Federal Benefits for Veterans, Dependents and Survivors
The Departments of Veterans Affairs, Defense, and Labor re-launched a new and improved Website for wounded warriors – the National Resource Directory (NRD). This directory (www.nationalresourcedirectory.gov) provides access to thousands of services and resources at the national, state and local levels to support recovery, rehabilitation and community reintegration. The NRD is a comprehensive online tool available nationwide for wounded, ill and injured Servicemembers, Veterans and their families.
The NRD includes extensive information for Veterans seeking resources on VA benefits such as disability benefits, pensions for Veterans and their families, VA health care insurance and the GI Bill. The NRD's design and interface is simple, easy-to-navigate and intended to answer the needs of a broad audience of users within the military, Veteran and Caregiver communities.
VA has personnel stationed at major military hospitals to help seriously injured Servicemembers returning from Operations Enduring Freedom, Iraqi Freedom, and New Dawn (OEF/OIF/OND) as they transition from military to civilian life. OEF/OIF Servicemembers who have questions about VA benefits or need assistance in filing a VA claim or accessing services can contact the nearest VA office or call 1-800-827-1000.
The eBenefits portal (www.ebenefits.va.gov) provides Servicemembers, Veterans, their families, and Caregivers with self-service access to benefit applications, benefits information, and access to personal information such as official military personnel file documents. The portal provides two main services; it catalogs links to information on other Websites about military and Veterans benefits, and it provides a personalized workspace called My eBenefits, which gives quick access to all the online tools currently integrated into eBenefits. (Also see the Introduction on Page)
The Transition Assistance Program (TAP) consists of comprehensive three-day workshops at military installations designed to help Servicemembers as they transition from military to civilian life. The program includes job search, employment and training information, as well as VA benefits information for Servicemembers who are within 12 months of separation or 24 months of retirement. A companion workshop, the Disabled Transition Assistance Program, provides information on VA's Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment Program, as well as other programs for the disabled. Additional information about these programs is available at www.dol.gov/vets/programs/tap/tap_fs.htm.
Servicemembers and Veterans may receive assistance from the inTransition Program when they are receiving mental health treatment and are making transitions from military service, location or a health care system. This program provides access to transitional support, motivation and healthy lifestyle assistance and advice from qualified coaches through a toll-free telephone number: 1-800-424-7877. For more information about The inTransition Program, please log onto www.health.mil/inTransition.
prior to separation or retirement. Included in the Pre-Discharge program is the Integrated Disability Evaluation System (IDES)
The two primary components of the Pre-Discharge Program, Benefits Delivery at Discharge (BDD) and Quick Start, may be utilized by separating and retiring Servicemembers on active duty, including members of the Coast Guard, and members of the National Guard and Reserves (activated under Titles 10 or 32) in CONUS and some overseas locations. BDD is offered to accelerate receipt of VA disability benefits, with a goal of providing benefits within 60 days after release or discharge from active duty.
To participate in the BDD program, Servicemembers must:
Quick Start is offered to Servicemembers who have less than 60 days remaining on active duty or are unable to complete the necessary examinations prior to leaving the point of separation.
To participate in the Quick Start Program, Servicemembers must:
Servicemembers should contact the local Transition Assistance Office or Army Career Alumni Program Center to schedule appointments to attend VA benefits briefings and learn how to initiate a pre-discharge claim. Servicemembers can obtain more information by calling VA toll-free at 1-800-827-1000 or by visiting www.vba.va.gov/predischarg.
Integrated Disability Evaluation System (IDES)
A third component of the Pre-Discharge program is the Integrated Disability Evaluation System. The IDES program covers Servicemembers who are referred to Medical Evaluation Boards. The IDES program has three goals:
VA Form 21-0819, VA/DoD Joint Disability Evaluation Board Claim, is completed by the Military Treatment Facility when a Servicemember is referred to IDES.
Federal Recovery Coordinators (FRCs) have the delegated authority for oversight and coordination of the clinical and non-clinical care identified in each client's Federal Individual Recovery Plan (FIRP). Working with a variety of case managers, FRCs assist their clients in reaching their FIRP goals. FRCs remain with their clients as long as they are needed regardless of the client's location, duty or health status. In doing so, they often serve as the central point of contact and provide transition support for their clients.
