Finding Veteran’s Assistance Programs in Your Area
Most veterans are aware that many benefits are available at the federal level. For example, the Department of Veteran’s Affairs insures many home loans for veteran’s to protect against default. The VA also provides healthcare for veterans on active duty and those who have completed tours of duty. Unfortunately, many of America’s bravest men and women don’t know about some of the veteran’s assistance programs that exist at the state and local level. Check out these tips for finding veteran’s assistance programs in your area.
Local VFWs (Veterans of Foreign Wars)
Many U.S. cities have local chapters of the VFW, and these chapters can help you pay bills if you’re struggling financially. Local VFWs also help with deposits that are required when renting an apartment or home. Some chapters don’t mandate that you served in a foreign war to qualify. An honorable discharge from any branch of the military is sufficient. If you’re unsure if your city has a local chapter, do a quick online search for “VFW in your city.” Even if you live in a rural area, it’s possible to find local chapters nearby.
Local Veteran’s Centers
Most urban and suburban cities in the U.S. have dedicated centers that are strictly for veterans. Many of these centers can help you set up healthcare coverage, assist with VA disability benefits, and provide you with food, clothing or other support if you’re struggling to pay your bills. Many centers help you pay for essential utilities, such as electric, gas and water. Some are equipped with extensive libraries, computers, internet access and resources to help you find a job.
Many of these centers receive their funding privately and aren’t as well known as federal and state programs. As a result, a smaller online presence can make them difficult to find. The most valuable tool for finding local veteran’s centers and other assistance is word of mouth. If you have a local VFW, chances are good that someone at the chapter can tell you exactly where to find a veteran’s center. The same is true if you have an American Legion, Elks Club or other club or well-known organization in your city.
Department of Veteran’s Affairs Website
You can narrow your search for local VA benefits by using the agency’s website. The site is full of information on federal, state and local veteran’s assistance programs. There are two distinct websites — www.VA.gov and www.benefits.va.gov — and it’s best to use the latter site if you want detailed information on benefits you might qualify for and how to apply for those benefits.
Local Housing Assistance for Veterans
Many veterans are unaware that state and local housing programs exist outside of traditional VA home loans. Although home loans backed by the VA offer attractive benefits, they provide very little help if you’re teetering on the edge of keeping or losing your home. An excellent reference point is to find local community cooperatives and nonprofits that receive funding from the VA to rapidly rehouse veterans who are homeless or at-risk of becoming homeless.
Reputable/Dedicated VA Websites
As a veteran, you deserve easy access to information from reputable sources. Sadly, many sites appear to offer legitimate information but are really just promotional websites. So, how do you tell a legitimate VA site from the fraudulent ones? First, avoid the first three or four search results that have an Ad symbol. These are paid advertisements and not the result of an organic search. Most of the initial results are ads for private lenders that offer VA home loans. Next, try to stay within the first three pages of your search results. Once you start checking pages beyond that, you’re distancing yourself from relevant sites related to your initial keyword search. Finally, remember that most URL addresses for these types of reputable websites would end with .gov or .org.