Surprise: Some are for family, too

No country in the world offers more benefits to those who have served in its armed forces than the US. Some of the benefits are available only to active service members or military retirees (those who have retired after at least 20 years of service), but many are offered to all of America’s 24 million veterans and their families.

HOME LOANS

Under the GI Bill, vets can buy homes with no money down and without a monthly mortgage insurance premium. The Veterans Administration (VA) doesn’t actually lend money — it simply guarantees a portion of the loan with your lender. (Of course, you have to meet your lender’s credit standards.)

More information: Call 800-827-1000 or go to the U.S. Veteran’s Benefit Web site (http://benefits.va.gov/), where you can download VA Form 26-1880.

EDUCATION

Under the GI Bill, if you have served in the military in the past 10 years, you are probably eligible for up to the maximum in-state tuition and fees for a public institution, plus a housing allowance and $1,000 a year for books and supplies for up to 36 academic months (a total of four years). This money is tax free.

More information: Visit the GI Bill Express, where you can download VA Form 22-1990. Or call 888-442-4551.

Other educational benefits for vets include…

  • Scholarships. More than $300 million worth of scholarships from colleges and universities are available to vets and their dependents. Many of these scholarships are poorly publicized, improving your odds of winning one.
  • More information: Visit my organization, Military.com (www.military.com), the country’s largest military and veteran organization and a business unit of Monster Worldwide. Type “scholarships” into the search box… or select “Scholarships” from the left-hand menu to use the Scholarship Finder.

  • College credits. Colleges often award vets credits for their military training and experience, meaning less time (and expense) until graduation.
  • More information: Visit www.military.com/education/content/timesaving-programs/college-credit-for-military-experience.html or contact individual schools for information about the benefits they offer.

  • State education benefit programs. Some states offer veterans tuition discounts at their public colleges.
  • More information: Visit www.military.com/education/statebenefits.

    CAREERS

    Thousands of jobs are listed on Military.com (www.military.com/careers) by companies that are eager to hire vets. Or head to the Veteran Career Network (http://benefits.military.com/vcn/search.do) to find a helpful vet in the company, industry or city where you would like to work. There are more than 600,000 veterans willing to provide fellow vets with career assistance.

    TRAVEL

  • Air travel. Veterans who are retired from the military and family members who fly with them can fly for free or close to free on certain military flights, space permitting. This is standby travel, so it’s only appropriate when your schedule is flexible. Military flights aren’t always comfortable and might not be well-heated or include meal service, so bring a jacket and snacks.
  • More information: Visit Military Living’s SpaceA.info (www.spacea.info) or Military.com (www.military.com/spacea).

  • Lodging. Military retirees and their families have access to inexpensive lodging — either on-base lodging or at Armed Forces Recreation Centers — on a space-available basis.
  • Examples: Shades of Green resort within Walt Disney World and Hale Koa Hotel on the beach at Waikiki.

    More information: Air Force retirees, visit Air Force Services Agency (http://www.af.mil)… Army retirees, US Army MWR (www.armymwr.com)… Coast Guard retirees, the US Coast Guard site (www.uscg.mil/mwr)… Marine Corp retirees, the MCCS site (www.usmc-mccs.org/lodging/index.cfm) … and Navy retirees, visit Navy Lodge (www.navy-lodge.com).

    MEDICAL BENEFITS

    The Department of Veteran’s Affairs is required by law to provide eligible veterans with “needed” hospital care and outpatient care. VA defines “needed” as care or service that will promote, preserve and restore health. This includes treatment, supplies and services, such as physical exams and immunizations. The decision of “need” will be based on the judgment of the vet’s health-care provider at the VA and in accordance with generally accepted standards of clinical practice. There are also VA clinical health programs that vets may be eligible for, including treatment for blindness rehabilitation, AgentOrange exposure and HIV/AIDS.

    Veterans’ dependents are also eligible for these VA health-care programs in many cases. Final eligibility depends on several factors for each program. These factors include the nature of a veteran’s discharge from military service (e.g., honorable, other than honorable, dishonorable), length of service, service-connected disabilities, income level and available VA resources, among others. Generally, the vet must be enrolled in the VA health-care system — there are 1,326 VA facilities throughout the country — to receive benefits.

    More information: Visit the United States Department of Veterans Affairs site (www.va.gov/healtheligibility/eligibility/PriorityGroupsAll.asp).

    BURIAL BENEFITS, TOO

    Veterans are eligible for free burial in any of 125 VA national cemeteries, space permitting. Veterans’ spouses are also eligible. The cemetery plot, headstone, transportation of the remains, burial with military honors, if requested, and grave upkeep are provided by the government at no charge. The casket and other funeral home expenses remain the responsibility of the family.

    More information: Call the VA at 800-827-1000 for more information. You will need a copy of the vet’s discharge papers. Burial at Arlington National Cemetery is subject to greater restrictions. For more information call 703-607-8585. If a vet prefers to be buried in a private cemetery, the VA still can provide a free headstone. Call the VA for more details, or visit www.Military.com and submit VA Form 40-1330.

    CORPORATE DISCOUNTS

    Many companies offer discounts to active military personnel, and some extend these discounts to vets. Military.com lists more than 700 discount programs, including some for airfare, computers and electronics, dining and entertainment.

    Examples: Veterans and their families can get 10% off Nike merchandise (in-store) and 10% off jewelry at Blue Nile (online) through January 1, 2010.