Servicemembers may receive pre-separation counseling 24 months prior to retirement or 12 months prior to separation from active duty. These sessions present information on education, training, employment assistance, National Guard and reserve programs, medical benefits, and financial assistance.
The Verification of Military Experience and Training (VMET) Document, DD Form 2586, helps Servicemembers verify previous experience and training to potential employers, negotiate credits at schools, and obtain certificates or licenses. VMET documents are available only through Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps Transition Support Offices and are intended for Servicemembers who have at least six months of active service. Servicemembers should obtain VMET documents from their Transition Support Office within 12 months of separation or 24 months of retirement.
To find business opportunities, a calendar of transition seminars, job fairs, information on Veterans associations, transition services, training and education opportunities, as well as other announcements at www.turbotap.org
To find locations and phone numbers of all Transition Assistance Offices as well as mini-courses on conducting successful job-search campaigns, writing resumes, using the Internet to find a job, and links to job search and recruiting Websites, visit the DOD Transportal at www.Veteranprograms.com/index.html
The Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment (VR&E) Program provides educational and vocational counseling to Servicemembers, Veterans, and certain dependents (U.S.C. Title 38, Section 3697) at no charge. These counseling services are designed to help an individual choose a vocational direction, determine the course needed to achieve the chosen goal, and evaluate the career possibilities open to them.
Assistance may include interest and aptitude testing, occupational exploration, setting occupational goals, locating the right type of training program, and exploring educational or training facilities which can be utilized to achieve an occupational goal.
Counseling services include, but are not limited to, educational and vocational counseling and guidance; testing; analysis of and recommendations to improve job-marketing skills; identification of employment, training, and financial aid resources; and referrals to other agencies providing these services.
Eligibility: Educational and vocational counseling services are available during the period the individual is on active duty with the armed forces and within 180 days of the estimated date of his or her discharge or release from active duty. The projected discharge must be under conditions other than dishonorable.
Servicemembers are eligible even if they are only considering whether or not they will continue as members of the armed forces. Veterans are eligible if not more than one year has elapsed since the date they were last discharged or released from active duty. Individuals who are eligible for VA education benefits may receive educational and vocational counseling at any time during their eligibility period. This service is based on having eligibility for a VA program such as Chapter 30 (Montgomery GI Bill); Chapter 31 (Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment); Chapter 32 (Veterans Education Assistance Program – VEAP); Chapter 33 (Post-9/11 GI Bill); Chapter 35 (Dependents' Educational Assistance Program) for certain spouses and dependent children; Chapter 18 (Spina Bifida Program) for certain dependent children; and Chapter 1606 and 1607 of Title 10.
Veterans and Servicemembers may apply for counseling services using VA Form 28-8832, Application for Counseling. Veterans and Servicemembers may also write a letter expressing a desire for counseling services.
Upon receipt of either type of request for counseling from an eligible individual, an appointment for counseling will be scheduled. Counseling services are provided to eligible persons at no charge.
Recently separated Veterans and those with service-connected disabilities, significant barriers to employment or who served on active duty during a period in which a campaign or expedition badge was authorized can contact the nearest state employment office for employment help through the Veterans Workforce Investment Program. The program may be conducted through state or local public agencies, community organizations or private, nonprofit organizations.
Veterans can find employment information, education and training opportunities, job counseling, job search workshops, and resume preparation assistance at state Workforce Career or One-Stop Centers. These offices also have specialists to help disabled Veterans find employment.
Veterans who do not begin civilian employment immediately after leaving military service may receive weekly unemployment compensation for a limited time. The amount and duration of payments are determined by individual states. Apply by contacting the nearest state employment office listed in the local telephone directory.
Since the time of the Civil War, Veterans of the U.S. armed forces have been given some degree of preference in appointments to federal jobs. Veterans' preference in its present form comes from the Veterans' Preference Act of 1944, as amended, and now codified in Title 5, United States Code. By law, Veterans who are disabled or who served on active duty in the U.S. armed forces during certain specified time periods or in military campaigns are entitled to preference over others when hiring from competitive lists of eligible candidates, and also in retention during a reduction in force (RIF).
