[dropcap]I[/dropcap]t’s no secret that the men and women of the US military and their family members can face challenges that most others would hardly be able to imagine. Forget about understanding. Unfortunately, this holds doubly true for veterans, especially disabled veterans with a service-connected disability or post-traumatic stress, as well as military families. For those who are struggling, it can feel like there’s no way out. The truth is, there are many programs and financial aid available on both state and federal levels, such as the [highlight color="green"] Department of Veterans Affairs,[/highlight] as well as non-profit organizations. Some might be better than others, but each one is set up to service those who have already given their time, bodies, and courage to their country. To get you started, here are our top five financial assistance programs for veterans.
5. Low-Cost Retirement Plan
The Thrift Savings Plan only makes number five on our list of assistance programs because it’s something you’ll likely set up before you retire. This amazing retirement plan is available to those in military services and the armed forces and charges a jealousy-inducing 0.038% annual expense ratio. That’s about a third of the usual 1% to 2% charged for the balance of a typical 401k. That kind of savings is huge and it adds up. You can contribute $18,000 to the account per year, or if you happen to be receiving tax-free income while you’re deployed, it amount jumps to around $54,000. Part of what’s so great about this program is that you can actually set your own “retirement” date when the financial aid will become available to be used without penalty. It’s not too bad for a retirement account.
4. Roth Deposits
The average person putting money into a Roth IRA is going to pay taxes on their submission. That said, if you happen to be receiving tax-free pay while deployed, your IRA contributions are tax-free. What’s even better is that when you finally do have access to the money, you still won’t pay taxes on those specific deposits. You’re allowed to add up to $5,500 into the account per year for yourself and, if your income fits certain limits and your spouse is unemployed, you may be able to contribute an additional $5,500 on their behalf. Again, this is more of a program you would enter while you're still on active duty. With a little planning ahead on your part, a program like this can mean a huge difference in your quality of life as a veteran or retiree.
3. Life Insurance
It’s no secret that military life can be hard on the body. You could end up like thousands of other disabled veterans with a service-connected disability, be unable to work, or even, heaven forbid, die while serving your country. Final costs can be expensive and living expenses add up quickly for those we leave behind. We all want to make sure our loved ones are covered in the event of our passing. For some people that means saving, but for most that desire is most likely going to take the form of a life insurance policy. As a service member, you have access to one of if not the least expensive life insurance policies there are out there. Service Members’ Group Life Insurance costs you only 7 cents per $1,000 of coverage per month. That comes out to a low somewhere around $300 a year for $400,000 in coverage. It doesn’t matter if you’re active duty or reserve, how old you are, or what your health is like. You are guaranteed coverage. You might even be able to cover your spouse up to $100,000 for an additional $60 per year.
2. Free College
A resilient mind can set the foundation for a strong future and there are few better ways to do that than via education. If you or an immediate family member is looking to further their knowledge on any subject, then chances are there’s a program out there to help you. Most states offer low-cost or even free tuition to four-year college programs for military persons and their dependents. Some places even cover a good chunk of or even all fees associated with vocational programs. Usually, to qualify you need proof of active duty, reserve status, or an honorable discharge. Some states require certain conditions or levels of disability. Others are happy to offer the education experience to all those connected to a service member. Many states even have programs specifically for the children of military personnel and surviving children of those lost while serving under active duty. A shiny new education can change your life or the life of someone you care about and it’s even better when you didn’t have to pay as much for it.
1. State Tax Breaks
Let’s face it; paying taxes isn’t exactly everyone’s favorite way to spend their money. If you happen to be an active duty military member, part of the reserve, retired from service, or considered a veteran, you and your partner are almost certainly eligible for at least some of the tax breaks that individual states offer. Almost every state requires you be currently in the service or honorably discharged to receive these tax cuts. Some states go so far as to add percentages of disability or income limits into the decision. Whether or not you or your spouse qualifies will vary and it never hurts to contact your local VA center or a state office to confirm who is accepted and who is not.
There we go. Now that the list is out of the way, we’d like to take a moment to thank all those who have put their lives on the line to protect all of us in this amazing country and we hope you’ve left our little article with a better understanding of what financial recourses may be available to you and your family. If you have further questions or are looking for yet more services, it’s not a bad idea to contact your state and local VA centers.