As we observe National Military Appreciation Month and head into Memorial Day, it’s worth noting there are new veterans’ benefits that many who have served our country, and their survivors, may not be aware of.

Retraining program

Veterans who lost their jobs due to the COVID-19 pandemic can now apply to be part of a new rapid retraining program. The program is designed to prepare them for new careers in high-demand sectors of the economy. It’s aimed at those veterans who have exhausted other job-training opportunities, but are still unemployed. It’s hoped about 17,000 veterans around the country will utilize the benefit.

About five percent of all veterans looking for work in March were unable to find stable employment according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Applications for the Veterans Rapid Retraining Assistance Program became available in early May. Those between the ages of 25 and 66 who qualify will be able to receive education benefits equal to the Post-9/11 GI bill (including tuition costs and housing stipends for up to one year) in order to learn a new skill or complete a certificate program in a 12-month time frame.

College degrees

Veterans can now use more of their benefits to get a college degree thanks to recent changes. Those who use the Veteran Readiness and Employment Benefits program to pay for college will no longer have that counted as part of their Post 9/11 GI Bill. Before the change, the two benefits could not be used together. This change will help veterans maximize their benefits.

Reducing the backlog

The recently enacted American Rescue Plan also helps veterans in another, less direct, way. $262 million will go toward reducing the backlog of compensation and pension claims the Veterans Administration is experiencing. The goal is to decrease the backlog from 212,000 to 100,000 by September 2022. The backlog has gotten even worse since the recent decision to expand qualifications for conditions related to Agent Orange exposure during the Vietnam War.

It can be difficult for veterans to keep track of the ever-changing, full array of benefits available to them. It can also take a lot of time and persistence to access benefits due to VA backlogs. That’s why I encourage veterans and their survivors to seek professional help from an attorney to ensure they get all the benefits available and receive help navigating the often-complex process.

Lisa Dillman is an attorney at Applegate & Dillman Elder Law. The firm specializes in elder law and Life Care Planning, a holistic approach to deal with legal, financial, medical and emotional issues involved in growing older. The firm has offices in Indianapolis, Carmel and Zionsville. Find out more at www.applegate-dillman.com