The Essential Guide to Personal Financial Support for Veterans
Veterans have a lot to be proud of. They’ve served their country for years and have fought to uphold American freedoms. But military life is a very particular kind of life. When you’re suddenly out of it, it can be jarring — how you get paid, your daily work and your living situation all change. Learning the necessary skills to keep your finances intact after your military service can help ease you into civilian life.
Financial Fundamentals for Managing Personal Finances as a Veteran
As a veteran, understanding financial fundamentals and managing finances is critical for personal stability after military service. Obtaining knowledge on budgeting, saving, investing and debt management is important. Learning basic financial skills can enable veterans to make informed and educated decisions concerning managing their finances and turning their financial dreams into future realities.
Financial literacy is essential to a secure future. As a veteran, ensuring a solid financial foundation is crucial for a comfortable transition into civilian life. Developing a good set of financial habits and knowing the fundamentals of personal finance can help veterans navigate the world of financial planning.
Creating and adhering to a household budget can be a challenging task, but it’s essential to creating financial stability. Careful budgeting helps to ensure that you’ll have the funds to cover expenses with room for savings. A budget should also help you to track your finances and provide insight into how much money is coming in and out of your accounts.
Use your benefits
Take advantage of veteran benefits, such as free health care, discounted housing and financial assistance.
Track your spending
One of the best ways to stick to a budget is to know your spending. Make sure to track your expenses with the help of budgeting tools and apps (or good ‘ole pen and paper) and identify areas where you can cut back.
Utilize financial counseling services
The Veterans Affairs (VA) provides free financial counseling services to assist you with creating a budget, paying bills and managing finances.
Good credit is essential to access credit cards, low-interest loans and a wide range of financial opportunities. Building good credit requires making timely payments, limiting the amount of revolving debt and maintaining a low credit utilization ratio.
Get loans from a military-friendly financial institution
Many military-friendly financial institutions offer loans and credit cards tailored to the needs of veterans. These loans and credit cards can help build your credit history and score.
Take advantage of special veterans’ programs
Several special veterans’ programs can help you build your credit. These programs may include VA home loan programs, credit counseling services or other financial assistance programs.
Monitor your credit report
It’s essential to monitor your credit report regularly to check for any errors or inaccuracies. If you find any, contact the credit bureau and have them corrected.
Building credit takes time and patience, but there are plenty of resources to help you along the way.
Having adequate health, life insurance and auto insurance (among others) is a necessary part of financial planning. Health insurance helps ensure you get the care you need without incurring large medical bills. Life insurance can provide a financial safety net for your family in the event of an untimely passing. Auto insurance helps you legally get from one place to another, protecting you in the event of an accident.
Veterans often qualify for government-based insurance. Or, they’re eligible for highly discounted rates at military-specific banks (think USAA).
Research the VA Health Care System
The VA Health Care System offers numerous benefits to veterans, including medical, dental and vision care.
Compare VA Benefits with private insurance companies
The VA offers many benefits to veterans, but comparing coverage to private insurance is vital to ensure you get the best deal.
Look for insurance discounts
Many insurance companies offer discounts to veterans, so it’s worth your time to see what’s available.
Take advantage of military-affiliated programs
Many military-affiliated organizations, such as USAA, offer insurance programs specifically designed for veterans. Be sure to research these programs to find the best deal.
There are dozens of insurance products worth getting. As a veteran, you have a lot of discounts available to help you find the right coverage.
Saving for Retirement
Retirement is a topic that many people tend to put off until later; however, it’s important to start preparing as soon as possible. Taking advantage of employer-sponsored retirement plans such as 401Ks can help to ensure a comfortable financial future. Setting aside a portion of your monthly pay, even if it’s only a small amount, can go a long way in creating a nest egg for retirement, especially if you don’t plan to stay in the military for your entire career.
Utilize veteran benefits
Veterans may be eligible for benefits like VA Disability Compensation and VA Pension which can help supplement retirement income.
Utilize military service credits
Veterans may be eligible to receive military service credits for their time spent in the military, which can be used towards retirement benefits.
You want to start planning for retirement long before you get there, and there are resources to help you get started.
Challenges Veterans Face After Military Service That Can Impact Financial Health
Veterans face unique challenges after leaving their jobs in the service. One of the largest is readjusting to civilian life. Financial difficulties come with this change as they try to provide for themselves and their families. Most veterans face similar financial challenges when transitioning from military service.
Adjustment to civilian life
Returning to the world outside of the military can be difficult for many veterans, with the transition often resulting in feelings of loneliness and confusion. Plus, military life has a very specific rhythm, while civilian life comes with constant changes and new challenges.
Providing basic needs
Many veterans struggle to make ends meet after military service, such as paying for necessities such as food and shelter. In 2020 alone, 37,252 veterans experienced homelessness on any given day.
Many veterans experience difficulty finding employment after leaving the military. This can be incredibly challenging for veterans who still need to acquire a college degree or specialized skills during their service.
Physical disability and medical problems
Many veterans face lifelong physical disabilities from their service. These disabilities can lead to additional medical problems, which can strain veterans’ finances.
Poor mental health
Mental health issues are another common problem veterans face after they leave the military. These mental health issues can result from trauma experienced while in the service or adjustment to civilian life. Mental health issues often require long-term treatment that can be costly.
Veteran Benefits and Financial Support That Can Help
Veterans often face financial struggles transitioning from military service to civilian life. These struggles may range from accessing necessary resources such as health care and housing to paying down debt accumulated during their service. Fortunately, veterans are eligible for various benefits and financial assistance options to ease the burden of these financial obstacles. Resources can help veterans bridge the gap between military service and civilian life, including educational opportunities, employment or housing programs.
