Federal Benefits for Veterans, Dependents and Survivors
This year many workers will qualify for the Earned Income Credit (EIC) because their income declined or they became unemployed; tax refunds through the EIC and Child Tax Credit can help low- and moderate-income families cover day-to-day expenses such as utilities, rent, and child care. Many low-wage tax filers in 2012 may be eligible for an EIC worth up to $5,751. To learn more, visit www.irs.gov or consult your tax preparer.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) provides loans and guarantees to buy, improve or operate farms. Loans and guarantees are generally available for housing in towns with a population up to 20,000. Applications from Veterans have preference. For further information, contact Farm Service Agency or Rural Development, USDA, 1400 Independence Ave., S.W., Washington, DC 20250, or apply at local Department of Agriculture offices, usually located in county seats.
Honorable active-duty service in the U.S. armed forces during a designated period of hostility allows an individual to naturalize without being required to establish any periods of residence or physical presence in the United States. A Servicemember who was in the United States, certain territories, or aboard an American public vessel at the time of enlistment, re-enlistment, extension of enlistment or induction, may naturalize even if he or she is not a lawful permanent resident.
On July 3, 2002, the president issued Executive Order 13269 establishing a new period of hostility for naturalization purposes beginning Sept. 11, 2001, and continuing until a date designated by a future Executive Order. Qualifying members of the armed forces who have served at any time during a specified period of hostility may immediately apply for naturalization using the current application – Form N-400 – "Application for Naturalization." Additional information about filing and requirement fees and designated periods of hostility are available on the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Website at www.uscis.gov.
Individuals who served honorably in the U.S. armed forces, but were no longer serving on active duty status as of Sept. 11, 2001, may still be naturalized without having to comply with the residence and physical presence requirements for naturalization if they filed Form N-400 while still serving in the U.S. armed forces or within six months of termination of their active duty service.
An individual who files the application for naturalization after the six-month period following termination of active-duty service is not exempt from the residence and physical presence requirements, but can count any period of active-duty service towards the residence and physical presence requirements. Individuals seeking naturalization under this provision must establish that they are lawful permanent residents (such status not having been lost, rescinded or abandoned) and that they served honorably in the U.S. armed forces for at least one year.
If a Servicemember dies as a result of injury or disease incurred or aggravated by service during a time of combat, the Servicemember's survivor(s) can apply for the deceased Servicemember to receive posthumous citizenship at any time within two years of the Servicemember's death. The issuance of a posthumous certificate of citizenship does not confer U.S. citizenship on surviving relatives. However, a non-U.S. citizen spouse or qualifying family member may file for certain immigration benefits and services based upon their relationship to a Servicemember who died during hostilities or a non-citizen Servicemember who died during hostilities and was later granted posthumous citizenship.
For additional information, USCIS has developed a web page – www.uscis.gov/military – that contains information and links to services specifically for the military and their families. Members of the U.S. military and their families stationed around the world can also call USCIS for help with immigration services and benefits using a dedicated, toll-free Military help line at 1-877-CIS-4MIL (1-877-247-4645).
Historically, Veterans do very well as small business entrepreneurs. Veterans interested in entrepreneurship and small business ownership should look to the U.S. Small Business Administration's Office of Veterans Business Development (www.sba.gov/vets) for assistance. OVBD conducts comprehensive outreach to Veterans, service-disabled Veterans and Reserve Component members of the U.S. military. OVBD also provides assistance to Veteran- and reservist-owned small businesses. SBA is the primary federal agency responsible for assisting Veterans who own or are considering starting their own small businesses.
Among the services provided by SBA are business-planning assistance, counseling and training through community based Veterans Business Outreach Centers. For more information, go to www.sba.gov/aboutsba/sbaprograms/ovbd/OVBD_VBOP.html. More than 1,000 university-based Small Business Development Centers; nearly 400 SCORE chapters (www.score.org/Veteran.html) with 11,000 volunteer counselors, many of whom are Veterans; and 100 Women's Business Centers.
SBA also manages a range of special small business lending programs at thousands of locations, ranging from Micro Loans to the Military-community-targeted Patriot Express Pilot Loan, to venture capital and Surety Bond Guarantees (www.sba.gov/services/financialassistance/index.html). Veterans also participate in all SBA federal procurement programs, including a special 3 percent federal procurement goal specifically for service-connected disabled Veterans, and SBA supports Veterans and others participating in international trade.
