The VA calls Ebenefits the “Gateway to Benefit Information” and it is increasingly becoming the one resource you need to keep track of all your VA benefits. You can apply for benefits, track where your disability claim is in the evaluation process, download a letter showing your VA disability rating or VA home loan eligibility, request all or part of your military personnel record (including your DD-214), calculate your life insurance needs, or even search a Veterans Job Bank. It also includes a few features that are particularly useful for veterans and their dependents, who want to use or are using their VA education benefits.
- Apply for or transfer VA education benefits: Ebenefits has a link to the Veteran’s Online Application or VONAPP page, where you can apply for VA education benefits, and to MilConnect, where you can apply for permission to transfer your VA education benefits to a dependent or reallocate already transferred benefits. (If you need more details about applying for VA education benefits or the transfer process, you can read the posts under the “Education and Training” tab and then the “VA Education Benefits” section.)
- Check Post-9/11 GI Bill enrollment status: If you have misplaced your original Post-9/11 letter of eligibility or are just curious how many months and days of benefit you have left, you can track that here.
- Verify W.A.V.E. attendance: This primarily applies to those students using the traditional Montgomery GI Bill and those using Reserve education benefits, such as Ch 1606 and Ch 1607, and refers to the requirement that those students verify their enrollment each month before they can receive their monthly stipend.
- View VA payment history: This section is, in my opinion, the most important advantage to using Ebenefits. Not only does it allow you to track your VA payments each month, it also breaks out what those payments were for, such as book money versus housing allowance. This allows you to be sure that you haven’t been over or underpaid by the VA. Additionally, since VA payments are not taxable, if you have to provide proof of income, this is the only place where you can get that information. This is particularly important if you are applying for Federal Financial Aid, such as PELL grant or loans, as you will likely have to show proof to your school’s financial aid office of all your income sources.
- Obtain a copy of your DD-214: As I mentioned in yesterday’s post, a DD-214 may be a required part of your college application paperwork, especially when it comes to establishing residency for tuition purposes. If you only have one copy or if it happens to packed up in boxes or some other situation where it is unreachable, you can request a copy through Ebenefits. It takes about 24 hours and then you can log into Ebenefits again and get a soft copy in PDF format that you can then print. You can, if need be, also request the rest of your military records.
- Find out more information: Through the “links” section, you can find out info on programs such as Vocational Rehabilitation’s VetSuccess Program and the Upward Bound program. And, through the “Message Center,” you can also find out updates on programs, implementation of new programs (such as the recent VRAP program, which helped unemployed veterans, who didn’t qualify for any other VA education program, go back to school), VGLI deadlines, and other relevant information that can help you better understand and utilize the benefits you’ve earned through your service.
Whenever I would get a new VA student in my office, one of my first questions was whether they had an Ebenefits account and, if not, I recommended they get one immediately (I even took several right out to the computer to help them create them). Accounts come in “basic,” which will allow you to see things such as your education benefit status, and “premium,” which you will need to see details about disability claims and VA payment history. You can create your Ebenefits account and explore all it has to offer at www.ebenefits.va.gov.
One note of caution: Ebenefits pulls from DEERS to verify your information for the premium account. Only veterans and dependents, who were in DEERS when the veteran was on active duty, or in some cases those who have been added after retirement, can create an Ebenefits account. To my knowledge, there is not currently a system in place for dependents who may be entitled to VA education benefits but who were never entered in DEERS to create an Ebenefits account, nor am I aware of any other resource such individuals could use to track their remaining VA eligibility benefits or their VA payment history.
© 2013 – 2014, Sarah Maples. All rights reserved.