Veterans are eligible to use the GI Bill to pay for college and training programs. This benefit can cover tuition, books, housing and other expenses related to higher education. Plus, veterans have access to multiple programs that help lower the cost of getting an education after being in the military.
Education Opportunities for Veterans
Numerous bills and programs geared toward veterans help pay some or all of their education costs.
- GI Bill: Provides up to 36 months of education benefits to individuals who served at least 90 days of active duty service after September 10, 2001.
- VA Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment (VR&E): Offers up to 48 months of education benefits to veterans with a service-connected disability rating of at least 20%.
- Tuition Assistance Top-Up: Offers a VA benefit that pays the difference between the total cost of tuition and fees and the amount paid by a military Tuition Assistance program.
- Yellow Ribbon Program: An agreement between the VA and participating schools that allows veterans to receive additional educational funding beyond the VA's maximum benefit rate.
The VA provides access to health care services to all veterans. This service includes preventive care, mental health services, emergency services and treatments for any illnesses or injuries connected to their military service.
Veterans are also eligible for legal aid to help with challenges such as negotiating benefits claims, resolving consumer disputes and resolving disputes with employers.
Veterans nationwide rely on transportation assistance to get to and from medical appointments. Some programs reach all areas of the country to provide these services, from cities to suburbs and even rural areas.
Transportation Programs for Veterans
Several transportation programs are available to veterans, including networks and travel pay reimbursement options.
The VA provides housing programs to veterans, including access to housing benefits, loans and grants to help with costs related to buying a home.
Veteran Housing Assistance Programs
Veterans have access to numerous programs that can help them lower the cost of homeownership.
The VA also has employment programs to connect veterans with job opportunities and provide them with career counseling and skills training.
Job Search Resources for Veterans
Transitioning back into civilian life can be a challenge for veterans, but there are helpful job-hunting resources available to help.
For veterans struggling with debt, the VA and other organizations offer programs and services to help them better manage their debt and develop a payoff plan.
How to Avoid Scams Targeting Veterans
Like the rest of us, veterans are prone to scams. AARP offers an extensive list of scams veterans should be aware of. There are some strategies and tips to ensure you are aware of potential scams.
Be cautious of unknown telephone numbers
Be aware of any telephone numbers that contact you, especially if you don’t recognize the number. Scammers often use unlisted or spoofed telephone numbers to gain access to sensitive information.
Don’t ignore emails or letters from the VA
The Veterans Affairs Department is the primary source of assistance for veterans. They may periodically send emails or letters with pertinent information about services, benefits, etc. Be sure to read the messages carefully, as these may contain important details about your benefits.
Don’t share your personal information via email
Never respond to requests for personal or financial information via email without confirming the sender's authenticity. It is also wise to avoid clicking on links within emails or providing information directly online if you are unsure of the source.
When in doubt, reach out
Speak to your local VA office if you have any questions or concerns. It is always better to ask questions before taking any action to ensure the safety of your information and assets.
Expert Insight on Veterans Financial Literacy
To give you even more insight into financial literacy options for veterans, we spoke with industry leaders to provide expert insight. Here’s what they had to say.
- Which financial skills should veterans consider learning?
- What financial support is available for veterans?
Consultant & Adjunct Instructor, Sanford School of Public Policy
Founder / Certified Financial Planner
Resources for Veterans
Transitioning to civilian life doesn’t have to be overwhelming. Understanding what steps you need to take can make the process smoother. Explore various veteran financial resources to help you get started.
- American Red Cross: The American Red Cross is a humanitarian organization that provides various services to veterans and their families, including emergency financial assistance, emotional support and access to health care services.
- Army Emergency Relief: Army Emergency Relief is a private, nonprofit organization that provides emergency financial assistance to soldiers and their families. They provide financial aid through grants, loans and scholarships to active or retired military personnel and their immediate family members.
- Coalition to Salute America’s Heroes: The Coalition to Salute America’s Heroes is a nonprofit organization that provides emergency financial assistance and support services to wounded and disabled veterans and their families.
- Combat Female Veterans Families United: Combat Female Veterans Families United is a nonprofit organization that provides support and resources for female veterans and their families.
- Dixon Center: The Dixon Center is a nonprofit organization that provides various services to veterans and their families, including job training, education, financial assistance, and mental health services.
- National Association of American Veterans: The National Association of American Veterans is a nonprofit organization that provides various services to veterans and their families, including legal assistance, financial aid, educational programs and job placement.
- Semper FI & America’s Fund: Semper Fi & America's Fund is a nonprofit organization that provides financial assistance, career counseling, family support and other services to wounded and disabled veterans and their families.
- USA Cares Site: USA Cares is a nonprofit organization helping post-9/11 military families facing financial hardships due to service-related needs.
- USA.gov: USA.gov is the official website of the federal government. It provides a comprehensive list of resources and benefits available to veterans and their families.
- Veterans Inc.: Veterans Inc. is a nonprofit organization providing various services to veterans and their families, including employment, housing, and legal services.
- VFW Site: The Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) is a veterans service organization that supports veterans and their families. Their website offers a variety of resources and services, including assistance with obtaining benefits, job resources, scholarships and more.
About Christopher Murray
- Federal Trade Commission. "Protections Military Servicemembers and Veterans From Financial Scams and Fraud." Accessed March 8, 2023.
- Military Family Advisory Network. "Financial Health & Statistics." Accessed March 8, 2023.
- National Alliance to End Homelessness. "Veterans." Accessed March 9, 2023.
- National Veterans Technical Assistance Center. "The Financial Impact of Military Service." Accessed March 6, 2023.
- Syracuse University. "IAVA Member Survey." Accessed March 8, 2023.