Veterans Benefits Help Make College Education More Affordable

eBenefits.Va.Gov – If you have served your country in the United States military for any period more than 90 days of active duty, you are eligible to receive some sort of education benefits for your service. The new Post 9/11 GI Bill makes it possible for veterans to receive three different benefits to help defray costs of their college education.

Benefit Eligibility Percentages:

For those veterans that have met these active service requirement, they can receive the following percentage of the maximum benefits as outlined here:

  • 90 days to 179 days = 40 percent of benefit
  • 180 days to 364 days = 50 percent of benefits
  • 12 months to 18 months = 60 percent of benefits
  • 18 months to 24 months = 70 percent of benefits
  • 24 months to 30 months = 80 percent of benefits
  • 30 months to 36 months = 90 percent of benefits
  • Greater than 36 months = 100 percent of benefit

Tuition and Fees Benefit:

Based on your eligibility percentages above, the GI Bill will pay you up to the highest in-state tuition for a public school education in the state where you plan to attend college.

Example: If the maximum in-state tuition is $6,000 and your service was for 26 months (80 percent), you would receive up to $4,800 for tuition and fees.

Housing Allowance:

You would also qualify to receive a housing allowance on a monthly basis to help offset the cost of room and board or off campus housing. This amount is determined by the basic allowance for housing based on the zip code for the college that you plan to attend.

Example: If the monthly allowance for housing in your zip code is $950 and your service was for 19 months (70 percent), you would receive $665 per month to help offset housing. eBenefits.Va.Gov

Books and Supplies:

As for books and supplies, you can qualify for up to $1,000 annually to help pay for these expenses.

Example: If your service was for 4 months (40 percent) you would receive a check for $400 for books.


As you can see, the education benefits for veterans can add up quickly. There is also the possibility of transferring these benefits to your dependents if you do not plan to use them for yourself. You can find more information about this by visiting the Veterans Administration website or a local VA office.

If you would like to discover some additional strategies to help increase financial aid and reduce college costs, you can download your FREE College Cost Savings Kit by clicking here [http://www.CollegeEducationForLess.com/].

Please print this article and share it with your friends. You just might help them save hundreds, thousands and even tens of thousands off the high cost of a college education.

About the Author:

Keith Maderer is the father of five college age students, with three currently in college, and has been a financial, investment and tax adviser in Buffalo, New York since 1981. He is the author of “How To Get Your College Education For Less”. Available on Amazon.com – ISBN No: 978-1-4538-2053-7

To get your FREE College Cost Savings Kit, visit [http://www.CollegeEducationForLess.com/]

Asset Protection Trust in Veterans Benefits Planning

8eBenefits.VA.Gov – An Asset Protection Trust (“APT”) is an Intentionally Defective Grantor Trust. An Intentionally Defective Grantor Trust is a trust that treats the assets in the trust differently for income tax purposes than for estate tax and gift tax purposes. The veteran will be the grantor, but not a beneficiary. The trust utilizes Internal Revenue Code § 671-677 which afford differential tax treatment for income tax purposes.

For most veterans their major asset is their residence. As long as the veteran retains the home it is not part of his or her net worth for Veterans Administration (“VA”) eligibility purposes; it is a “non-countable resource.” However, if the veteran qualifies for the monthly pension benefit and later sells the home the proceeds will disqualify the veteran from receiving any further Veterans pension benefits – until the veteran spends down to an allowable asset level.

However, if the residence was placed in the trust prior to the VA application and later sold by the trustee the sale proceeds would not jeopardize the veteran’s pension benefits. Additionally, if the veteran needs Medicaid benefits more than five years following the date the trust was established and funded (the later of the two events) the trust corpus will not be part of the veteran’s Medicaid application. eBenefits.VA.Gov

The veteran will be the grantor of the trust and the veteran’s children will be the beneficiaries. The trust agreement provides rights and duties of the trustee so that the trustee can make discretionary distributions to the beneficiaries. Also, it is recommended that the trust agreement provide for a trust protector who has an absolute power to remove and replace the trustee who is not acting in the best interest of the trust’s purpose. By establishing the trust the veteran can have more control over how the assets in the trust are going to be distributed and used, although the veteran has no legal right to the trust’s corpus.

