VA Launches GI Bill Comparison Tool and GI Bill Complaint System for Student Veterans

GI Bill Comparison Tool

student veteranThe U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs has launched two new systems in 2014, each designed to help Student Veterans get the maximum potential out of their Post 911 GI Bill.

The first system, the GI Bill Comparison Tool, is designed to help students find a career field and then compare approved institutions that offer degrees or courses in that field.

This easy to use “start-to-finish” tool helps new student veterans complete the initial application for Post 911 GI Bill benefits, and then guides them step by step through the decision making process.

Prospective student veterans will also find several handy downloadable help guides, like:

The GI Bill Comparison Tool also links to other VA help sites, such as the eBenefits Jobs portal, to help new or returning student veterans find employment in their chosen college area.

The second system is the long awaited VA GI Bill Feedback System.  Student veterans who have a complaint about their educational institution can use the GI Bill Feedback System to report specific issues.  Student veterans may submit a complaint if their school or employer is failing to follow the Principles of Excellence. The VA will review the following types of complaints:

  • Recruiting and Marketing Practices
  • Accreditation
  • Quality of Education
  • Grade Policy…see all

Reporting these types of issues helps the VA get a better idea of problematic schools and employers, which may not be the best for veterans.

New student veterans looking to find schools that participate in the Principles of Excellence program can use the VA’s school locator tool.  The school locator tool is the best method for finding an educational institution that is currently approved for VA education benefits..



VA Gives $300 Million in New 2013 Grants to Help End Veterans’ Homelessness

Find Your Local Homeless Shelter


Initiative Targets 120,000 Homeless and At-Risk Vets and Families.


Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K. Shinseki announced the award of nearly $300 million in grants last week that will help approximately 120,000 homeless and at-risk Veterans and their families.

Support Our Homeless Veterans

The grants have been awarded to 319 community agencies in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands.

“With these grants, we are strengthening our partnership with community non-profits across the country to provide Veterans and their families with hope, a home, and a future,” said Shinseki.  “The work of Supportive Services for Veteran Families program grantees has already helped us prevent and end homelessness among tens of thousands of homeless Veterans and their families, but as long as a single Veteran lives on our streets, we have work to do.”

Under the Supportive Services for Veteran Families (SSVF) program, VA is awarding grants to private non-profit organizations and consumer cooperatives that provide services to very low-income Veteran families living in — or transitioning to — permanent housing. The SSVF program supports VA’s efforts to prevent at-risk Veterans from becoming homeless and rapidly re-house those who have recently fallen into homelessness.

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If you are a Veteran in need of help,

Thanks to the SSVF grants, those community organizations (printable  PDF list here) will provide a range of services that promote housing stability and play a key role in connecting Veterans and their family members to VA services such as mental health care and other benefits. Community-based groups can offer temporary financial assistance on behalf of Veterans for rent payments, utility payments, security deposits and moving costs.

This is the third year SSVF grants have helped Veterans and their families find or remain in their homes. Last year, VA provided about $100 million to assist approximately 50,000 Veterans and family members.

In 2009, President Obama and Secretary Shinseki announced the federal government’s goal to end Veterans’ homelessness in 2015. The grants are intended to help accomplish that goal.  According to the 2012 Point-in-Time Estimates of Homelessness, homelessness among Veterans has declined 17.2 percent since 2009.

Through the homeless Veterans initiative, VA committed over $1 billion in fiscal year 2013 to strengthen programs that prevent and end homelessness among Veterans. VA provides a range of services to homeless Veterans, including health care, job training, and education.

More information about VA’s homeless programs is available at  Details about the Supportive Services for Veteran Families program are online at

Do Your Part To End Veterans Homelessness

VA Announces New Pre-Determination Process to Help Veteran Owned Small Businesses

CVE img_main001The VA Office of Small and Disadvantaged Business Utilization and the Center for Veterans Enterprise (CVE) have combined to announce the implement of a helpful new “Pre-Determination Findings Notification” policy.

The new policy includes an extra step designed to help Veteran Owned Small Businesses; specifically, those applying to VA’s Veterans First Contracting Program opportunities for the first time.

By giving new applicants the opportunity to fix easily correctable errors prior to final determination, both offices think the process is an extra step in the right direction.

The goal of the change is to increase the number of verified Veteran-owned Small Businesses involved in the Vets First program by providing email and phone notifications of initial application errors.  Both offices hope these notifications will help eliminate the large percentage of verification denials that, according to them, are currently issued due to “single points of failure that can be easily and quickly corrected.”

The program is scheduled to begin on May 1st, 2013, but the pilot program is already in place.  During the pilot program, feedback is important as the process may be improved by lessons learned.  Here is the step-by-step of how the new process will work initially:

  1. Firms that have easily corrected issues will receive an email notification identifying issues (Preliminary Findings) before the official determination letter of eligibility is issued.
  2. The Findings Letter will be sent via email and followed up by a telephone call within 24 hours to confirm receipt.
  3. The sixty (60) day initial processing “clock” will stop at the point that the Veteran Owner notifies CVE of the applicant’s intent to participate in the Pre-Determination process.
  4. The applicant will have 48 hours to inform CVE via email, of the firm’s intent to participate in the Pre-Determination process.  Within five (5) business days from receipt of the Preliminary Findings, the Veteran is required to submit amended documentation and other information in response to the Preliminary Findings.
  5. If additional issues are discovered as a result of the changes made by the applicant or the issues identified in the Preliminary Findings are not adequately addressed, the Veteran will be notified that the applicant has two business days to withdraw its application or CVE will proceed immediately to determination and the applicant will have the opportunity to request reconsideration.
  6. If the applicant submission is not made within five (5) business days, CVE will issue a determination letter on the issues identified in the Preliminary Findings.
  7. If an application is withdrawn, all previously submitted documents will remain in CVE’s secure case management system and need not be  resubmitted when initiating a new application.
  8. All Veteran-owned companies receiving Preliminary Findings are encouraged to work with a Verification Assistance Partner counselor to address the issues identified in the Findings Letters.