To receive preference, a Veteran must have been discharged or released from active duty in the U.S. armed forces under honorable conditions (honorable or general discharge). Preference is also provided for certain widows and widowers of deceased Veterans who died in service; spouses of service-connected disabled Veterans; and mothers of Veterans who died under honorable conditions on active duty or have permanent and total service-connected disabilities. For each of these preferences, there are specific criteria that must be met in order to be eligible to receive the Veterans' preference.
Recent changes in Title 5 clarify Veterans' preference eligibility criteria for National Guard and Reserve members. Veterans eligible for preference include National Guard and Reserve members who served on active duty as defined by Title 38 at any time in the armed forces for a period of more than 180 consecutive days, any part of which occurred during the period beginning on Sept.11, 2001, and ending on the date prescribed by Presidential proclamation or by law as the last date of OEF/OIF. The National Guard and Reserve servicemembers must have been discharged or released from active duty in the armed forces under honorable conditions.
Another recent change involves Veterans who earned the Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal for service in OEF/OIF/OND. Under Title 5, service on active duty in the armed forces during a war or in a campaign or expedition for which a campaign badge has been authorized also qualifies for Veterans' preference. Any Armed Forces Expeditionary medal or campaign badge qualifies for preference. Medal holders must have served continuously for 24 months or the full period called or ordered to active duty.
As of December 2005, Veterans who received the Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal are entitled to Veterans' preference if otherwise eligible. For additional information, visit the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) Website at www.fedshirevets.gov/.
Veterans' preference does not require an agency to use any particular appointment process. Agencies can pick candidates from a number of different special hiring authorities or through a variety of different sources. For example, the agency can reinstate a former federal employee, transfer someone from another agency, reassign someone from within the agency, make a selection under merit promotion procedures or through open, competitive exams, or appoint someone noncompetitively under special authority such as a Veterans Readjustment Appointment or special authority for 30 percent or more disabled Veterans. The decision on which hiring authority the agency desires to use rests solely with the agency.
When applying for federal jobs, eligible Veterans should claim preference on their application or resume. Veterans should apply for a federal job by contacting the personnel office at the agency in which they wish to work. For more information, visit www.usajobs.gov/ for job openings or help creating a federal resume.
Veterans' Employment Opportunities Act: When an agency accepts applications from outside its own workforce, the Veterans' Employment Opportunities Act of 1998 allows preference eligible candidates or Veterans to compete for these vacancies under merit promotion procedures.
Veterans who are selected are given career or career-conditional appointments. Veterans are those who have been separated under honorable conditions from the U.S. armed forces with three or more years of continuous active service. For information, visit www.usajobs.gov or www.fedshirevets.gov/.
Veterans' Recruitment Appointment: Allows federal agencies to appoint eligible Veterans to jobs without competition. These appointments can be converted to career or career-conditional positions after two years of satisfactory work. Veterans should apply directly to the agency where they wish to work. For information,www.fedshirevets.gov/.
Small Business Contracts: Like other federal agencies, VA is required to place a portion of its contracts and purchases with small and disadvantaged businesses. VA has a special office to help small and disadvantaged businesses get information on VA acquisition opportunities. For information, write the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (OOSB), 810 Vermont Avenue, N.W., Washington, DC 20420-0001, call toll-free 1-800-949-8387 or visit www.va.gov/osdbu/.
The "VOW to Hire Heroes Act" aims to lower the rate of unemployment among Veterans. Below is a summary of the provisions.
Improving the Transition Assistance Program (TAP): The Act will make TAP mandatory for most Servicemembers transitioning to civilian status, upgrade career counseling options, and tailor the program for the 21st Century job market.
Facilitating Seamless Transition: The Act will allow Servicemembers to begin the federal employment process prior to separation in order to facilitate a truly seamless transition from the military to jobs at VA, Department of Homeland Security, or the many other federal agencies in need of our Veterans.
Expanding Education & Training: The VOW to Hire Heroes Act provides nearly 100,000 unemployed Veterans of past eras and wars with up to one year of assistance (equal to the full-time payment rate under the Montgomery GI Bill-Active Duty program) to qualify for jobs in high-demand sectors. It also provides disabled Veterans up to one year of additional Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment benefits.
Translating Military Skills and Training: The Act requires the Department of Labor to take a hard look at military skills and training equivalencies that are transferrable to the civilian sector and work to make it easier to get licenses and certifications.
Veterans Tax Credits: The Act provides tax credits for hiring Veterans and disabled Veterans who are out of work.