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Veteran’s Benefits: The Long and the Short of It

Written by veterans  |  13. July 2006

Whether you prefer the one page tri-fold, the 150 page booklet, or the approaching 2,000 page manual one thing is for certain. Your best course of action is to become familiar with your benefits AND THEN get a certified Veteran Services Officer ("VSO") to represent you BEFORE you file your claim. As to how to become familiar with your benefits - read on. The Short of It A tri-fold entitled "A Summary of VA Benefits" covers the benefits and services the VA offers in all nine major categories: Compensation, Pension, Health Care, Vocational Rehabilitation & Employment, Education & Training, Home Loans, Life Insurance, Dependents & Survivors, and Burial. It also includes eligibility information and internet and telephone contact information. It can be downloaded as a PDF file from http://www.vba.va.gov/bln/21/summaryVAbenefits.pdf. Note: to read PDF format documents, you need Acrobat Reader or a PDF viewer, one of which can be downloaded free at http://www.adobe.com/products/acrobat/readstep2.html. The Long of It "Federal Benefits for Veterans and Dependents, 2006" 150 pages of valuable information is available free (while the supply lasts) from many VA Facilities. It can be downloaded as a PDF file from http://www1.va.gov/opa/vadocs/fedben.pdf and read online as a series of web pages starting at http://www.va.gov/opa/is1/index.asp. For $5-plus, it can be purchased from the U.S. Government Printing Office as "stock number" 051-000-00229-6 - see webpage http://bookstore.gpo.gov/. Its wealth of information is organized as follows: 1. VA Health Care; 2. Veterans with Service-Connected; 3. VA Pensions; 4. Education and Training; 5. Home Loan Guaranty; 6. VA Life Insurance; 7. Burial and Memorial Benefits; 8. Reserve and National Guard; 9. Special Groups of Veterans; 10. Transition Assistance; 11. Dependents & Survivors; 12. Appeals of VA Claims Decisions; 13. Military Medals/Records; 14. Benefits Provided by Other, and; 15. VA Facilities. I recommend all veteran get their copy, every year. And the Seemingly Never Ending Story In all fairness, this is a must have or at least must have access to manual for VSOs. Its 1,950 pages and its $130 price-tag puts it in the "I'll pass" category for most veterans. Yet, for a VSO the "Veterans Benefits Manual, 2005 Edition," available from the LexisNexis online Book Store at http://bookstore.lexis.com/bookstore/catalog?action=product&prod_id=12734 is more than worth its size and costs. It is written and updated annually by practicing lawyers from the "National Veterans Legal Services Program," and contains insight and analysis from experts on the front lines of veterans law. Now For the Chuckle - It Is the VA, After All The "Federal Benefits for Veterans and Dependents" is also updated every year, with the new edition downloadable ever April - the beginning of every April - the very beginning. I cannot help but wonder whose idea it was to issue the new edition every year on, April Fools Day. --- Regards, Walt Schmidt

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