Quarterly eNewsletter About the Benefits.gov Program
April 2018
In This Issue

Welcome to our April edition of the Benefits.gov Compass newsletter. In this edition of Compass, we share benefit resources on topics including financial literacy, retirement planning, student resources, a continuation of our mental health series, and a salute to our Veterans.

April is an important month for managing your personal finances. April 17 is Tax Day; the day individual income tax returns are due to the government.

There are many things to consider as you prepare for retirement. Enrolling in savings plans, understanding how your age can affect your benefits, and learning about Social Security and available benefit programs are just a few ways to help you plan for your financial future.

As the end of the school year approaches, now is a great time for students to prepare plans for the summer. Benefits.gov provides information on many resources that can support a student’s educational and personal journey.

This May marks the sixty-eighth observance of Mental Health Month, which aims to increase the awareness and understanding of mental health. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, more than 44 million people, one in six adults, suffer from mental illness in the U.S.

In observance of Memorial Day this May, Benefits.gov honors those brave men and women who have lost their lives while serving in the country’s armed forces. Originally known as Decoration Day, this holiday was founded and first observed in 1971, to honor those who died in the Civil War.

A Message from Al Sloane and Myung...
A Message from Al Sloane and Myung Moon, Program Directors

Welcome to our April edition of the Benefits.gov Compass newsletter. Benefits.gov is proudly celebrating 16 years of citizen service this April, helping citizens in need by providing easy, online access to government benefit information. We look forward to continuing our service.

In this edition of Compass, we share benefit resources on topics including financial literacy, retirement planning, student resources, a continuation of our mental health series, and a salute to our Veterans. We offer this information from across 17 Federal Agency Partners to help you on your path to government benefits.

As always, we welcome your input - click here to share your feedback with us. We encourage you to "Like" us on Facebook, follow us on Twitter, and subscribe to our YouTube channel. We recently launched a channel on Apple News, so please follow along to receive our latest news to your iOS mobile device.

Start Your Path Toward Financial...
Start Your Path Toward Financial Wellness

April is an important month for managing your personal finances. April 17 is Tax Day; the day individual income tax returns are due to the government. National Financial Literacy Month is observed in April to promote the importance of financial literacy and encourage citizens to maintain healthy financial habits. The government provides many resources for assistance with your tax returns, loan management, and general financial knowledge.

The Department of the Treasury offers several resources to help citizens prepare for Tax Day. There are programs designed to educate people on credits/benefits they are eligible to receive, along with programs to help citizens complete their tax return. For example, Tax Help for People with Disabilities provides tax relief for disabled individual taxpayers and information for preparing a tax return. To qualify, a member of the household must be disabled or care for a disabled person. An advantage is that no application is needed for this program.

The IRS.gov Free File program makes filing a tax return easier and less expensive. The program allows qualified users to file taxes on their own with software assistance, helps find tax breaks, and assists with filling out your state return. One advantage of the program is that it is free to file your completed return. To qualify, annual income must be $66,000 or less. For more information, citizens can visit the Free File page.

For many citizens, financial literacy encompasses managing spending and budgeting money for expenses. However, as we celebrate National Financial Literacy Month, it is also essential to recognize the importance of loan repayment. Over 44 million Americans hold $1.4 trillion in student loan debt. The Department of Education offers an Education Loan Consolidation program, which helps citizens consolidate different types of student loans for easier payment management. Loan holders can apply through StudentLoans.gov and are encouraged to visit Benefits.gov for additional information. 

Tips for Planning for Retirement
Tips for Planning for Retirement

There are many things to consider as you prepare for retirement. Enrolling in savings plans, understanding how your age can affect your benefits, and learning about Social Security and available benefit programs are just a few ways to help you plan for your financial future.

Make saving a priority.
In a recent survey done by The Federal Reserve, 28 percent of non-retired adults indicated that they have no retirement savings or pension. Start saving early so you can enjoy a comfortable and secure retirement. The retirement savings plan available through your employer is critical to your future financial security. Ask your employer for information on how your plan works and check your plan regularly to ensure you’re staying on track. If you don’t have access to a retirement plan at work, consider opening an individual Roth IRA account to start saving. Ask questions of your employer or a financial advisor to understand your options.

Find out when to apply for benefits.
The earliest age you can collect Social Security retirement benefits is 62. Your benefits will be reduced if you start collecting before you reach your full retirement age. Confirm your full retirement age through the Social Security Administration (SSA) and find out if you are eligible for any of the benefits administered by the SSA by taking their Benefit Eligibility Screening Tool questionnaire.

Medicare is health insurance for people 65 or older. It is recommended that you sign up for Medicare three months before the month you turn 65. Visit Medicare.gov for information on the available plans and how to apply. If you began working for the Federal government after 1984, you may be covered by the Federal Employees Retirement System, a retirement plan providing benefits to federal employees.

