In an age of digital revolution, it is easier than ever before to find the information you need without being on the phone for hours or visiting a library. The problem is there is still a lot of information to sift through to get to those valuable nuggets of info.
Time is especially limited for our veterans and those who are active duty, including their families. With concerns of deployment and balancing a hectic lifestyle, they have the valid excuse of not having the time to find all of their benefits online.
To make the lives of those who serve a little easier, here is a compiled list of benefits and freebies the military and their family should take advantage of, as well as VA benefits you need to be aware of ASAP. Please note that every single discount or freebie you can get is not listed here, but you’ll be hard-pressed to find a larger list than this!
MILITARY FREEBIES & DISCOUNTS
- Sit-Down Eats – If you have time to sit and eat a meal out of the house, go to Buffalo Wild Wings, Hard Rock Cafe, Chevy Fresh Mix, Lone Star Steakhouse, Outback Steakhouse, Fuddruckers, CiCi’s Pizza, Denny’s, Bennigan’s, Golden Corral, Hooters, IHop, Texas Roadhouse, Ninety Nine Restaurant & Pub (formerly Pub 99), Applebee’s, Cracker Barrel, Johnny Rockets, Sizzler, or The Melting Pot. Don’t forget to tip!
- Fast Food, Quick Eats and Carryout – For quicker meals or coffee, go to Burger King, Arby’s, Pizza Hut, Panda Express, Ben and Jerry’s, Chipotle, Cold Stone, Dunkin Donuts, Carl’s Jr, Boston Market, Long John Silver’s, Sonic, Quiznos, and Del Taco offers a discount for military every day. While Starbucks does not have a military discount, they are dedicated to veterans, as they vow to have hired a minimum of 10k veterans and military spouses by 2018, so be sure to give them some business.
- Chick-fil-A offers a daily 10 percent military discount, but it also has an annual Military Appreciation Night, where veterans and their families get free food to thank them for their service. When one serves, we all serve.
- Penske offers discounts on auto repairs, and get DIY auto supplies at O’Reilly Auto Parts or Pep Boys. If a car is not your thing, Harley-Davidson does military discounts.
- Moving and Relocating – In case you get a Permanent Change of Station, or you’re just moving to another home, use PODS for your stuff. Use Overstock.com or Bernie & Phyls for new furniture. You can have your car shipped by Road Runner for a discounted price. Thrift store Goodwill offers military discounts, and the money goes to a good cause. Make it a one stop shop for both clothing and furniture.
- Clothes & Day-to-Day Shopping – When you get to wear clothing other than your uniform, or your family needs new digs, get clothing discounts at New York & Company, Banana Republic, Buckle, Rack Room Shoes, Payless Shoes, Old Navy, Nike, Steve Madden, Adidas, Timberland, J.C. Penney, and much more. Check out specialty retailers like CostCo, Sam’s Club, Bass Pro Shops, GlassesUSA, Lowe’s, and Sport Chalet. Visit Jo-Ann or Michaels for crafts.
- Looking to get engaged? Helzberg Diamonds and Zales have military discounts on jewelry. The bride can get a discounted dress at Alfred Angelo or David’s Bridal, or she can contact organization Brides Across America if a dress financially is not an option. For honeymoons, get a military discount for The Palms in Las Vegas. Sandals Resorts is all-inclusive in locations like Jamaica and the Bahamas. As explored further in this piece, discounted cruises are a good honeymoon option. You can get transportation deals to get you to your destination.
- Cruises: Experience food, travel, lodging and entertainment all in one location by cruising with Norwegian Cruises, Princess Cruises, MSC Cruises, and Carnival cruises. Disney Cruise Line also offers military discounts, which has a lot more kid-friendly activities than most cruises.
- Organization Veteran Tickets Foundation (Vet Tix) offered free event tickets to military and their families from sports to concerts, as well as fundraisers to send families on trips to theme parks and other outings.
