What is a Veterans Service Organization?
Navy Mutual is the nation’s oldest federally recognized Veterans Service Organization (VSO), and since our inception, we have made it our mission to assist members of the uniformed services, veterans, and their families in securing the benefits that service has earned them. In our role as a VSO, we assist claimants in navigating the claims process from submission up to and including the appeals process at the Board of Veterans Appeals.
Our accredited VSO Representatives can also assist veterans and their eligible beneficiaries with applications for survivor benefits and programs offered through the different branches of the VA such as the Veterans Benefits Administration (VBA) and National Cemetery Administration (NCA). These programs include but are not limited to disability benefits; pre-need eligibility for burial; Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (DIC); survivors’ pension; and burial benefits.
Navy Mutual provides veterans services to all veterans and their survivors free of charge.
We offer the following VSO services:
Through questions with the veteran, the survivor, or another point of contact, we determine what benefits can be sought and by whom. Proving that a veteran’s disability or death is service-related can be a complicated and sensitive process. There are times when a claim cannot possibly be granted under existing laws and regulations. Other times, we can talk veterans or family members through the additional forms or documents that would be helpful, and often necessary, to support their claims.
Assisting with Claims
We can help claimants determine which VA forms are needed to apply for each of the available benefits and where each form should be submitted. We can then track the progress of a claim and identify whether any additional documentation is required to substantiate the claim. We can also provide reassurance that a claim is being actively processed.
Outside of VSOs, there are many agencies at every level of government and in the nonprofit sector that want to help veterans and their families or survivors. There are times when a veteran needs more than assistance filing a claim. We can provide information and education on what additional resources are available and provide points of contact who may be better situated to help them.
Our nation honors its veterans, both in life and in death. Often though, surviving family members of veterans are not aware of the benefits that may be available to honor their veteran’s service and, in some cases, aid their survivors. Survivors should work with a VSO to determine the benefits to which they may be entitled.
Burial and Memorial Benefits for Veterans
Eligible survivors of veterans may receive a monetary burial allowance and/or other burial benefits from the Veterans Benefits Administration (VBA). Memorial products such as headstones, markers, and niche covers can be applied for via the National Cemetery Administration (NCA). Military funeral honors are provided by the veteran’s service. Survivors should work with a funeral director to arrange for these burial benefits.
The amount of the burial allowance depends on the nature of the death of the veteran and their period of military service.
Read more about burial and memorial benefits.
Benefits may include:
- A gravesite in any of VA’s 153 national cemeteries with available space
- Opening and closing of the grave
- A government-furnished grave liner
- A government-furnished upright headstone, flat marker, or niche cover
- A burial flag
- A Presidential Memorial Certificate
- Perpetual care of the grave
Cremated remains are buried or inurned in national cemeteries in the same manner and with the same honors as casketed remains. Burial at sea and green burials are also available. For veterans buried in a private cemetery, many of the same burial products are available and there may be an additional plot or internment allowance.
Family members should note that the cost of funeral services, cremation services, and other funeral or burial products aside from the veteran funeral benefits listed are not provided by NCA or reimbursed by VA.
Read more: Burial and Memorial Benefits for Veterans
The GI Bill
The Post 9/11 GI Bill provides education benefits to active duty military members, reserve servicemembers, and veterans, and also allows them to transfer benefits to their spouses and dependent children. These benefits can be used in a variety of ways to further one’s education; GI Bill funds can be applied toward undergraduate and graduate degree programs, vocational schools, apprenticeships, flight training, test fees, online courses, and other educational programs.
Read more about the GI Bill.
Eligible servicemembers and veterans may be able to get up to 48 months of benefits. However, it is more common for benefits to end after 36 months. Spouses and dependent children can apply for up to 36 months of benefits to cover tuition, room and board, and books and supplies.
Depending on when servicemembers separate(d) from the military, their GI Bill benefits may expire. Those who separated from active duty before January 1, 2013, must use their benefits within 15 years of their separation. Benefits for those who separate(d) from active duty on or after January 1, 2013, do not expire.
Read more: Understanding the GI Bill
VA Health Care
VA Health Care is health care offered by the Department of Veterans Affairs. There are over 1,200 VA medical facilities located throughout the United States at which veterans can receive treatment.
