Veterans Affairs benefits assist all military members

1st Lt. Tracy Giles
435th Air Base Wing Public Affairs

***image1***Variety of programs available for active duty, retired people

Whether you’re staying in the military or getting out, it’s important to know what Veterans Affairs benefits you are entitled to for your service in the U.S. military.
Most people think VA benefits are only for people who are near separation, but that’s not the case, said John Paganelli, Veterans Affairs representative from Kleber Kaserne.
“Everyone should attend these briefings,” said Mr. Paganelli, who gave a two-hour VA briefing at Ramstein Hercules Theater Feb. 11. “All servicemembers need to have an idea of what benefits are available to them. It’s never too early to start planning.”
Mr. Paganelli said there are things every servicemember can do now to prepare:
• Review service medical records, keep them current and retain hard copies in a safe place
• Verify eligibility for the Montgomery GI Bill; keep hard copies of contributions and consider the tuition assistance “Top-up” program
• Apply for a VA home loan certificate and use it while on active duty after a minimum service requirement
• Remember that character and conduct while in service may affect eligibility
• Become familiar with all VA benefits at
Staff Sgt. Claude Smith, tactics analyst from the 426th Information Operation Squadron, said he attended the briefing to find out how the VA could help him with his education after he separates from the Air Force.
“I plan to use the Montgomery GI bill to attend law school,” he said. “I also plan on using my VA guaranteed loan to help buy a house while I am in law school.
“I think all military members should be required to have this training shortly before they make the decision to re-enlist,” he added.
The next VA briefings take place 9 to 11 a.m. March 16 and April 27 at Baumholder Army Career and Alumni Program, March 19 and April 26 at Kaiserslautern ACAP, April 7 at Sembach Family Support Center and April 23 at Ramstein Hercules Theater. Another briefing also takes place 1 to 3 p.m. March 17 at Ramstein Hercules Theater.
For general information on VA benefits and briefings, call Baumholder ACAP 485-6330, Kaiserslautern ACAP 483-7089, Ramstein FSC 480-5900 and Sembach FSC 496-6195.
For more specific information or one-on-one interviews regarding your benefits call John Paganelli or Tom Kluko at 483-6205/6007 or e-mail them at varep@cmtymail.26
The Department of Veterans Affairs was established March 15, 1989, succeeding the Veterans Administration. It’s responsible for providing federal benefits to veterans and their dependents. Headed by the secretary of Veterans Affairs, VA is the second largest of the 15 Cabinet departments and operates nationwide programs for health care, financial assistance and burial benefits.
Of the 26 million veterans currently alive, nearly three quarters served during a war or an official period of conflict. About a quarter of the nation’s population, approximately 70 million people, are potentially eligible for VA benefits and services because they are veterans, family members or survivors of veterans.