Some advantages of Intentionally Defective Grantor Trusts include:

The trust can hold and sell a veteran’s residence and keep the proceeds. The proceeds will not disqualify the veteran for pension benefits or Medicaid during the lifetime of the veteran;
The proceeds from the sale of the residence will not be subject to estate recovery by Medicaid;
The trustee can sell the residence with the grantor still being able to take advantage of Internal Revenue Code § 121 – capital gain exemption up to $250,000;
At the death of the grantor, the trust assets will receive a stepped-up basis for income tax purposes; and
It will keep the assets out of the hands of irresponsible children.

Dale M. Krause, J.D., LL.M., has provided Medicaid Compliant Annuities to elder law attorneys, and their clients, throughout the United States. As a result of his practice, Mr. Krause has been labeled “The Pioneer of Medicaid Compliant Annuities.”


Should a Young Veteran Join a Veterans Organization?

eBenefits.VA.Gov – The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines a military veteran as an old soldier of long service or a former member of the armed forces. When most of us think of a Veterans Organization we picture the old soldier. We associate these groups with the WWII veteran who is now in his 80s and proudly displays the emblem of his service unit on the tall brim of his cap. The truth of the matter is that the average age of a “former member of the armed forces” is much younger. According to Veterans Administration statistics over 60% of all veterans are under the age of 65. There are many reasons why those younger veterans should belong to a Veterans Organization.

A veterans organization is a community which provides services to former members of the military and their families. While the Veterans Administration does not directly endorse any Veterans or Military Service Organization they do provide a list of over 50 such organizations and encourage membership and cooperation with these veterans groups. Despite this encouragement membership at a veterans organization like the American Legion has steadily declined over the last five decades. From its peak of 3.3 million in 1946, membership has declined to its current level of 2.6 million. While some of these statistics are the result of demographics, all such organizations are seeking ways to become more attractive and relevant to a younger veteran.eBenefits.VA.Gov

In October of 2010 VA Secretary Eric K. Shinseki praised the work of Student Veterans of America (SVA), a veterans organization that advocates for Veterans seeking better jobs and better futures through education. SVA like the rest has a stated objective of ensuring that every veteran is successful after their military service. But maybe the most important benefit of belonging to a veterans organization like SVA is their stated objective of providing a peer to peer network. Much like college fraternities, an organization can benefit the young veteran by simply providing a framework for staying connected with other veterans.

Service organizations like the VFW offer member benefits on everything from discounted haircuts to employment assistance. But the biggest benefit a young veteran will see is the relationships he or she can forge with other veterans. As a member of an organization, young veterans will establish important relationships. Returning military service members often find it difficult to transition away from military service and re-connect with the community. A veterans organization can bridge the gap with opportunities to serve the community through civilian service and community events. eBenefits.VA.Gov

All veterans are encouraged to become a member of a veterans organization. By joining forces with other veterans after discharge they will stay connected with their military service and fully reap the benefits they deserve from that service. Friendships or even a mentor relationship can be formed where a younger veteran benefits from the wisdom and friendship of an older veteran. But even if a busy young veteran cannot attend regular meetings they can still profit from the information and advocacy a veterans organization can provide.

Armed with this advice, review a list of veterans organizations that you might join. Also learn about the many other benefits including education benefits at VeteransOrganization.net. This site as well as the FREE Veterans Organization Portal will provide all of the information you need to make informed decisions about your post military career.

Guide to the Use of Lay Evidence in a Veterans Benefits Claim

eBenefits.VA.Gov – When a military Veteran files a disability or benefits claim with the Department of Veterans Affairs for compensation due to injuries that occurred in military service, they are not required to rely solely on medical evidence. In fact, since soldiers rarely go on sick call when they are injured – and since service medical records are not always preserved or accurate – Veterans are encouraged to rely on lay evidence or testimony to substantiate their claim.

