There are more than 1.3 million military members on active duty in the U.S. and their contribution to national safety should be honored all year round. And while a simple “Thank you for your service” means a lot to those people who protect our country every single day, the financial struggles that veterans are dealing with cannot be ignored.
In the United States, veterans are more vulnerable to money problems compared to the rest of the population, and, in general, they consider themselves to be insufficiently prepared for emergency expenses. These financial issues are partly caused by the difficult transition to civilian life. According to the National Association of American Veterans, many former members of the military have trouble readjusting to social life, finding a job and building a career.
However, another major factor behind the veterans’ financial struggles is that more than half of them are unaware of the national system of veteran benefits or they do not know how they can access these benefits.
Proof of eligibility for veteran discounts
Stores typically require a document attesting your military status before giving you the discount, which is why it’s a good idea to always have one of the following at all times:
- Your official military ID card
- VA benefits card
- Veterans ID card
- DD-214 documents
If you’re shopping from physical stores, presenting one of these documents is usually enough. However, if you plan on shopping from an online store (which is certainly advisable, because they have many great online offers for veterans), you will have to upload scanned copies of these documents and have your identity verified.
In case you’ve lost one of these essential documents, you should know that you can get a copy for free from the National Archives, but this might take a while, so plan major purchases in advance.
What can you buy with military discounts?
In one word, everything. Business from all fields offer discounts for veterans, so you can save on everything from car rentals and hotel bookings to clothing and healthcare. You can even get discounts on movie tickets, sporting goods and restaurant meals!
To make sure you’re making the most out of veteran discounts, do some online research to find out what stores offer them and what local businesses have deals for you. Some providers only have limited-time offers on Veterans Day, Memorial Day or Independence Day, while others keep these discounts running all year round, so check their availability in advance.
It’s also a good idea to ask your local government about special discounts. In many cities throughout the U.S., it is quite common for veterans to receive certain services for free or with considerable discounts. No matter where you live, services such as monthly parking, basic healthcare and education are essential, so the more discounts you can find, the better. Here are some programs that can help you cut costs and benefit from more opportunities:
- American Corporate Partners facilitates contact between veterans and employers, helping veterans find a job and get mentoring to learn new skills and adapt to a new work field.
- The Department of Veteran Affairs assists veterans with mortgage payments and loan modifications. If you are dealing with debt, seeking support from an authorized source is the best course of action and you should never resort to loan sharks and other questionable loan providers.
- The Service members’ and Veterans’ Group Life Insurance program offers discounts on life insurance for veterans
- A number of national programs offer financial support to the families of veterans who need to cover the costs of a nursing home or home caregiver.
- Many veteran websites offer complete travel guides for veterans who want to go on holiday with their families on a budget. This way, you can find about all the discounts in one place, from plane tickets and accommodation to access to tourist attractions.
Not all stores advertise their veteran discounts directly, but don’t be afraid to ask! Many stores do offer them by default and there is no shame in asking about veteran discounts. As for ongoing veteran programs, the Department of Veterans Affairs is the safest source of information.
Be careful when claiming discounts from hotels. Some require proof of veteran status prior to confirming the booking, others when you check in, so make sure you clarify the terms and don’t risk being overcharged.
Also, know the difference between veteran and military discounts: the former are reserved only to former members of the military, while the latter are for active members only.
Last, but not least, take the time to compare discounts from various stores and refrain from buying something just because you have a veteran discount. If a supplier can only offer you a 10% discount on a TV, for example, but another one has it at a smaller price without the discount, you should obviously go for the second option.