED, or 12 hours of college credit, and
Had their military pay reduced by $100 per month for 12 months, or made a $1,200 lump-sum contribution.

At least one of the following is true:

The Veteran was on active duty on October 9, 1966, had funds left in a VEAP account on that date, and opted for MGIB before October 9, 1997, or
Commenced full-time National Guard duty pursuant to Title 32, USC, between July 1, 1985, and November 28, 1989, and chose MGIB between October 9, 1996, and July 9, 1997.

Montgomery GI Bill Selected Reserve (MGIB-SR) – members of the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, or Coast Guard Reserve, Army National Guard, or Air National Guard may be eligible to receive up to 36 months of education and training benefits under this program. As of July 2019, the maximum amount is $384 per month.

To be eligible for this program, at least one of the following must be true (subject to certain date requirements):

The applicant has a 6-year service obligation in the Selected Reserve, or
The applicant is an offer in the Selected Reserve and agreed to serve 6 years in addition to the initial service obligation.

AND, all of the following must be true:

The applicant must complete their initial active duty for training (IADT), and
Receive a high school or certificate of equal value (e.g., GED), before finishing IADT, and
Remain in good standing while serving in an active Selected Reserve unit.

Home Loans and Housing-Related Assistance

VA home loans programs may be used by Veterans to purchase homes, condominiums, and manufactured homes, as well as refinance existing home loans, or install energy-saving improvements. Three primary types of guaranteed home loan benefits are offered by the VA:

Purchase Loans – lenders will offer competitive interest rates on purchase loans backed by the VA. These loans can be used to help buy, build, or improve a home. Also, so long as the sales price isn’t greater than the home’s appraised value, no down payment is required.

To be eligible for a VA-backed purchase loan, all of the following must be true:

The applicant must qualify for a VA-backed home loan Certificate of Eligibility (COE), and
Satisfy the VA’s and the lender’s requirements for credit, income, and other standards, and
Will live in the home that is being purchased with the loan.

Cash-Out Refinance Loans – this loan allows the borrower to refinance a loan in favor of a new one under different terms. This loan is useful if the borrower desires to withdraw cash from his/her home equity or refinance a non-VA loan into a VA-backed loan.

To be eligible for a Cash-Out Refinance Loan, all of the following must be true:

The applicant must qualify for a VA-backed home loan Certificate of Eligibility, and
Satisfy the VA’s and lender’s requirements for credit, income, and other standards, and
Will live in the home that is being refinanced with the loan.

Interest Rate Reduction Refinance Loans (IRRRL) – this loan allows the applicant to refinance an existing VA-backed home loan in order to reduce the monthly mortgage payments or make the payments more stable.

To be eligible for an IRRRL, all of the following must be true:

The applicant must have an existing VA-backed home loan, and
Is using the IRRRL to refinance this existing VA-backed loan, and
Is able to certify that they currently live in or used to live in the home covered by the loan.

NOTE: if the applicant has a second mortgage on the home, the holder of that second mortgage must agree to have the new VA-backed be the first mortgage.

Sites of Interest

This list of websites may be of particular interest for people serving/who have served in the military:

  • veteransfamiliesunited.org personal or family emergencies, short term financial assistance, scholarships
  • ourmilitarykids.org Grants for children of military personnel for participation in sports, fine arts, and tutoring programs.

Financial Assistance

Loans

https://www.jfla.org/

Health, physical

Health, emotional and mental

PTSD

Reentry into society

Education

Housing

Legal