SMART Finance Tips for Veterans Transitioning to Civilian Life

By David S. Chang

Many servicemembers who faithfully served our country can have a challenging transition, especially when it comes to finances. Thankfully, there are many resources and organizations that can help ease veterans way back into civilian life. Here are some helpful tips to follow!


Take Advantage of GI Bill and Veteran Affairs (VA) Benefits

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Many people join the military to take advantage of the benefits. Make sure that you do! In addition to education benefits, don’t forget to file a VA disability claim if you have suffered any injuries while serving. Even if you don’t believe it is serious, chances are it will get more serious as you get older.

Based on your VA Disability Rating (0% to 100%), you will collect a tax-free stipend every month. Even if you get a 0%, it is easier to go back if the injury gets worse over time. If you are able to get a 100% disability rating, any federal student loans you have are discharged. There are many other VA benefits that you may qualify for. Take advantage of their services.


Educational and Career Counseling

Find out how to apply for VA Chapter 36 benefits to get free Veteran Educational and Career Counseling services. You may be eligible if you’re leaving active service soon, if you’ve been discharged within the past year, or if you’re the dependent of a Veteran.

  • Counseling to help you decide which civilian or military jobs you want
  • Educational and Career Counseling to help you find a training program or job
  • Academic and adjustment counseling to help you deal with issues that get in the way of your success in training or employment.

There are also other many retraining programs out there to choose from. Consider which would be the best fit before you commit. 


VA Vocational Rehabilitation

If you have a service-connected disability that limits your ability to work or prevents you from working, the VA Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment (VR&E) program—also referred to as Chapter 31—can help.

Find out if you’re eligible and how to apply for vocational rehabilitation benefits and services, like help exploring employment options and any required training needs. In some cases, your family members may also be eligible for certain benefits.


Eligibility requirements for VA home loan programs

Learn about VA home loan eligibility requirements for a VA direct or VA-backed loan. Find out how to apply for a Certificate of Eligibility (COE) to show your lender that you qualify based on your service history and duty status. Keep in mind that for a VA-backed home loan, you’ll also need to meet your lender’s credit and income loan requirements to receive financing.


Finding Your Next Job

For many veterans, one of the most challenging aspects about the transition into civilian life is finding employment. With the veteran unemployment rate higher than the civilian one, it can be intimidating.

First, there is the need to translate your hard-earned skills to civilian employers. In your resumes and cover letters, focus on how your military experience makes you a great employee for any company. After all, you’ve already demonstrated loyalty, an ability to think on your feet in fast-changing situations, and you very likely have specialized skills that are much in demand in many industries. Focus on making your skills understandable to the civilian audience: take out military language and acronyms. On LinkedIn, you can see how other veterans are presenting their skills and reach out to them

Beyond USAJobs, many resources exist to help connect veterans to jobs such as Military.com’s veteran jobs section.

Finally, consider starting your own company. SCORE is a nationwide organization that links entrepreneurs to mentors, and they have special resources dedicated to veterans. You’re eligible to receive free financial advice from a CPA, scholarships for business workshops, and sessions with mentors to guide you to small business success.


Hardship Resources

Veterans also face the challenge of receiving the benefits they are rightfully due from Veteran Affairs. Long, bureaucratic delays hamper veterans’ abilities to successfully transition into civilian life. If you are a veteran who finds yourself struggling to pay the bills after your service, resources also exist to help out in any situation. Here are a few:

The American Legion provides cash grants for children of service members as financial assistance for emergency aid.

Operation First Response and The Coalition to Salute American Heroes are both organizations that provide financial assistance for veterans. They take into account individual needs and situations, so if you’re facing utility shutoffs, foreclosure, or eviction, they can provide help.

USA Cares is an organization that helps keep veterans in their homes. According to their website, they have allocated $10 million in grants to support veterans who face a range of problems from unemployment to foreclosure to PTSD.

Disabled American Veterans is an organization geared towards those who have become disabled in their duty. They have 100 offices around the U.S., and they help provide a wide range of services for disabled vets, ranging from applications for services to education to home loan guarantees.

No matter what your financial needs are, resources exist to help connect veterans to organizations and services.

David S. Chang

Award-Winning Entrepreneur, Wealth Manager and CEO | Chief Editor, Author, Keynote Speaker, Consultant ArtofThinkingSmart.com | Political Consultant | Army Officer National Guard | Living To Fulfill Needs, Solve Problems, and Live Passionately!

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