Veterans, active military personnel and their dependents should never pay for help to apply for veterans benefits, according to the Pennsylvania Department of Military and Veterans Affairs (DMVA).

"We've seen advertisements from businesses that offer veterans assistance in applying for benefits for free, and then end up charging a fee for financial planning services," said Brig. Gen. Mike Gould, the state's deputy adjutant general for veterans affairs. "We need to get the word out that veterans should never pay for these services. Free assistance is readily available from any accredited veterans service officer at the Department of Military and Veterans Affairs, the county director of veteran affairs or through a chartered veterans service organization such as the American Legion, VFW, DAV or AMVETS."

County directors of veterans affairs are accredited officers who provide veterans and their dependents assistance to identify and help determine eligibility for a wide range of veterans benefits, assist in the preparation of applications for county, state and federal veterans benefits and programs such as burial allowances, grave markers and headstones, disabled veterans real estate tax exemptions, veterans emergency assistance, education gratuity program, federal health care benefits, service-connected disability and non-service connected disability pensions and survivor benefits.

To locate a county director of veterans affairs or for more information, go to dmva.state.pa.us and click on veterans affairs.

Other helpful information is available on the website or by following DMVA on Facebook or Twitter.