Announcing the MyVetBENEFITS App!
by Lizann Lightfoot - December 8th, 2022
MyVetBENEFITS is a new app serving the active and veteran military community and their families, by connecting them with the benefits and resources they have earned based on their service career. In this webinar, PCSgrades founder Todd Ernst announces the app and discusses how it serves the military community.
Why are you so passionate about serving the military community?
My “why” goes back to 2003 when a buddy of mine passed away in an aircraft accident. During his memorial service, we did the Missing Man formation, and I was the missing man and flew solo with his flag on board. After we landed, I presented the flag to his widow and young children. I got to know that family well.
Fast-forward eight years, and his widow came to me with a weird letter from DFAS which said that due to a pay error, she would lose all his Survivor Benefits. She was left asking questions, so I started trying to help and learned that 94 other families got the same letter. We spent 5 years learning how to navigate the Pentagon and Congress to finally get the right language in that law and get things changed. As of 2017, any family that experienced a loss during the line of duty will get the same benefits as any other family.
I feel very strongly that the military family must take care of each other, because waiting for the government to do it won’t always work out. The same things that help us fuel PCSgrades with crowd-sourcing when they are moving, will help match veterans to the benefits they have earned in the MyVetBENEFITS app.
What is the MyVetBENEFITS app?
We’ve been anticipating it for a long time! The app is fairly simple, but it does something that isn’t being done anywhere else. We know how daunting it can be when there are thousands of benefits and organizations out there, but they all have the challenge of educating our community about existing benefits and getting them to use the available benefits.
MyVetBenefits cuts through all that noise. Instead of using PowerPoints and 3-ring binders to communicate with veterans, it is a website and app that takes care of things for you.
When you enter, you fill out your profile based on your time in service or your spouse’s time in service. It’s a brief process. Then the app filters through thousands of benefits in our database to match the ones that fit you based on your military experience. You can bookmark the ones that are most relevant to you, and then connect with them directly through the app to get more details.
MyVetBENEFITS also connects you directly to veteran resources and organizations in categories like entrepreneurship, employment, Veteran Service Organizations, and a small curated list of nationally-established renowned organizations that we can connect you with in each of those categories.
How many benefits are in the app?
Right now, we have over 2,400 benefits. We know there are more potential resources out there, and other companies listing tens of thousands. But we wanted to focus on the most useful and manageable. We have all the VA benefits, and we’re really excited to have all the state benefits that are out there, and you can search by state. We also have Veteran Service Organizations and family organizations like NMFA, Blue Star Families, the USO, and others. And we are increasingly adding benefits, and plan to add another thousand soon.
How do you search for veteran or military spouse resources in MyVetBENEFITS?
There are two ways to search. The first is using your profile to get a curated list and save the ones you like. But there are also resource category tabs like Entrepreneurship, so when you open that you’ll see a few specific organizations, such as The Rosie Network, or Service2CEO. You navigate your way through those tabs, we’re just providing a more organized approach.
Who is the MyVetBENEFITS app built for?
We actually inherited this app from another organization a few years ago. They were focused on serving the military and veteran community, but unfortunately they ended up closing their doors. It was a very veteran-centric platform at first, but we realized that yes, we want to serve the veteran community because there is a huge need in the retiring or transitioning community of those leaving military service, but ALSO there is a need in the currently active duty community. And it needs to be available to everyone and feel inclusive to everyone in the military community--spouses, family members, etc. It should look and feel inclusive to active military, veterans, and their families. We all know that spouses are often an afterthought and aren’t getting first-hand knowledge on benefits that apply to the whole family, so we wanted to provide an opportunity for spouses to get their own first-hand knowledge.
Who is “the team” behind MyVetBENEFITS?
It’s the same people that this app is built for, and it’s the same people behind PCSgrades! We are veterans, spouses, and military brats. We are building these products and services not just for you, but for ourselves too. I’ve been surprised sometimes by putting the app together and learning about new resources along the way. This is all by and for military families.
One of the developers is my son, who grew up as a military brat. I never imagined working with family, but we started working together years ago, and we have a great professional and personal relationship. And our other developer is an Air Force veteran! So this really is developed in-house and close to home!
RAPID FIRE ROUND
When will the MyVetBENEFITS app launch?
The app currently exists in a web-based version that’s mobile friendly and works on your smart phone. It has launched already on MyVetBENEFITS.com. The true apps in the app store will launch after the new year in January.
Does it cost money to join MyVetBENEFITS?
No, it doesn’t cost money to join! This PCSgrades product is free to use and explore. There aren’t similar products on the market that are free. Our digital matchmaking process and direct access to organizations is certainly unique. And once we are available in the app stores, it will be a free download too.
Will MyVetBENEFITS be available on Apple and Android?
Yes, on both! They should come out about the same time. Coding allows us to share a lot between the website version and both of those app stores. We are currently improving user experience, and just need to do a little more to make them active on each platform. Wherever you are logged in--phone or computer--all your favorites and your profile will be saved and accessible.
Where can users find out when it’s in the app store?
Go to MyVetBENEFITS.com. First, sign up for the current experience, because then you’ll get all our email notifications about the apps launching, and you’ll get information on new benefits too.
What if there is a benefit not listed?
We desire your feedback, period. If there’s something missing that you think should be in here, please give us your feedback. It’s a prominent feature on MyVetBENEFITS.com, and it will always be there. This is an important part of supporting each other. This works best if we all grow it together. If there’s a missing benefit that should be in there, give us that feedback. If there’s an organization that should be in the resource category, tell us about it. If you notice a spelling error or just want to say hi, please reach out to us!
Where can we find the app and start using it today?
Go to MyVetBENEFITS.com and sign up today! You can start using it today! The website version is now available and fully functional. Stand by, and we’ll let you know when the mobile apps are available too!
Our Guest: Todd Ernst, Founder of PCSgrades
I’m an Air Force veteran who retired in 2016. I was fortunate to fly U-2s, B-1s, and T-38s for my whole career. I did 14 years active duty, then my last 8.5 years Reserves. During my active duty time, we PCSed about 8 times. I have a wife and two boys.