Returning from service overseas can be a difficult transition for veterans and their families. Private citizens, corporate entities, and government agencies may all be grateful for the service that you provided during your time in uniform, but even so, they cannot directly repay you for the opportunity costs that you face for serving the nation instead of using those years to advance yourself in the workplace and the community. Fortunately, each of these sectors have come up with ways to help you make up for time away from civilian life through incentives, discounts, and access to resources.
Without question, the Servicemen’s Readjustment Act, commonly referred to as the GI Bill, is the most well-known education benefit associated with service in the United States Armed Forces. Since 1944, the federal government has offered veterans assistance, paying for all facets of higher education. Current information on the bill is available through a dedicated section on Veteran’s Benefits Administration’s website, but here’s the key thing you need to know: According to the Association of the United States Army, the 2014 payment rates for the GI Bill mean that a full-time service member could be eligible for up to $59,000 in tuition, stipends, and other forms of financial assistance, according to AUSA.org.
As rich as the GI Bill is, it isn’t the only education-related resource available to you. The Student Veterans of America, for example, exists to “provide military veterans with the resources, support, and advocacy needed to succeed in higher education and following graduation”, as their site explains. SVA coordinates the work of student veteran groups at colleges and universities across America, and advocates for university policies that are beneficial to those who have served.
Job Hunting Services
While the federal government dedicates considerable resources to helping you transition back to civilian life by paying for training and helping you connect with potential employers, the nonprofit sector is also making its presence known in these important endeavors. Consider the work of Hire Heroes USA, a Georgia-based nonprofit that prides itself on “creating job opportunities for veterans and their spouses”, according to HireHeroesUSA.org. The organization provides resume services, training, and access to job openings reported by their corporate sponsors at no cost to veterans. Not to be outdone, the private sector is also doing it’s part to help. For example, NBC News, in conjunction with the US Chamber of Commerce, has launched Next Steps for Vets (Veterans.NBCNews.com), a web portal that will help you calculate your eligibility for educational benefits, learn the basics of launching your own small business, and connect with potential employers.
Valuable Discounts on Goods and Services
Of course, you don’t have to be headed for Harvard to benefit from your military experience. You could just be headed to your local big box store. Lowes, one of the nation’s largest home improvement retailers, recognizes your service by providing a 10% discount to active and retired military personnel, and members of their immediate families, according to their website. LifeLock, a company dedicated to protecting consumers from credit fraud and identity theft, offers a 10% veterans’ discount on its monitoring services—an attractive incentive for anyone thinking of re-enlisting or concerned about being redeployed. Your service also entitles you to reduced military rates when renting a car from Alamo; spending the day at a Disney Park; or choosing insurance through Geico or American Family Insurance. Information about military discounts is often buried deeply within company websites, so the best way to learn if a retail outlet or service provider offers incentives for active or retired military personnel is to simply ask.
In times of economic stress, your status as a veteran can open the door to emergency assistance through organizations such as the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW.org), USACares.org, and—for military parents—the American Legion (Legion.org). On the other hand, if things are going smoothly and you’re interested in securing your financial future through business ownership, the VA has compiled a helpful list of franchise programs tailored to veterans, featuring plenty of options to investigate.
About the author: Kirk Hansen
Kirk owns a thrift store that benefits veterans.