In fact, when a Veteran introduces lay evidence into the record the VA Regional Office (VARO), Board of Veterans Appeals (BVA) and the Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims (CAVC) must consider the lay evidence.

What is lay evidence? It is a broad category – generally, it is any evidence or testimony that does not come from an expert – medical or otherwise. eBenefits.VA.Gov

Here are some situations when a Veteran can (and should) use lay evidence or testimony:

1) If a Veteran has someone that can describe the symptoms of a particular medical condition or injury, it is permissible to support a subsequent diagnosis by a medical professional. This was essentially the holding in Jandreau v. Nicholson, 492 F.3d 1372 (Fed. Cir. 2007). So, for example, if a Veteran has been diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, he or she can introduce lay evidence of the symptoms of Parkinson’s that other people observed in the past.

2) A veteran can use lay evidence or testimony to identify some medical conditions. These are usually going to be medical conditions that are simple or unmistakeable like a broken leg. Sometimes, lay evidence or testimony can prove a more complex condition – like Parkinson’s disease – because the symptoms are so readily recognizable. Compare that to cancer – a lay witness or lay testimony will rarely be able to prove-up the symptoms of pancreatic cancer – though many of us are familiar with the disease, non-medical witnesses are generally not competent to testify to its symptoms or diagnosis.

3) A veteran can always use lay evidence or testimony to try to prove-up a contemporaneous medical diagnosis. For example, a Veteran can testify that he was diagnosed with a medical condition.

4) A Veteran can – and should – use lay evidence or testimony to prove up factual matters within that witnesses personal knowledge. These are commonly known as “buddy statements”, and are competent evidence to prove that a Veteran experienced pain in service, went on sick call, was placed on limited duty, received physical therapy, etc. The uses are boundless – the key element however is that the witness must have personal, first-hand knowledge. A more in-depth discussion of this use is found in Washington v. Nicholson, 19 Vet. App. 362, 368 (2005).

A common use of Number 4, and the rest of the examples, is to prove up “continuity of symptomatology” – a legal element of direct service-connection in some types of Veterans’ claims.

If a Veteran does provide lay evidence or testimony, neither the VARO or the BVA can exclude or fail to consider this evidence simply because it refers to or discusses medical matters. (Believe it or not, the BVA does this very thing quite frequently). eBenefits.VA.Gov

Instead, the VARO and BVA must:

1) Make a determination as to whether lay evidence is what the law refers to as “competent” (i.e., sufficient to prove what it seeks to prove). If the BVA or VARO decides it is not competent, they will have to include an adequate explanation of that conclusion. This is discussed in Jandreau v. Nicholson, 492 F.3d 1372 (Fed. Cir. 2007).

2) The VARO or BVA have to weigh the evidence: in other words, they have to put the lay evidence on a scale against the other evidence that is in a Veteran’s record. The purpose of weighing the evidence is to decide whether it is probative or not. Read more about this requirement in Buchanan v. Nicholson, 451 F.3d 1331 (Fed. Cir. 2006).

3) The BVA or VARO may, in certain situations, need to determine whether or not the evidence is credible. Credible doesn’t always mean “true” or “false” – it really just means whether the evidence can be relied upon by the person making a decision on issues of law or fact. For example, someone might tell you that a car accident just happened at the intersection of Main and 1st Street. That may or may not be true – but you might be more likely to believe it is true based on certain factors: who told you, why they told you, where they told you, etc. You’d be more likely to believe something like that is true if the person telling you was covered in blood and 1 block from the intersection. You can read more about this element in Barr v. Nicholson, 21. Vet. App. 303 (2007).

If you find yourself in a position where a VA Regional Office – or the Board of Veterans’ Appeals – has ignored or disregarded lay evidence or testimony that you submitted without given you an adequate reason or basis for its decision, you may have grounds to appeal the decision to the Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims.

