If you are a veteran, you may qualify for benefits in some unexpected places. You’ll need to do some research and get some documentation in order to take advantage of these benefits, but in the end the financial rewards could be substantial.
Here are just a few areas where your veteran status could benefit you financially:
State benefits. As a veteran, in some circumstances you may qualify for both a free license plate and certain state homestead exceptions. Check with your state’s department of veteran services to find out for what you may qualify.
Because of my veteran status, for example, I was able to get a free ID card and driver’s license from my local DMV. I can show this identification to merchants to qualify for veteran discounts without having to carry my DD-214 around with me.
Shopping discounts. Many local shops, restaurants, and online stores offer discounts for veterans. Last month, I showed my license and was able to qualify for a discount on several books just by asking a local bookseller if it offered discounts to military veterans. I also recently received a 10 percent discount on a new set of running shoes and 10 percent off my entire purchase at Lowe’s.
Whenever and wherever I shop, I ask merchants if they offer veteran discounts. It’s an easy way to save a few extra dollars on my purchases.
Employment benefits. Veterans who are applying for employment may be granted veteran preference, especially if they served during a period of war. Particularly if you are applying for a federal job, be sure that your resume reflects your military service and that you follow any guidelines that ask for additional information validating your military experience.
Keep in mind that many employers will request your DD-214 to validate your time in service, your rank, and any awards you may have received. Most importantly, they’ll want to validate that your discharge was honorable.
Pension benefits. If you are 65 or older and served during a wartime period, and if your income and net worth meet VA limits, you could qualify for a VA pension.
If you’re a veteran who is permanently housebound, you can receive up to $15,233 each year in benefits. That pension amount increases if you have any dependents, if you need assistance in your home, or if you are in a nursing facility requiring specialized care. If you need to provide the VA with a copy of your civilian medical records, many medical centers will provide immediate records, free of charge, if you are a veteran.
Housing rehabilitation. There are banking programs that offer military personnel free grant money to recondition their homes. In addition, certain home improvement stores, such as Lowe’s, may offer veterans a 10 percent discount on their purchases.
Often, individuals who use a wheelchair must make improvements to their home in order to accommodate their needs. In situations like this, many banks offer programs giving grants to veterans to help them buy a new home or make necessary renovations to an existing home.
In some cases, up to $12,500 in assistance is available toward the rehab of a veteran’s current house if he or she has served in an overseas military intervention. Some banks also offer down payment assistance to veterans who are first-time homebuyers that meet certain income guidelines.
How to find military discounts
There are several websites that list various discounts for military personnel. One site that I am very fond of is Military.com. There, you will find links for retailers, amusement parks,, restaurants, and other places where you can save a lot of money.
For more information about veterans’ benefits, visit www.VA.gov and select “Veteran Services” at the top of the page.
You can also check out my book, “The Veteran’s Money Book,” to learn more about veteran benefits and support. The book offers a step-by-step program to help military veterans build a personal financial action plan to map their futures.
Mechel Glass is the vice president of education for ClearPoint Credit Counseling Solutions. She is responsible for developing the curriculum and financial education materials for online classes including webinars, podcasts, videos, and listen-on-demand classes. She provides support and training for the agency’s community outreach programs and staff, including financial education specialists in 15 states. Glass also manages the development and reporting of the agency’s online education, and she is the co-author of The Veteran’s Money Book (Career Press, April 2014).