Here is a list of the types of errors that will be eligible for correction notification as part of the Pre-Determination Program.  Applicants with points of failure (singularly or combined) regarding these issues are eligible for the Pre-Determination process.  These issues are typically found in a company’s business and organizational documents.

Office of Small and Disadvantaged Business Utilization  VA OSDBU  Home

New White House Mobile App for iPhone, iPad, and Android

According to the latest statistics, 15% of Americans use their mobile phones to get information, and that’s enough voters for even the White House to pay attention.

Anyone who loves using their iPhone, iPad, or Android device, and doesn’t want anyone to miss out on what they “say” is going on in D.C….can now get the free, upgraded White House Mobile app here:

Get the App for iPhone & iPadGet the Android App for Phone & Tablet

With the White House mobile app, you get:

  • Breaking alerts directly from the White House
  • Live video streams of official events as they happen
  • High-quality photos
  • The latest news from the White House
  • Full text of speeches and press statements in the Briefing Room

Free Download also available here:

VA Medical Foster Care Program Expanding to 46 States by 2013

The VA Medical Foster Care Program helps keep veterans out of nursing homes and away from expensive and impersonal home health care.  Due to positive response and widespread interest, the VA plans to expand the program to 102 sites across 46 states over the next 12 months.

Since its creation in 2000, the VA Medical Foster Care program has been allowing veterans the option of living with a family or home caregiver in their community.

Currently 424 caregivers in 36 states have opened their homes to veterans.  Those caregivers are compensated anywhere between $1200 – $3000.  They are also well-trained, and undergo a thorough application process that includes:

  • An in-home inspection by a social worker, a dietitian, a registered nurse and a physical therapist.
  • Interviews and background checks by VA staff.
  • The foster caregiver and anyone else who lives in or moves into the house must be fingerprinted and pass health tests that include a check for tuberculosis. This screening process also includes any help that she hires.

Like a home health aide situation, veterans in medical foster care homes also receive regular visits from hospital staff.  This is all covered by typical VA benefits.

“The program is meant to provide veterans with an alternate long-term care option in a safe and home-like environment and just to be able to offer vets the choice to remain living in a community, family home setting if they are faced with the need to move into a nursing home or a more institutionalized setting,” said April Bartlett, the medical foster home coordinator for the VA Ann Arbor Healthcare System..

“The tagline for the program is ‘Where heroes meet angels.’”

Medical Foster Homes can be distinguished from many other community residential care homes because,

  1. the home is owned or rented by the caregiver;
  2. the caregiver lives in the home and provides personal care and supervision; and
  3. there are never more than three residents receiving care in the home.


Here is a current list of the cities with active Medical Foster Homes.  If VA Medical Foster Care is something that you or a Veteran you know might be interested in, click here to locate the closest VA Medical center for more information.

Below are some other great resources for assisted living:

Vet Centers of America Search by ZIP CODE

There are more than 300 Vet Centers across the United States and U.S. Territories whose primary function is to help veterans and their families adjust to civilian life after combat.

Vet Centers help overwhelmed VA hospitals by providing Veterans with valuable services such as counseling for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and Military Sexual Trauma, bereavement counseling, marriage and family counseling, and resources like VA benefits information and suicide prevention referrals.

To search by zip code for a Vet Center in your area click here

If you do not find a Vet Center near you, check out the Mobile Vet Centers.  There are 50 motorized vehicles – resembling super-sized recreational vehicles – that are driven to far-reaching rural areas as part of an “On the Road” outreach program

HUD-VASH Voucher Program Aims to Stop Homeless Veterans Epidemic

Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) are working together to provide the fastest and most complete service possible to those who served our country who now need housing assistance.  Housing vouchers known as HUD-VASH are now available that can help veterans resolve their housing situation if they are in danger of becoming homeless.

The first step is to locate the VA center closest to you, register, and explain your circumstances. If you are a low-income veteran, the VA will refer you to the local housing authority nearest you that offers the HUD-VASH vouchers. These housing vouchers are funded by HUD, coordinated by the VA and administered by local housing agencies.  They allow veterans to live in the place of their choice.

The basic eligibility requirements are determined initially by the VA, as the veteran must be eligible for VA medical services and his or her economic situation should be classified under the definition of homeless as defined by law. Read all the details here.

The person must participate actively in obtaining services to help stabilize his or her situation. A requirement for participation is to accept the assistance of a social worker to help with handling your case, whether that is related to physical or mental disabilities. The most vulnerable veterans are ideal candidates for this program.

The next step is to contact the housing authority, who determines whether or not the veteran’s income level meets the program requirements.   The housing authority also verifies that the veteran and any immediate family member residing with him/her are not known sex offenders, which automatically disqualifies the person.

Once the eligibility process is determined, the veteran receives a list of homes whose owners are interested in renting to people with housing vouchers.  The veteran can select the property he or she wants, provided the owner agrees to receive payment for the rent on a contract with the housing authority and the tenant. The property must pass inspection to verify that it is habitable and sanitary housing.

If you need help, do not wait. Call the National Center for Homeless Veterans Assistance at 1-877-424-3838.