- Theme parks: Disney and Universal offer discounted tickets for military, while SeaWorld, LEGOLAND, Six Flags, and the San Diego Zoo offer free military admission.
- Need a new car? Seek out military discounts on Ford, Dodge, Jeep, RAM, Chrysler, GM, Hyundai, Infiniti, Lincoln, Nissan, Scion, Toyota, VW, and Volvo vehicles. Car insurance carriers like USAA and Geico will offer discounts for that shiny new car.
- Planes, trains and (rented) automobiles: Airline carriers Southwest, US Airways, American Airlines, United and Lufthansa give military discounts. You can also get Amtrak train discounts, discounted Peter Pan bus tickets, as well as discounts with rental car companies Avis, Ace, Sixt, Alamo and Budget.
- Hotels: When you need a home away from home, get discounts from Marriott, Hilton, Hawthorn Suites, Hampton Inn, Embassy Suites, La Quinta Inns, Comfort Inn, Motel 6, Radisson, Red Roof Inn and Best Western. Nickelodeon Suites Resort is a fun hotel for military families that offers discounts.
- For NYC visits – There are many great locations in the U.S. to visit, but New York City takes the cake. Get a discount for the MTA Subway, free tickets to the breathtaking 9/11 Memorial site, a discount for visiting the 9/11 Tribute Center, and free admission to the Statue of Liberty. For light-hearted entertainment, get Blue Man Group NYC tickets and enjoy a military/first responder discount.
- The WWE offers free tickets the night of the event for military members. Unfortunately, the tickets are only for the military member and not their guests, and these tickets are not available for WrestleMania.
- Keeping fit, and electronics for keeping in touch – Get a discount for 24 Hour Fitness, YMCA and Gold’s Gym, and then get a discount at Massage Envy after those hard workouts. Take advantage of the Apple Military Employee Purchase program, check our Dell Computers, visit Microsoft online or in one of their physical locations, or ask Best Buy about their military discount for electronics. Stay in touch with a Verizon, Boost Mobile, Sprint, Vonage, or AT&T Wireless discount.
- Get an account with Navy Federal Credit Union, which offers benefits like referral bonuses and credit card rewards. The Bank’s Military Appreciation Month offers $50 when you open an Active Duty Checking account.
- Learning – The Berklee College of Music provides a discount, as well as Kaplan University, Keystone School, Regent University, Saint Joseph’s University, Trident University, and Tutor.com. Grantham University in particular is an online school that is very military friendly, offering tuition assistance and military scholarships for those who serve.
- Your local AAA branch should give you a discount on membership and insurance for being active duty or retired military.
VA NONMEDICAL BENEFITS
- VA Home Loan – Once you meet minimum qualifications, one of your benefits is a guaranteed home loan. Work with a VA home loan friendly lender and Realtor – they will walk you through the process and you realistically can have a new home in as little as a month! Some civilians and military spouses can also qualify for this loan.
- GI Bill – The GI Bill pays for you to go to school. You do not pay this money back to the VA, unless you do not complete courses, in some cases. After 9/11, the GI Bill was re-amped. You will be provided services such as an aptitude test, career training, and tuition assistance that helps with tuition plus fees, supplies, and housing. Survivors and dependents are also sometimes eligible for GI Bill benefits.
- SAH Grant – This grant helps to adapt housing to veterans who come back from conflict with life altering injuries. You can adapt homes for wheelchairs and other medical devices to make the veteran’s life easier.
- Foreclosure avoidance program through the VA – The VA makes every effort to make sure a veteran will not default on their VA home loan. Aside from trying to find you organizations that will help with payment assistance, or other services like refinancing or forbearance, the worst case scenario will be a compromise sale, which is the VA’s version of a short sale. Your home will be sold for less than it is worth, after the lender agrees to take a loss. This will be a lot less damaging to your credit score than a foreclosure, but no worries – you will get to use your VA home loan benefit again, even after a compromise sale happens!