The Veterans Administration (VA) has a large and important task – to care for our nation’s brave men and women. In 2014, the veteran population totaled 21,619,731, according to the Congressional Research Service1, and 9,111,955 are being cared for by the VA Health System. The VA benefits system can seem overwhelming, but it is very important to learn how to navigate the VA systems to ensure you are receiving the benefits you earned for your military service. The VA e-Benefits System is an important tool for streamlining the benefits processes. In fact, it is more than just a web portal for benefits; it is a financial management tool.
The VA e-Benefits System was designed to modernize the VA benefits system and give veterans the ability to manage their benefits without walking in to their local VA office. The webpage www.ebenefits.va.gov gives veterans and their families the ability to apply for and manage their benefits and to interact with their VA health care provider. If you consider how each benefit received from the VA affects your finances you will quickly see how this website can become a vital personal financial management tool.
While the total impact of VA compensation and benefits for veterans is too vast to discuss here, it is important to highlight how simply knowing where and how to manage you VA benefits is important. For example, consider a service member’s education benefits. Once a service member has left the service and completed their requisite eligibility to receive VA education benefits, they will receive funding for education at most colleges or universities. This benefit includes tuition, a book stipend, and a housing allowance. Together, this benefit could pay more than $40,000 a year for education expenses. Applying for the VA educational benefit through e-Benefits is one of the first steps in the VA education benefit process. Not knowing how to apply or navigate the system could cause you to pay that $40,000 expense with your personal finances instead of through the VA.
Home loans are another significant veteran benefit that can positively affect veteran’s personal finances. A Certificate of Eligibility is required for each VA home loan. These certificates are processed through the VA e-Benefits System. If eligible, using a VA home loan versus a conventional loan can save a lot of money. Buyers using a VA home loan are not required to pay a percentage of the purchase price at closing (i.e. no down payment) and they are not required to carry Private Mortgage Insurance, saving hundreds of dollars each month.
The VA e-Benefits System gives veterans better access to many benefits they may have otherwise paid out of their own pocket. These benefits include hearing aid batteries, certain prescriptions and direct access (through a messaging system) with their VA doctor. Managing each of these benefits through the VA e-Benefits System can save gas, time, and money, which all support your financial planning efforts.
One important factor to remember is that while on active duty, your CAC card gives you access to the VA e-Benefits System. However, once you leave the military you no longer have a CAC card. Therefore, it is vitally important that you setup your user name and password BEFORE you leave the military or you will have to be re-verified by the VA in order to gain access to the VA e-Benefits System.
The VA e-Benefits System is not all encompassing. There are some issues or claims which must be taken care of in person. However, the vast majority of claims and benefits can be processed through the VA e-Benefits System making it a financial management tool which can save you time and improve your visibility of your benefits that have a direct impact on your personal finances.
Jonathon Rowles Captain, USMC (Ret.)
1 FY 2014 Congressional Research Service VA Health System Fact Sheet http://www.fas.org/sgp/crs/misc/R43579.pdf
Disclaimer: (have to do it) – This blog should not be considered financial, investment, legal or tax advice. Consult your licensed financial professional, tax advisor or legal counsel. This blog is for educational purposes only.