Common Challenges During Readjustment to Civilian Life

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Military Family Standing In Front of New Home

Civilians may not be aware of the unique challenges that separating from military service and returning to civilian life can present. Here, we highlight some of these challenges. Veterans may find difficulty with the following:

Relating to people who do not know or understand what military personnel have experienced (and many civilians don’t know that they don’t know!).

Reconnecting with family and re-establishing a role in the family.

–Families may have created new routines during absences and both the family and the Veteran will have to adjust to changes.

Joining or creating a community.

–When moving to a new base or post, the military helps military personnel and families adjust. This structure is often not automatically in place when someone separates from the military. The Veteran and his or her family may have to find new ways to join or create a social community.

Preparing to enter the workforce.

–A Veteran may have never looked for, applied for, or interviewed for a civilian job, especially if he or she had a career in the military. These are new skills he or she will have to learn and master.

–In applying for a job, a Veteran will have to determine how to translate his or her military skills and duties into civilian terms and create a resume.

–A Veteran may have never created a resume. Instead of a resume, the military uses a Field Service Record to detail qualifications, training, and experience.

Returning to a job.

–If deployed with the National Guard or Reserve, a Service Member will have to adjust to resuming their previous job or another similar job at the same company. For some recently returning Service Members, they may find themselves behind a desk in as little as three days after leaving a combat zone.

–Returning to the job may include a period of catching up, learning new skills, or adjusting to a new position. It will also include adjusting to social changes that may have occurred in the workplace.

–During the transition back to work, some Veterans also experience worry and fear about possible job loss.

Creating structure.

–The military provides structure and has a clear chain of command. This does not naturally exist outside the military. A Veteran will have to create his or her own structure or adjust to living in an environment with more ambiguity.

Adjusting to providing basic necessities (e.g., food, clothing, housing).

–In the military, these things are not only provided, but there is often little choice (e.g., you eat at determined times in a certain place, duty station determines your dress).

–Given the lack of choices while in the military, the vast array of choices in the civilian world can sometimes be overwhelming.

Adjusting to a different pace of life and work.

–In the military, personnel do not leave until the mission is complete. In a private sector business, an employee might be expected to stop and go home at 5 p.m., whether the “mission” is complete or not. They may not be apparent to all Veterans.

–Civilian workplaces may be competitive environments, as opposed to the collaborative camaraderie of the military.

–Given the direct nature of communication in military settings, there may be subtle nuances in conversations and workplace lingo that are unfamiliar to Veterans.

Establishing services.

–A Veteran may have to learn how to get a doctor, dentist, life insurance, etc. These services were previously provided by the military.

–A Veteran may also need to navigate the paperwork and process of obtaining benefits and services from the Department of Veteran Affairs.

Source: VA.gov

2022 Hot Jobs for Veterans

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black female soldier using laptop with apply now page appearing on screen with her military experience

By Natalie Rodgers

It’s a new year, and with the many social and economic changes from the last two years, many veterans are looking for a fresh start in 2022. While veterans are equipped to work in just about any job position, there are a few job fields that could change your 2022 for the better. Here are some of this year’s most popular hot jobs:

Healthcare

If you already have medical experience from your time in the field, healthcare may be the perfect option. Veterans with medical training are properly equipped to work in a variety of different positions in the medical field. They are even at an advantage for opportunities to sharpen their skills for a higher-paying position through veteran-supported programs and the perks of the GI Bill. Some of the most popular jobs in the medical field amongst veterans are:

  • Physicians Assistants: $96,000 per year
  • Registered Nurses: $73,000 per year
  • Chiropractic Care: $71,454 per year
  • Radiologic or Cardiovascular Technologist: $50,000-$61,000 per year
  • Medical Lab Technician: $45,000 per year

Federal Jobs

Federal organizations not only want to hire veterans but actively seek them out. They are already aware of the skillsets, mindsets, and needs of veterans transitioning into work and are willing to provide any additional, necessary training that veterans may need. Government jobs also tend to come with great benefits, solid routines and sturdy pay. There are many kinds of government jobs across organizations such as the Department of Veterans Affairs, the Federal Bureau of Investigations, Parks and Recreation, the Department of Transportation and more.

