Good News! Though the VA.gov website was confusing and difficult to use, great progress has been made since we last wrote about it. And that progress is evident in vets.gov, now available for veterans to get and manage their benefits.
A bit of extra good news: President Trump wants to make it easier for disabled vets to get their government education loans forgiven — that is, the amounts still due on the loans will be discharged and those who qualify will not have to pay them back!
Discover more about that in our April 2018 update below - it can be a lifesaver if you're mired in debt! You’ll also learn more about how this still relatively new website can help you and your family.
One immediate benefit: you don’t need to get passed around to multiple sites to try to find (and get) what you need. It is simpler to navigate and — finally — it is optimized for mobile.
Discover your program today!
Update April 2018
President Trump has announced a new joint effort by the Department of Education and the Department of Veterans Affairs. This effort is specifically aimed at disabled vets who are carrying student loan debt burdens. They are simplifying the loan forgiveness program for eligible vets. And they’re not waiting for you to figure it out and apply. They are coordinating their systems to identify qualifying vets. Those vets will receive a letter outlining their eligibility and will also include an application for a “Permanent Disability Discharge” of the amount they owe in outstanding loans. You can also apply by phone or by email and those instructions will be in the letter.
Back to Veterans Benefits:
The new website for vets has been designed to make it easier and simpler for vets to get information online. The goal is to put mobile first, recognizing that that is how most people get their information these days. They also shared along the way their objectives and design plans to promote transparency and let users participate in the design process.
The entire project was a challenge given that there were more than a thousand separate websites to incorporate, almost a thousand 800 numbers to call for various reasons along with more than 40 call centers and more than 200 separate databases.
One of the first things vets.gov encourages you to do is to print out a copy (or copies) of the “VA Welcome Kit.” Doing this lets you and/or family members and even friends to have easy access to information about how to apply for and manage the benefits to which you are entitled.
Following the brief section about the Welcome Kit there is a simple list, with titles highlighted and linked to further information, of the different categories of benefits you are interested in. These include benefits for disabilities, health care, education, housing, employment and careers, life insurance, pensions and burials and memorials. Click on any of those titles and you will be taken to easy to read information about the topic including how to apply for your benefits.
In addition to the sections noted above there is important Contact information for critical issues such as a Crisis Line, a directory of VA locations near you, and Help Desk phone numbers. And by the way the Crisis Line information allows you call any of several numbers or you can chat with someone — totally confidentially — right away.
One thing some may not know: If you are the family member of a vet, or even if you are a caregiver for a vet, it’s possible you could qualify for lots of different benefits from the VA. Some of the potential benefits you might be able to get include some home loans backed by the VA, a healthcare program, life insurance, assistance paying for college or career school, and even more if you are caring for a disabled vet. It’s easy to get more detailed information on the vets.gov website. They also provide a help desk number so you speak to a live person on the phone.
One of the most interesting and useful parts of the new website is at the bottom of the home page. On the far left is another list of linked titles for the different types of benefits you may be looking for. On the right are useful phone number. And in the middle is a great list titled “Popular on vets.gov”. These items are what others are looking for most frequently. The include instructions on how to get your printed Veteran ID are, how and where to apply for heath care, how to keep track of any claims and appeals you have outstanding, a procedure for how you can refill your prescriptions and see your VA letters. There are also two items about education: one tells you how to apply for education benefits and another even shows you education benefits by specific schools. This can be a huge timesaver if you are considering different schools, and it can also give you some great ideas about where you might want to continue your education!
Of course veteran benefits are available not just for veterans themselves, but also for their husbands or wives, surviving spouses, dependent children and family caregivers. Information about what benefits they may receive are included in a whole section on Family Member and Caregiver Benefits. These include not only health care but also assistance for education expenses, help with finding work, pensions for survivors, help with housing, support for caregivers and assistance with burials and memorials. There is also help information for disabled veterans as well as service members.
Help with finding jobs goes beyond just pointing out employers who are veteran-friendly. There is employment counseling available to help you figure out what professions best match your skills and interests and to determine what your career path could look like.
The VA offers help for many veterans and surviving spouses to buy a home or to refinance an existing loan. Help also extends to helping out with your existing home if you ned to repair it, build a new home or just keep your home. If you are disabled you can seek out “Adaptive Housing Grants.” These are grants to help pay for changing parts of your home t o make it more accessible and easier to use. The need must stem from a disability that resulted from your military service. Details on housing help and grants are included in the section on Housing Assistance. There is also a special section that may be able to help you if you are currently homeless or you are fearful that you will be soon.
Speaking of housing and special help for vets — you can also find more information on this topic, including specific organizations that are helping to house vets, in our article Grants for Veterans. The article also covers other topics of interest to veterans. Further information for housing help in general is available in Home Grants.