If you are a Veteran and have questions about your VA Benefits claim contact a Veterans Benefits attorney.

Returning Veterans, Get the Benefits Your Entitled To

eBenefits.VA.Gov – According to a 2009 study performed by researchers at Harvard Medical School, there are approximately 1.5 million U.S. veterans who went without any form of health insurance in 2008, and of those, an estimated 2,266 suffered preventable deaths due to the lack of health care.

Additionally, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs finds that each night 131,000 of those who have served in the military spend the evening homeless – with people from every generation and war being represented in the statistic.

Lieutenant Commander Bruce C. Brown, a Deputy Chief of the Resource and Performance Management Division of the Seventh Coast Guard District in Miami, FL, refers to realities like these as nothing short of “discouraging.”

“The federal and state governments, and private foundations, have scholarships and military discounts available only to veterans,” Brown writes in a book dedicated to veterans’ entitlements and benefits. “There are billions of dollars in aid available, waiting to be claimed, but the problem is finding and properly applying for these programs.”

Therefore, the importance of making sure returning veterans have a clear knowledge and understanding of the resources available to them is crucial. In addition to the wealth of information that can be found on government Web sites, such as the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), the following five descriptions can be used as a educational guide to give military persons a head start to receiving the maximum amount of benefits they are entitled to:

1. One of the main benefits veterans enjoy is access to quality healthcare. This comes at little or no cost through the VA network of hospitals and medical treatment facilities. It is important to be aware that VA healthcare is not just for retirement military members, but depending on various circumstances, you could be eligible for this insurance and receive anywhere from two years to lifetime benefits, depending on how long you served, disability status, combat-related duties and several other factors. eBenefits.VA.Gov

2. As a disabled American veteran you are entitled tomedical, vocational and other benefits.Disability compensation is a monetary benefit paid to veterans who are disabled by an injury or disease that was incurred or aggravated during active military service. These disabilities are considered to be service-connected. Disability compensation varies with the degree of disability and the number of veteran’s dependents, and is paid monthly. Veterans with certain severe disabilities may be eligible for additional special monthly compensation. The benefits are not subject to federal or state income tax.

3. Veterans are entitled to enrolling in a plethora of educational and training programs through GI Bills.These include: Institutes of higher learning, non-college degree programs, on-the-job and apprenticeship training, flight training, distance learning, internet training, correspondence Training, licensing and certification programs, entrepreneurship training, work-study programs, Co-op training, and tuition assistance programs.

4. Another outstanding benefit, is eligibility of a veteran and their family members for a wide variety of scholarships, grants and other financial support options for things like the education programs mentioned above.A search of your state Web site will reveal a wealth of military financial support benefits you may be entitled to, which are either federally or state funded. For example, the state of Florida publishes their veterans’ benefits information at http://www.floridavets.org.

5. The VA is the only federal agency that provides substantial hands-on assistance directly to homeless people and many of America’s homeless citizens are also military veterans of the armed forces.VA’s homeless programs constitute the largest integrated network of homeless assistance programs in the country, offering a wide array of services and initiatives to help veterans recover from homelessness and live as self-sufficiently and independently as possible. These programs strive to offer a continuum of services that include: aggressive outreach to homeless veterans who otherwise would not seek assistance, clinical assessment and referral for treatment of physical and psychiatric disorders, long-term transitional residential assistance, case management and rehabilitation as well as employment assistance and linkage with permanent housing. eBenefits.VA.Gov

For any veteran returning from war, it is essential for him or her to know their service is valued, and the best way to do this is to make sure he or she receives the same privileges as the American’s they defend. By investigating some of the benefits mentioned about, a returning veteran will surely be on the right path to discovering all the opportunities they have available upon a safe return to the United States.

For more information on references regarding benefits available to those returning from war, visit the Atlantic Publishing Group Web site.

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