Read more about VA Health Care.
VA Health Care is open to individuals who served on active duty in the U.S. military and did not receive a dishonorable discharge.
More specifically, it is available to those who enlisted after September 7, 1980, or entered active duty after October 16, 1981, and served for at least 24 months or their full tour of active duty. Those who were discharged due to a disability caused by active duty service, a disability made worse due to active duty service, or a hardship or “early out” may be exempt from active duty requirements, as well as those who served in the military before September 7, 1980.
In some cases, VA Health Care may be accessed by spouses, dependents, and caregivers of veterans.
If you are a veteran in crisis and need emergency mental health care, you can go directly to your nearest VA medical center, regardless of your discharge status or VA Health Care enrollment status.
Read more: Understanding VA Health Care
VA Home Loans
Current servicemembers, veterans, and survivors may be eligible for home loans through the Department of Veterans Affairs or home loans backed by the VA when buying or building a new home, performing home improvements, or refinancing an existing mortgage.
Read more about VA home loans.
VA loans and VA-backed loans can offer significant benefits over privately funded home loans in that they:
- May not require a down payment
- Do not require private mortgage insurance
- May offer lower interest rates
- May require less in closing costs
There may be some drawbacks to using a VA loan, though. These include minimum property requirements, appraisal requirements, and additional requirements for sellers.
Note that to be eligible for VA loans and VA-backed loans, servicemembers must have served for at least 90 continuous days on active duty. The minimum service requirement for veterans and members of the National Guard or Reserves depends on when they served.
Read more: Purchasing a Home with a VA Home Loan
Veterans Affairs Life Insurance, also known as VALife, is whole life insurance provided by the Department of Veterans Affairs that offers open enrollment and does not require veterans to show that they are in good health before they can receive coverage.
Read more about VALife.
VALife provides up to $40,000 in guaranteed whole life insurance coverage to all disabled veterans who enroll; no proof of good health is required. This coverage becomes effective two years after enrollment and lasts for the duration of the veteran’s life.
These insurance policies will also build cash value after the initial two-year enrollment period.
If a veteran passes away within two years of enrolling in VALife, the guaranteed payout to their beneficiary consists of the amount they have paid into VALife in premiums plus interest. If a veteran passes away more than two years after enrolling in VALife, their beneficiary will receive the full coverage amount.
Coverage is available in increments of $10,000.
Read more: Veterans Affairs Life Insurance
Veterans Pension Program
The Veterans Pension program is a benefit offered by the Department of Veterans Affairs to veterans who served during a time of war. To qualify for the Veterans Pension, veterans must meet income and net worth requirements, the limits of which are determined by Congress.
Read more about the Veterans Pension Program.
The current net worth limit is $150,538 (through November 30, 2023); this includes the net worth of your spouse but excludes the value of your home, vehicle(s), and most home appliances. If your remaining net worth is higher than this limit, you are not eligible for the Veterans Pension.
When reviewing pension claims, the VA will conduct a 36-month asset transfer look-back period. If the VA determines that a veteran transferred or sold an asset within the past three years to fall beneath the net worth limit, the veteran may be subject to a five-year penalty period during which they are ineligible for pension benefits. Veterans can reapply for pension benefits after the penalty period ends.
The VA will confirm each year with other government agencies that veterans receiving this benefit continue their eligibility for it. Depending on their findings, the VA has the right to reduce or discontinue a veteran’s pension. If a veteran’s pension benefits have been discontinued due to income or net worth requirements no longer being met (e.g., they received an inheritance or income from employment), they can apply to have them reinstated if and when they again meet the requirements.
Read more: What Is the Veterans Pension Program?
Navy Mutual’s Education and Veterans Services team can help servicemembers, veterans, and their families with matters related to financial education, veterans services, and survivor benefits.
Navy Mutual Aid Association’s Department of Education and Veteran Services does not endorse or favor any commercial financial product or service or promote the services of any specific financial institution. Further, Navy Mutual Aid Association and its accredited VSO Representatives do not charge or accept a fee or gratuity for representation services rendered to claimants before the Department of Veterans Affairs. 38 C.F.R. §14.628.