Learn what factors may affect your benefits.
Before deciding when to start collecting retirement benefits, consider your age and health. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, people are living longer, which means the length of your retirement could be longer. You may choose to delay starting your benefits until full retirement age or later to ensure benefits last through retirement. On the other hand, you may decide to start your benefits earlier if your health is in poor condition.

You can find more retirement information on Benefits.gov by using our Benefit Finder questionnaire to help identify benefits you may be eligible to receive.  

Here’s How Students Can Make...
Here’s How Students Can Make Summer Productive

As the end of the school year approaches, now is a great time for students to prepare plans for the summer. Benefits.gov provides information on many resources that can support a student’s educational and personal journey.

Looking for an Internship Program?
Internships provide an opportunity to gain experience in an industry of interest and enhance your knowledge and skills. Make a list of companies that interest you, attend career fairs, and network with family and friends to find out about potential opportunities. If you’re interested in future employment with the Federal government, the Department of Commerce established an internship program for post-secondary students to promote the development of the next generation of public servants and business leaders.

Need Help Financing School?
Spend time learning about the college financial aid process and research the funding opportunities available. There are resources to help alleviate the financial burden of paying for your education. Submit the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) each year to find out if you qualify for aid from the largest provider of student financial aid in the nation. The Federal Pell Grant Program provides college tuition grants to low-income college level students. Federal Work-Study funds part-time employment for college students to help finance education costs. Create a budget to manage your finances and stay on track of your income and expenses.

Need Career Advice?
For students about to graduate and looking to start their career, American Job Centers are designed to help job seekers find employment and training services. Ask for guidance on entering the job field that matches your skills and interest. Job Corps offers career technical training, counseling services, and education programs for low-income people ages 16-24. The Veterans Benefits Administration provides Educational and Career Counseling to Veterans and their qualified dependents.

It’s never too early, or too late, to explore your options. Find out what programs and benefits you may be eligible for by browsing our benefit categories and taking our Benefit Finder questionnaire.

Mental Health Series: Mental...
Mental Health Series: Mental Health Awareness Month

This May marks the sixty-eighth observance of Mental Health Month, which aims to increase the awareness and understanding of mental health. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, more than 44 million people, one in six adults, suffer from mental illness in the U.S.

The theme for this year’s Mental Health Month is Whole Body Mental Health. This comes from the notion that mental and physical heath are linked to one another. To have good mental health, you must take care of both your mind and body.

Benefits.gov encourages you to maintain your physical health, which in turn will help your mental health. Our recent news article, Benefits.gov *Hearts* You, discusses lifestyle choices you can make to increase your overall physical health. According to the Heart Foundation, exercising on a regular basis and eating a healthy diet can help prevent heart disease. Our article, Make Smart Choices for a Healthier Diet, gives nutrition recommendations, such as choosing water over high-calorie beverages and getting a variety of colors on your plate. Additional information on food and nutrition assistance programs can be found within our Food/Nutrition category.

While mental illness affects a significant portion of the U.S. population, the National Institute of Mental Health indicates that only about half of those living with mental illness receive treatment. Benefits.gov wants you to know that if you suffer from mental illness, there are available treatment options, including treatment centers covered by Medicaid/Medicare and Counseling options.

Benefits.gov understands the enormous challenges faced by those with mental illness and their loved ones, and realizes how hard it is to seek help. We encourage you to fill out our Benefit Finder questionnaire to find out which benefits you may be eligible to receive.

A Salute to Members of our Armed...
A Salute to Members of our Armed Forces

In observance of Memorial Day this May, Benefits.gov honors those brave men and women who have lost their lives while serving in the country’s armed forces. Originally known as Decoration Day, this holiday was founded and first observed in 1971, to honor those who died in the Civil War. Memorial Day is a time when our nation comes together to pay tribute to those who have lost their lives, and lend support, thoughts, and prayers to the loved ones who have lost family and friends in the line of duty.

Benefits.gov offers information on programs that provide financial assistance to those who have lost a member of their immediate family from active duty. Programs such as Survivors Pension, Survivors’ Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (DIC), and Healthcare Benefits for Dependents (CHAMPVA) provide support for surviving dependents. 

There are ways to give back and honor the lives of our fallen service men and women by volunteering with organizations such as The Fallen Patriots, Bob Woodruff Foundation, and Folds of Honor. These organizations work hard to ensure they are honoring the legacy of our American heroes by supporting families who need it the most. 

Benefits.gov also provides information on programs specifically for veterans, survivors, and their families. For more information, visit the Military: Active Duty and Veterans category and take the Benefit Finder questionnaire to see what benefits you may be eligible to receive. 

We wish everyone a safe and happy Memorial Day, as we salute our fallen soldiers and honor their families.

In This Issue
A Message from Al Sloane and Myung...
Start Your Path Toward Financial...
Tips for Planning for Retirement
Here’s How Students Can Make...
Mental Health Series: Mental...
A Salute to Members of our Armed...
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