VA Beneficiaries: Here's How to Get Free Financial Counseling

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Department of Veterans Affairs beneficiaries now have access to free financial coaching through a new collaboration between the VA and the Association of Military Banks of America (AMBA).

The joint Veterans Benefits Banking Program aims to equip veterans with the knowledge and tools necessary to manage their finances, navigate banking services and make informed decisions about their financial well-being effectively. One aspect of the VBBP is personalized financial counseling.

Neither the VA nor AMBA endorses any particular bank or service, according to the website for the program, and no use of any is required to take part.

Through VBBP counseling, volunteers from the Association for Financial Counseling and Planning Education and the National Foundation for Credit Counseling provide empathetic, solutions-based counseling. These counseling sessions are available to VA beneficiaries and their caregivers, and it may include significant family members such as spouses.

One unique aspect of VBBP counseling is that many of the counselors have personal military experience, said Rachael DeLeon, executive director of the AFCPE.

"Most of the [accredited financial counselors] participating in this program are from military families or are veterans themselves," DeLeon said. "Not only do they hold the AFC designation, but they also have years of experience helping military and veteran families like yours."

DeLeon said many of the counselors also have specialized training in working with people with disabilities.

Clients meet with counselors such as Izzy Carnes, the spouse of a military retiree. Carnes holds accredited financial counselor (AFC) and military qualified financial planner certifications; works for Redeployment Wealth Strategies; and volunteers for VBBP. Her professional experience helps her assist VBBP clients with a wide variety of financial needs.

"Some veterans seek guidance in selecting the right financial tools and initiating savings plans for retirement and other life events," Carnes said. "Others face more intricate financial challenges and urgent crises, such as the imminent risk of homelessness."

These meetings can be via telephone or online platforms such as Zoom. This allows clients to get the help they need without traveling to the counselor, improves confidentiality and provides access to clients who may not live near a counselor.

Veterans participating in coaching sessions through VBBP can expect a personalized and supportive experience aimed at improving their financial literacy and well-being. Each coaching session is tailored to the specific needs and goals of the veteran. Coaches take into account the veteran's financial situation, background and objectives to provide personalized guidance and support.

Dr. Bret Anderson, accredited financial counselor and psychologist in the Denver and Rocky Mountain region, says his clients gain "an understanding of how spending habits and patterns are linked with better life outcomes and thus less personal stress." He said VBBP is designed to "assist veterans who already experience a variety of life stress with the life skill of managing their money better."

Veterans who would like to take advantage of VBBP financial counseling can visit the VBBP financial counseling webpage and sign up to get matched with a financial counselor.

Once you register and fill out your request, a VBBP coordinator will assign you an AFC-certified counselor who will contact you within three business days to schedule a session.

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