• George W. Bush Institute's

    Nonprofit Guide for Post-9/11 Veterans

  • The legal and financial landscape outside of the military can look very different from active duty. Civilian lawyers are not generally prepared to handle VA appeals or discharge status, and expert resources can be limited. In addition, families now must pay for health insurance and prescriptions as well as off-base housing and utilities, often on a lower household income than while active. These changes may catch veterans and military families by surprise, so it’s best to be prepared for the road ahead.

How to navigate Legal & Financial services

Discharge Status Evaluation/Upgrade

Veterans receiving other than honorable discharges are declared ineligible for a range of benefits, not only by the Department of Veterans Affairs, but also by many nonprofit organizations. Seeking a discharge upgrade is a very difficult thing to accomplish, but certain organizations offer legal services to file upgrade requests on a veteran’s behalf.

Questions To Ask When Selecting Your Nonprofit

  • Do you employ any licensed and qualified attorneys on your staff?
  • Do you work in conjunction with any nearby legal aid clinics?
  • Can you describe the process of requesting a discharge upgrade as well as an honest assessment of how realistic my request might be?
  • Will your organization conduct the background research necessary to gather sufficient evidence to support my request?
  • How successful has your organization been in the past with requests similar to mine? Do you have testimonials from past clients?
  • Are there any fees for your services? Any other expenses?
Learn More Close
VA Claims Assistance

Many veterans need assistance filing their benefits with the Department of Veterans Affairs, as the forms can often be long and confusing. If the benefits request is rejected, the claims appeals process can be even more confusing. To assist veterans with these claims, numerous nonprofit organizations offer legal assistance, including legal clinics at law schools around the country.

Questions To Ask When Selecting Your Nonprofit

  • Can you describe the process of filing for government benefits?
  • What paperwork is needed before coming to the center/service organization or to a first appointment?
  • If my request is rejected, what is involved in preparing for the appeals process? Will you request my complete medical records from the VA?
  • How long does the appeals process typically take?
  • What is your organization’s record of success in applying for benefits, and what is your record of success in the appeals process should an appeal become necessary?
  • Is there a fee associated with your services?
Learn More Close
Emergency Financial Assistance

When veterans and military families encounter acute financial hardship, certain organizations will step in to provide assistance to fill the gap, providing goods, services or paying for emergency expenses. These organizations request that veterans provide sufficient evidence of financial hardship and the benefit that their financial assistance will provide.

Questions To Ask When Selecting Your Nonprofit

  • Is this assistance a loan, or is it a grant and does not require to repay the assistance amount to the organization?
  • How long does it take before I receive emergency financial assistance or my emergency expenses are paid on my behalf?
  • What, if any, are the eligibility criteria required for consideration?
  • Does the organization require or provide financial literacy or emergency financial planning counseling?
  • Am I eligible for second- or third-time assistance if necessary? If so, what are the eligibility requirements?
Learn More Close
Financial Counseling and Financial Literacy

As previously mentioned, the transition to civilian life can be financially jarring, and the additional costs can be difficult to manage and confusing at times to veterans. For all veterans, but particularly for those who find themselves in financial trouble, financial literacy training can be helpful to assist with cleaning up poor credit, planning to pay down debt or simply setting a course for the future.

Questions To Ask When Selecting Your Nonprofit

  • What are the qualifications of the instructors providing this training?
  • How tailored is this training to an individual’s needs? Will I be provided training tailored to my unique financial situation, which will take into account my debts, bills, assets? Or will this training be broad and generalized to the veteran and military population?
  • Will you help develop a budget and financial plan?
  • Does this training take place on-site with a certified financial counselor, over the phone or online?
  • Are my family members eligible to receive your financial counseling/literacy training with me or separately?
  • How long can I participate in this training and counseling? Will they provide me with feedback and suggestions for required changes?
Learn More Close

Take the Guide With You

Need to take this topic’s information to a meeting? We’ve made it easy for you to print and save this resource. Keep the relevant information handy and access it at your convenience!

Print Legal & Financial