  • Transportation Specialist: $83,748 per year
  • Police Officer: $61,936 per year
  • Social Worker: $54,923 per year
  • Firefighter: $51,368 per year
  • Substance Abuse Counselor: $41,610 per year

Outdoors Work

Veterans have a long track record of working outdoor jobs, from park security and landscaping to working with animals. While many like the idea of working indoors or in an office, many veterans prefer to be in an open, outdoor space. This environment can be especially helpful for veterans with PTSD, depression or other mental conditions.

  • Landscape Designer: $64,307 per year
  • Land Surveyor: $63,094 per year
  • Park Ranger: $51,481 per year
  • Veterinary Technician: $43,964 per year
  • Farm Hand: $35,296 per year

Skilled Trades

Learning a trade is one of the most popular options for veterans transitioning into civilian life. It provides them an opportunity to work with their hands, expand on their skill set, and utilize tactics they already know from the field. There is also an abundance of programs and organizations specializing in trade training specifically catered to veterans.

  • Electrician: $60,906 per year
  • Plumber: $60,848 per year
  • Auto Mechanic: $46,309 per year
  • Carpenter: $45,068 per year
  • Commercial Driver: $40,877 per year

Education

Veterans are used to environments where they must lead, learn fast, adapt quickly, and teach others how to do the same. As the educational system continues to change, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic, veterans are excellent candidates as teachers on every level. Educational occupations usually require additional certifications but are generally gained in shorter periods and with assistance from military benefits.

  • Special Education Teacher: $56,914 per year
  • Elementary School Teacher: $54,102 per year
  • Middle School Teacher: $53,825 per year
  • High School Teacher: $52,481 per year
  • Vocational School Teacher: $50,881 per year

No matter what field you’re pursuing this year, remember that your military experience has equipped you for an array of jobs, and the right fit for you is just around the corner.

Sources: Glassdoor, Trade-schools.net, Healthcare Daily Online

Over 200 New Positions Just Opened: Apply Now

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man typing on keyboard with job application on the screen

Recent reports indicate that nearly two-thirds of workers in the United States are on the hunt for a new job or have left the workforce, in large part due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Because of the COVID-19 pandemic and the ongoing need for many critical staff, the VA has opened numerous positions under a direct-hire authority, which allows agencies to hire qualified applicants more quickly. It expedites hiring by referring all qualified candidates directly to the hiring manager, without consideration for ranking, rating and other typical selection procedures.

“If you have ever dreamed about having a steady job with good benefits and a retirement plan, now is probably one of the best times in the last decade to secure such positions,” said Darren Sherrard, associate director of recruitment marketing and workforce solutions at VA. “From housekeeping to police officers, air conditioning mechanics to health technicians, program support assistants and more, there are over 200 job opportunities open to the public now.”

Changing priorities

Research has shown that people tend to reevaluate their jobs after experiencing a major life event. These events don’t have to be negative; a new baby or the opportunity to pursue new education may certainly spur reevaluation. However, the universal nature of the pandemic is a major reason so many are considering their options. “Most people don’t evaluate their job satisfaction every one of 365 days in a year,” said Brooks Holtom, a professor of management and senior associate dean at Georgetown University. “Those shocks usually happen idiosyncratically for people. But with the pandemic, it’s happened en masse.”

What workers want

The biggest reason for the job search for many is a better salary. But after salary, workers cited better benefits and career advancement as the other top motivators. Jobs at VA provide all that and more.

  • Competitive starting salaries. We offer our employees strong starting salaries based on education, training and experience. We also offer steady growth, with periodic pay raises that address inflation and local market changes.
  • Education and leadership. We offer ongoing leadership development through every level of employment, whether it is mandatory programs or competitive opportunities. All leadership programs align the organization around a set of core competencies that facilitate career development through continuous learning, coaching/mentoring and assessment throughout your career.
  • Flexible schedules. Our employees receive 13 to 26 paid vacation/personal days, as well as 13 sick days annually with no limit on accumulation, and we celebrate 11 paid federal holidays each year.
  • Robust insurance options. You can choose from a variety of health maintenance organizations or fee-for-service health plans, and all cover preexisting conditions. Additionally, we pay up to 75 percent of health premiums, a benefit that can continue into retirement.

Work at VA

Now is the time to join our team by taking advantage of one of these COVID-19 hiring opportunities.

  • LEARN more about what VA has to offer.
  • READ job search advice on VAntage Point.
  • JOIN our communities on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, LinkedIn and Glassdoor.
  • APPLY for jobs at VA.

All current available positions are listed at USAJobs.gov.

