Tuesday’s need-to-know money news

how_to_build_an_emergency_fundToday’s top story: Tax tips for military personnel. Also in the news: What to do when your credit card interest rate goes up, how to handle tax return fraud, and how to survive financially when you don’t have an emergency fund.

Top Tax Tips for Military Personnel
Military service comes with some unique tax breaks.

If Your Credit Card Interest Rate Takes a Hike, Take Stock
Look for a better offer.

Someone Filed a False Tax Return in Your Name. What Now?
Taking action quickly is vital.

5 Lifelines You Can Use If You Don’t Have an Emergency Fund
Grab a life preserver and hang on.

Are vets getting what they deserve?

Soldier saluting Yesterday on Bob McCormick’s KFWB show Money 101 we talked about veterans’ benefits that are often overlooked. If you’re a vet or have a vet in your life, you should know about:

Aid & Attendance: This benefit helps pay for nursing home, assisted living and home health care for low-income vets. The benefit can be $1,700 a month for the veteran, $2,000 a month for a couple and $1,000 a month for a veteran’s widow. Yet few people take advantage or even know about this benefit, and the VA isn’t always forthcoming. A New York Times article last year said only about 38,000 of the 1.7 million World War II vets alive in 2011 were receiving it. The site VeteranAid.org has details on how to apply.

Family Caregiver Program: Eligible Post-9/11 veterans can opt to receive home health care from a family member, and that family member may be eligible for a stipend, mental health services, respite care and access to health care insurance. Family Caregiver program application are available at www.caregiver.va.gov and Caregiver Support Coordinators are stationed at every VA medical center and via phone at 1-877-222 VETS (8387) to help with the application process.

VA Mortgages: These mortgages aren’t exactly unknown, but Terry Savage wrote in a recent Huffington Post column that 70% of younger veterans had yet to take advantage of this program which offers zero down payment home loans at attractive rates. Find out more from the VA mortgage loans help desk at 800-983-0937.

Post 9/11 GI Bill: Again, not a hidden benefit, but one that’s probably underused. This version of the GI bill has paid college expenses for nearly 1 million veterans of the Afghanistan and Iraq wars, but there are nearly 6 million vets from those conflicts. At a time when college educations are all but essential for staying in the middle class, more vets should be looking into this program, which provides up to 36 months of benefit, including full tuition and fees for in-state schools plus possible help with housing and books. You’ll find details here.