A special Military Reservist Economic Injury Disaster Loan (www.sba.gov/reservists) is available for self-employed Reservists whose small businesses may be damaged through the absence of the owner or an essential employee as a result of Title 10 activation to Active Duty.
A Veterans Business Development Officer is stationed at every SBA District Office to act as a guide to Veterans, and SBA offers a full range of self-paced small business planning assistance at www.sba.gov/category/navigation-structure/starting-managing-business/starting-business/thinking-about-starting for Veterans, reservists, discharging servicemembers and their families. Information about the full range of services can be found at www.sba.gov/about-offices-content/1/2985 , or by calling 202-205-6773 or 1-800-U-ASK-SBA (1-800-827-5722).
Monthly retirement, disability and survivor benefits under Social Security are payable to Veterans and dependents if the Veteran has earned enough work credits under the program. Upon the Veteran's death, a one-time payment of $255 also may be made to the Veteran's spouse or child. In addition, a Veteran may qualify at age 65 for Medicare's hospital insurance and medical insurance. Medicare protection is available to people who have received Social Security disability benefits for 24 months, and to insured people and their dependents who need dialysis or kidney transplants, or who have amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (more commonly known as Lou Gehrig's disease).
Since 1957, military service earnings for active duty (including active duty for training) have counted toward Social Security and those earnings are already on Social Security records. Since 1988, inactive duty service in the Reserve Component (such as weekend drills) has also been covered by Social Security. Servicemembers and Veterans are credited with $300 credit in additional earnings for each calendar quarter in which they received active duty basic pay after 1956 and before 1978.
Veterans who served in the military from 1978 through 2001 are credited with an additional $100 in earnings for each $300 in active duty basic pay, up to a maximum of $1,200 a year. No additional Social Security taxes are withheld from pay for these extra credits. Veterans who enlisted after Sept. 7, 1980, and did not complete at least 24 months of active duty or their full tour of duty, may not be able to receive the additional earnings. Check with Social Security for details. Additional earnings will no longer be credited for military service periods after 2001.
Also, non-contributory Social Security earnings of $160 a month may be credited to Veterans who served after Sept. 15, 1940, and before 1957, including attendance at service academies. For information, call 1-800-772-1213 or visit www.socialsecurity.gov/. (Note: Social Security cannot add these extra earnings to the record until an application is filed for Social Security benefits).
Veterans are eligible to live in the Armed Forces Retirement Homes located in Gulfport, Miss., or Washington, D.C., if their active duty military service is at least 50 percent enlisted, warrant officer or limited duty officer if they qualify under one of the following categories:
Eligibility determinations are based on rules prescribed by the Home's Chief Operating Officer. Veterans are not eligible if they have been convicted of a felony or are not free from alcohol, drug or psychiatric problems. Married couples are welcome, but both must be eligible in their own right. At the time of admission, applicants must be capable of living independently.
The Armed Forces Retirement Home is an independent federal agency. For information, call 1-800-332-3527 or 1-800-422-9988, or visit www.afrh.gov/.
Unlimited commissary and exchange store privileges in the United States are available to honorably discharged Veterans with a service-connected disability rated at 100 percent or totally disabling, and to the unremarried surviving spouses and dependents of Servicemembers who die on active duty, military retirees, recipients of the Medal of Honor, and Veterans whose service-connected disability was rated 100 percent or totally disabling at the time of death. Certification of total disability is done by VA. National Guard Reservists and their dependents may also be eligible. Privileges overseas are governed by international law and are available only if agreed upon by the foreign government concerned
Though these benefits are provided by DOD, VA does provide assistance in completing DD Form 1172, "Application for Uniformed Services Identification and Privilege Card." For detailed information, contact the nearest military installation.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services provides funding to states to help low-income households with their heating and home energy costs under the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP). LIHEAP can also assist with insulating homes to make them more energy efficient and reduce energy costs. The LIHEAP program in your community determines if your household's income qualifies for the program. To find out where to apply call 1-866-674-6327 or e-mail email@example.com 7 a.m.- 5 p.m. (Mountain Time). More information can be found at www.acf.hhs.gov/programs/ocs/liheap/#index.html