Source: Vantage Point

Resume Tips for Veterans Transitioning to Civilian Careers

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Man holding a sign that says "Sell Your Skills"

Originally posted by Northrop Grumman

We understand that as a veteran, there are a number of skills that you can bring to an organization, but it may be difficult to translate those specific skills into civilian jargon for job searches/resumes.

It’s important to us to help members of the military transition to a civilian career. You can use these resume tips for veterans to ensure you’re making a strong impression.

A common issue with veterans’ resumes is that the veteran has been trained to think of “self” last, that the team and mission are all that are important. These are excellent values and an ethos that is to be commended.

But you must promote yourself and your skills when applying for a job outside of the military, being sure to include your contributions and experience. You must do this even if it feels self-serving.

Resume Formatting Basics

  • Never go below 11-point font
  • Do not exceed three pages (one or two pages is preferred)
  • Use bullet points vs. paragraph formats
  • Be concise and convincing from start to finish. The average recruiter/manager will take no more than 20 seconds to read a resume
  • If using bullet points (recommended), make sure you’re consistent with using a period (or not)
  • Spell check
  • Proofread, then ask a couple of other people to proofread for content and for grammar

Fundamental Components Every Resume Should Include

  • Specific dates of employment and job transition
  • Correct job titles
  • Summary of qualifications
  • Clearance information
  • Statements describing your most recent job and prior jobs (include as many as appropriate)
  • Specific results and benefits that support your activities and accomplishments
  • If you are willing to relocate, indicate so near the bottom of the page

Describing Your Work Experience

Your resume is going to be reviewed by non-military tech/business/logistics professionals first, so when you describe your work experience, you should identify yourself as a veteran early in your resume and go into detail about the following:

  • What tools you used and how many people you supervised
  • How much money you managed, saved or generated (in dollars and/or in %)
  • If you have led any teams (including the ranks of those led, general objective, success statistics, etc.)
  • Your current/most recent cumulative GPA, if you are an active student/recent graduate

Avoid indicating one specific job in the objective, as we hope to use your skills on multiple projects.

Create a “Skills Summary” or “Qualifications and Highlights” Section

In this section, promote your qualifications and unique talents. Focus on how you can add value to the organization. Use bullet points and indicate quantitative and qualitative data — don’t just say “automation” or “operations.” Instead, describe your complete experience.

Examples:

  • “In total, have tracked, maintained, repaired and been accountable for $5.8 million worth of government aviation property.”
  • “Have guided, trained and assisted over 300 U.S. Naval officers in the execution of various aircraft maintenance duties and flight schedules.”

Translate Your Experience Into Terms a Non-Military Reader Will Understand

If you can find the civilian equivalent to your job, make sure you put that beside each job title.

Examples:

  • Tool Shop Supervisor (Logistics Branch Manager)
  • VAW-123, Aviation Maintenance/Production Chief — (Tool Shop Supervisor/Logistics Branch Manager) — directly supervised 48 people

Consider Organizing Your Resume by Specialty vs. Location

If you have had multiple duty stations performing similar duties, consider a functional resume that groups your work experience by specialty vs. location.

Click here to read the complete article on Northrop Grumman.

Lumen: The Platform for Amazing Things

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tall office buildings fill the skyline

Lumen is guided by our belief that humanity is at its best when technology advances the way we live and work. Learn more about our purpose to further human progress through technology at jobs.lumen.com.

We are committed to providing equal employment opportunities to all persons regardless of race, color, ancestry, citizenship, national origin, religion, creed, veteran status, disability, medical condition, genetic characteristic or information, age, sex, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, marital status, family status, pregnancy, or other legally protected status (collectively, “protected statuses”).

We do not tolerate unlawful discrimination in any employment decisions, including recruiting, hiring, compensation, promotion, benefits, discipline, termination, job assignments or training.

Small Resume Mistakes that could cost you the job

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professional man posting resume to laptop

By Tawanah Reeves-Ligon

As many Americans find themselves back on the job hunt, candidates are polishing their interview skills and, of course, updating their resumes. But what exactly should one be looking for to strengthen their resume and help it stand out from the crowd and get past those pesky AI systems?

Here are some small mistakes that could be slowing your resume down in a big way:

1. Outdated Keywords
Words are important, but which words have the most impact in your field can change in the blink of an eye. As technology updates and social standards progress our business expectations, jargon shifts, thus the words that applicant tracking AI systems and human recruiters are looking for on your resume inevitably changes too. As you review your resume, make sure to use search engines and job postings from your industry to find the skills and experiences being asked for the most. Make a list. Then, use it to align your keywords with what recruiters want to see.

