Although there were roughly 22 million veterans in the United States last year, according to the National Center for Veterans Analysis and Statistics, less than half that number used some type of Veterans Benefits Administration (VBA) service.
That may be because some veterans (or their dependents) fail to realize exactly what benefits or retirement income they qualify for.
Read on for 10 things veterans and their dependents should know about available retirement benefits, from “2016 Social Security & Medicare Facts,” which was published by The National Underwriter Company, an affiliate of LifeHealthPro.com.
10. The longer you serve, the more significant your retirement benefits.
Military retirement benefits apply to servicemen and women who spent at least 20 years in the military. The amount of monthly retirement income that a veteran receives is based on years of service along with the person’s last or highest military wage and rank.
9. Veterans can qualify for additional benefits besides military retirement.
Veterans are eligible for Social Security retirement benefits, and may have also contributed to the federal Thrift Savings Plan.
8. Cost of living impacts a retired veteran’s benefits.
During years of inflation, when the Consumer Price Index for All Urban Wage Earners and Clerical Workers (CPI) determines how much cost of living has increased, that figure is used in turn to adjust retired veterans’ income.
7. Military retirement benefits may also serve as a type of life insurance.
In the event of the death of a retired serviceman or woman who was receiving military retirement benefits, a monthly annuity becomes available through the Survivor Benefit Plan to a surviving wife or widower, or the retiree’s child/children, or a former spouse (with qualifying conditions), or another designated beneficiary. That monthly annuity will be paid for the survivors’ lifetime.
6. Most, but not all, disabled veterans are entitled to benefits.
Most disabled veterans who incurred their debilitating injury while in active duty qualify for a Disability Retirement benefit. The benefits include only those who did not experience their event due to intentional or willful neglect, or the injury happened during an authorized absence from service.
5. There are additional benefits available to veterans who became disabled during service.
These veterans may also be entitled to additional compensation from the Department of Veterans Affairs as well as severance pay.
4. Some reservists qualify for military retirement benefits.
Someone who was in the Reserves for 20 years or more, and who has completed what the government calls “satisfactory Federal service,” may qualify for Reservists’ Retirement. The military’s Survivor Benefit Plan also applies to this qualified group.
3. Benefits are available to those left behind after a serviceman or woman dies in the line of duty.
Spouses, children and parents of anyone who became fatally ill or was killed while in active service qualify for Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (DIC) benefits. This program specifically applies to dependents of military members who died while serving after 1956. Surviving beneficiaries also may be eligible for the service member’s Social Security benefit. Eligibility ceases upon the survivor’s remarriage or death.
2. Not all spouses will qualify for DIC benefits.
Surviving spouses whose marriage was less than a year long may not qualify for benefits. However, a surviving spouse is always eligible when the marriage produced a child or children.
1. Veterans and dependents should take questions and concerns about retirement benefits directly to the Department of Veterans Affairs.
Call the following toll-free number to be routed directly to a telephone information service or the agency’s nearest regional office: 1 (800) 827-1000.
— Related on ThinkAdvisor: