Financial freedom means different things to different people. For Veterans who have sacrificed so much to secure the freedoms that we enjoy every day, it’s especially empowering.
What Is Financial Freedom?
Financial freedom means you are in the driver’s seat with your finances. You have money in the bank, make investments, and have cash on hand to afford the kind of life you envision for yourself and your family.
Your money is working for you rather than the other way around.
How VA Benefits Can Help Veterans Reach This Goal
Often, Veterans return from service, and they do not pursue any kind of claim with the VA. Either they are not sure how the process works or are unaware that over time, the injuries or disabilities they are experiencing may get more pronounced, requiring medical or psychological attention. These disabilities can be related to their military service, potentially establishing a service-connection for VA disability benefits.
Veterans who do pursue claims for disability benefits are often frustrated by feeling that they are:
- Wrongfully denied benefits
- Wrongfully denied appeals
Who Is Eligible for Disability From the VA and How Long After Serving Can You File?
- A Veteran can file a claim up to 180 days before leaving the service.
- A Veteran may be able to get benefits if an illness that’s at least 10% disabling appears within 1 year after discharge and both of these requirements are met:
- The illness is listed in Title 38, Code of Federal Regulation, 3.09(a), and
- The Veteran didn’t receive a dishonorable discharge
- See Title 38, Code of Federal Regulation, 3.09(a) for the complete list of covered illnesses
- Postservice Claim
- There’s no time limit on filing a postservice claim. But you should know that the process may become more complex the longer you wait.
Three Reasons Why a Firm that Specializes in Medical Evidence for Veterans Can Help You
1. Comprehensive Medical Consulting that VSOs Don’t Often Provide
The world of VA benefits can be a complicated terrain. For example, did you know that multiple ratings can be awarded for a single disability depending on the severity? PTSD can be rated at 0%, 30%, 50%, 70% or 100%. VSOs have a wealth of knowledge, but they may not be able to explain what medical evidence is needed to medically, legally and ethically qualify for a 70% rating vs. a 30% rating.
The education and support Veterans get from a company specializing in evidence-based medical consulting allows them to support their claim with details, data, and research to help ensure that all the medical facts are considered in the Veteran’s claim.
While VSOs are accredited VA agents assisting Veterans with claims, they typically do not have the background and medical experience to provide an independent evaluation of medical and service records to develop medical opinions and NEXUS Letters.
2. NEXUS Connections
Establishing NEXUS connections is critical.
The disabilities a Veteran suffers and how that disability developed are unique to each individual. Understanding how symptoms are affected by other injuries or disabilities related to military service records and events is a bit like putting together a puzzle. This is where a professional medical consultant can really help.
With the proper medical evidence, a Veteran can link disabilities back to his or her active duty service to establish the VA’s required Nexus (also know as a service connection).
Once a Veteran is service-connected, even at 0%, it opens up avenues for secondary conditions that many Veterans may overlook or be unaware of. These other disabilities are linked to the primary service-connected disability(s). Having a professional medical consultant on your side can help determine if you are medically, legally and ethically qualified for any VA disabilities benefits.
3. Continued Support
When you work with a reputable company to help you with the medical evidence development process, support continues even after you receive your medical evidence. This includes answering additional questions and providing education around medical evidence requirements of the 38CFR. This way, Veterans have a better understanding of how their medical evidence helps determine an accurate rating.
After your first round of claims, medical consultants can help strategize developing medical evidence for other benefits a Veteran may medically, legally and ethically qualify for.
Maximizing What You’ve Got
Remember, disability benefits received from the VA should not be included in your gross income. They are not taxed. There are several ways you can work toward achieving financial freedom once you have regular monthly benefits coming in.
Good financial practices can be learned. Here are 4 tips that can help pave the way to financial security:
- Pay Down Debt
Credit cards and loans with high-interest rates will keep you locked into a vicious cycle of paying interest, rather than paying off the principal. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) is a federal agency that helps Veterans and their families overcome unique financial challenges. The agency provides educational resources, monitors complaints, and works with other agencies to solve problems faced by service members.
Your monthly disability compensation can go directly to paying down debt, enabling you to pay down large chunks, rather than minimum payments. Another upside is that when you pay more than the minimum monthly payment, this helps raise your credit score.
2. Track Your Spending
Tracking your spending is essential to getting a handle on where your money is going.
There are several apps that can help you. For example, Mint is an app that helps you budget your money. The app tracks how much money is in your accounts, how much debt you have, and tells you how much money you’re spending. It also highlights the categories where you’re overspending.
3. Pay Yourself First
Paying yourself first means putting a set amount of money into your savings account before paying anything else, such as bills. The simple act of consistently paying yourself first has helped countless people inch closer to achieving their financial goals.
4. Spend Less
Billionaire Warren Buffett is famous for his frugality. He lives in a quiet neighborhood of Omaha, Nebraska, in a house that he bought for $31,500 in 1958 (about $250,000 in today’s dollars). It’s now worth an estimated $652,619. Could he live in a bigger house? He could buy an island and live on it if he wanted to! But he chooses to live there because it’s a nice house, and he and his family are happy there.
Financial strategies for life after military service are essential because the choices you make today can pave the way for a brighter future. If there are benefits you medically, legally and ethically qualify for due to a service-connected disability, don’t shortchange yourself. Secure your benefits and take ownership of your financial future.