For Transitioning Veterans - Understanding Various Employee Benefit Packages

Understand Employee Benefits

For many transitioning veterans, negotiating and making decisions on proposed civilian employee benefit packages is truly a different world. While in the military, a veteran can easily become comfortable and accustomed to an abundance of free health and dental care, legal services, housing benefits, the GI Bill for those interested in continuing education, along with a list of other perks that are generally included with their enlistment.

However, intelligently navigating and choosing benefit packages in the civilian workplace is a completely different animal than the military and can become an overwhelming and unfamiliar experience. In many cases clarity and education is needed for those separating from military service into the civilian employment sector.

The following is a breakdown of some traditional civilian employee benefit programs including  HMO's, PPO's, EPO's, tuition assistance packages and other benefit plans to consider when entertaining new employment opportunities.

Health Maintenance Organizations (HMOs) - provides or arranges healthcare services for individuals.  You must use network providers. You have a designated Primary Care Physician (PCP). You must receive a referral from your PCP to see a specialist.

Preferred Provider Organizations (PPO's) - provides healthcare services at a reduced rate to the insurer.  You must use network providers, but are not required to have a designated PCP or obtain referrals to see any specialist.

Exclusive Provider Organizations (EPO's) - the insurer has a specific group of healthcare providers to use for healthcare needs.  There are no out-of-network benefits.  You do not have a designated PCP, nor do you have to obtain referrals for specialist.

Indemnity Plans - Allows you more freedom and flexibility when choosing your providers, but the cost for these plans is significantly higher as is your out-of-pocket cost.

Dental insurance Plans - Provide a range of plans for dental related services.  Most offer discounted fees for receiving services from network providers.

Vision Insurance - Provides discounted vision related services when using a network provider.

Short-term and long-term disability - Is insurance to be used in the event you are unable to work for a short period of time or for an extended period of time.  This insurance allows you to be paid a percentage of your salary during the period you are unable to work.

401-k and IRA programs -  Is a program that offers an employee to contribute a percentage of their income to a individual retirement account (IRA) fund.  Most companies will match a designated percentage of that contribution. The funds contributed are generally not taxed.

Flexible Spending Accounts - are funds that can be contributed into an account, un-taxed, to use for qualifying expenses, ie - medical care or dependent care.

Accident Insurance - insurance to be used as supplement to medical insurance.  This insurance can be used to cover medical expenses as well as living expenses during recovery from a qualifying accident.

Critical Illness Insurance - provides a lump sum payment to cover costs during the event of a critical illness. 

Legal Services - Provides discounted legal services when using a plan network attorney.

Life Insurance Plans - Provides death benefits for you or covered family members to a designated beneficiary.

Paid Time Off (PTO) - Leave granted by an employer to use at the employees discretion.

Child Care Benefits - Some employer organizations offer free on-site child care for its employees. This benefit significantly saves employees time and expenses.

Corporate Credit Cards - Some organizations extend corporate credit cards to employees with a frequent need to pay for authorized travel, entertainment and certain other business related endeavors. In many cases, the organization has negotiated an affordable interest rate and employees may still earn points towards personal travel and other benefits.

Health Clubs, Spa's and Golf - Many employers may opt to provide employees with membership to certain fitness related clubs and resorts. In many cases, employers encourage activity in these programs to maintain employee health and reduce absenteeism due to sickness.

Housing and Transportation - Many property management related organizations offer employees the opportunity to live on their designated properties at reduced rental and ownership rates. Most automobile dealerships, delivery, installation, home repair and other organizations allow certain employees the personal use of company vehicles.

Some organizations like Corning in New York and Hershey Corporation in Pennsylvania are very friendly to communities with employees and their families. They offer generous employee benefits with corporate housing, schools, transportation, entertainment and a list of other benefits that are specifically designed to accommodate family and increase retention.

Education Organizations - many colleges and universities allow the children of certain employees to attend college at their location and acquire a degree free of cost as an employee benefit.

Tax Free Salary - For some employers that contract in dangerous locations, tax free salary is available for employees that are willing to live and work in these conditions for a committed period of time. Many former veterans may find these options attractive, as it more reflects work assignments they have been accustomed while serving in the military.

Employee benefit types can widely range from employer to employer and is very beneficial in helping a job candidate distinguish which organization is ideal for their professional and personal needs. Many employers have arrangements with local stores and service organizations to offer its employees significant benefits. Some organizations also contribute to local transportation cost.  It is critically important for returning veterans to consider all that an employer has to offer beyond salary alone, as some benefits may enhance work-life balance and dramatically off-set some costly personal expenses.

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Ed Crenshaw is a US Navy veteran, diversity practitioner, disability subject matter expert and creator of the innovative “Preparing Employers to Reintegrate Combat Exposed Veterans with Disabilities” (P.E.R.C.E.V.D.) diversity training program. He is also the author of the books, “The P.E.R.C.E.V.D. Principles” and “The Employers Guide to Understanding Hidden Conditions Related to Suicide.” As a well-renown professional speaker, Ed is a passionate champion and respected advocate for people with disabilities.