2. The Wrong Formatting
The number one focus of every resume should be readability! Unless you’re a graphic artist seeking a design-focused occupation or a similar type of creative role, your resume does not have to be visually striking. Usually, a simple, clean design and format that is easy to read and scan is the best option. It is alright to use a resume template but tweak it, so it doesn’t look like every other resume that hits the human resources desk. Edit your resume to have a standard font, plenty of white space, bullet points instead of paragraphs and concise statements. Also, consider changing written numbers to numerals to conserve space and using the percent sign (%) instead of the word. Finally, make sure your style and formatting choices are consistent throughout the page.

3. Bad Grammar and Mechanics
After correcting confusing formats or unreadable style choices, your next step is to run your resume through some proofreading software or hire a professional editor. After looking at it repeatedly, it can be easy to miss basic typos, grammar mistakes or other small errors. So, take your time when everything is finished to review your resume one more time and use a program or second set of eyes as well, especially if checking grammar and mechanics is not your strongest skill. Asking friends and family to assist can be helpful during this step.

4. Listing Old Positions
Always list your most recent and most relevant positions towards the top of your resume. If you have been using the same or similar resume for several years, it might be time to look it over from top to bottom and delete some more entry-level positions, especially those over 10 years old. Not only will this help consider space, but it will also make your resume stronger because it focuses on the most pertinent and fresh experience you’ve accumulated.

5. Forgetting to Update Contact Information
During your review process, it is easy to miss small details like contact information. So, be sure to confirm everything is up-to-date. Maybe it’s time to consider creating an email specific to job searches? Use a professional email address for communication and a good phone number where you can be easily reached.

6. Irrelevant/Outdated Skills
It’s time to take Microsoft Office proficiency off of your skills list. It’s almost an assumed skill nowadays for most office and administrative roles. Similar to updating your keywords, skills should be relevant and pulled directly from the job postings and online role descriptions that show up most often in your industry research. Furthermore, think about what you’ve accomplished in recent years: Were you in a new program at your current or most recent position? Did you take a class? Have you been leading team meetings? Incorporate these skills into your new resume.

7. Using Dated Phrases
An easy way to date yourself as an older or less up-to-date job seeker is using outdated phrases. For example, “references available upon request” or any mention of references is unnecessary as most online applications ask for them separately, or your recruiter will be sure to mention them if needed.

8. Saving the File Incorrectly
This last one may come as a surprise. Simply saving your resume under the filename “resume” may make organization easier for you; however, it makes your resume one amongst many unidentifiable files on the computer of a hiring manager. Including your first and last name in the resume file name along with the word “resume” helps it point to you as an individual before it’s even opened. Furthermore, unless otherwise requested, make sure to save your file as a PDF so that all of the careful formatting and style choices you worked on will be preserved.

2021’s Best & Worst Places for Veterans to Live

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Close up of male hand packing property in cardboard box with spouse in the background

With Veterans Day approaching and the veteran unemployment rate falling to 3.9% from the average of 6.5% in 2020, the personal-finance website WalletHub recently released its report on 2021’s Best & Worst Places for Veterans to Live.

The report compares the 100 largest U.S. cities across 20 key metrics, ranging from the share of military skill-related jobs to housing affordability and the availability of VA health facilities.

WalletHub also released the results of its 2021 Military Money Survey, which revealed that 77% of Americans agree that military families experience more financial stress than the average family.

To help with that, WalletHub’s editors selected 2021’s Best Military Credit Cards, which provide hundreds of dollars in annual savings potential.

Best Cities for Veterans
1. Tampa, FL
2. Austin, TX
3. Scottsdale, AZ
4. Raleigh, NC
5. Gilbert, AZ
6. Lincoln, NE
7. Madison, WI
8. Virginia Beach, VA
9. Orlando, FL
10. Boise, ID

Worst Cities for Veterans
91. Philadelphia, PA
92. North Las Vegas, NV
93. Cleveland, OH
94. San Bernardino, CA
95. Toledo, OH
96. Jersey City, NJ
97. Baltimore, MD
98. Memphis, TN
99. Newark, NJ
100. Detroit, MI

To view the full report and your city’s rank, please visit:
https://wallethub.com/edu/best-and-worst-cities-for-veterans/8156

Q&A with WalletHub Analyst Jill Gonzalez

What makes a city good or bad for veterans?

“How good or bad a city is for veterans depends on multiple factors, including the rates of poverty, unemployment and homelessness, as well as the city’s retirement-friendliness and how good its VA facilities are. All cities should be quick to take care of veterans’ needs, considering how much veterans have sacrificed to serve the country and keep it safe. However, some cities spend an appropriate amount of money on veterans affairs while others do not, either because they lack the funds to do so or because they do not put a high priority on veterans in the budget,” said Jill Gonzalez, WalletHub analyst. “While cities do have a responsibility to their veterans, so does the federal government. We spend an enormous amount of money on national defense and military operations, yet comparatively little on helping veterans once their service is done. It is distressing that there are tens of thousands of homeless veterans; that number should be reduced to zero.”

What can we do to reduce the financial stress on military families?

“The best way to reduce the financial stress on military families is by making sure that anyone in a war zone does not have to worry about their family’s basic living expenses while they’re fighting for our country. We should also improve financial education for members of the military community,” said Jill Gonzalez, WalletHub analyst. “Military families can undergo a tremendous amount of financial stress, especially when one parent is on the front lines and cannot be involved with managing the family’s finances. Plus, service members who are in active conflicts put their lives at risk, which risks even more of a financial burden on their family in the event that they die or end up with a disability. The least we can do for our military families is to take care of their basic needs.”

Does the military do enough to teach financial literacy?

“The military unfortunately does not do enough to promote financial literacy among service members. Not only do 76% of Americans agree that the military is lacking when it comes to financial literacy education, according to WalletHub’s 2021 Military Money Survey, but nearly 2 in 3 people think it’s a national security issue. Financially literate people who serve in the military can worry less about money problems and focus more on their duties, and are also less susceptible to coercion by foreign powers,” said Jill Gonzalez, WalletHub analyst. “But it’s important to remember that the military is not alone in its financial literacy deficiency. Most employers and big organizations in the U.S. fail to provide adequate information as well. Even schools don’t give students enough financial education.”

How are veterans impacted by COVID-19?

“The COVID-19 pandemic led to a big spike in veteran unemployment, but has now recovered to 3.9%, not too far above the nearly historic low of 3.2% seen in 2019,” said Jill Gonzalez, WalletHub analyst. “The pandemic is certain to increase homelessness among veterans, adding to the more than 37,000 veterans who were already homeless before it even started. There are millions of veterans who are over age 65, too, and the vast majority of COVID-19 deaths in the U.S. have been among people in that age group.”

Should Veterans List Military Colleagues as a Reference?

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Information on military service in application form

Picking references for your resume, no matter what field you plan to go into, can be as difficult as it is important. References should understand your character, assets and be able to advocate for your inclusion in a position. But as military veterans, many transitioning into the work force wonder if they should include references they became acquainted with during the military.

In short, the answer is yes, including military personnel in your resume can be greatly beneficial in making your resume stand out, but let’s look at why.

Military Experience Carries Over

Veterans have an abundance of qualities that carry over to the work force, even if they look a little bit different applied in the field. Organization, quick-thinking, leadership, ability to take direction, teamwork, the ability to adapt and the ability to take action are all traits that are desirable in the job field that veterans have become experts in. Throughout your time in the military, you spend the most time with your military colleagues, making them the most qualified people to have witnessed and to speak on how you put these traits in action in real-life situations.

Their Status Heightens Yours

If you are able to include a higher rank or a commanding officer as a reference, this can be a fantastic asset to your resume. Job candidates without military experience will often list past supervisors, managers or bosses as references to speak on how they implemented desirable work ethic in their last jobs. Not only do veterans have the desirable work ethic many jobs are looking for, as learned in the military, veterans have had to acquire these skills in one of the most strict and high stakes institutions available. If you are able to list a higher-ranking individual on your resume, this shows employers that you not only have the work ethic they’re looking for, but have been able to implement it to the praise of a much higher expectation than what is expected in the workforce.

They Add Diversity

Many professionals suggest having at least two or three references in your resume that have witnessed your character in different aspects of your life. Many people have opted to include a mixture of professors, teachers, previous bosses, coworkers, friends with professional statuses, volunteer organizers and mentors as references to cover all their bases. This means that while you won’t want to make all three of your references related back to the military, including at least one or two military references as part of your resume will show the diverse range of approval that you have from different aspects of your life.

Things to Remember

Now that you see the value in including military references, here are a few tips to remember when including them:

  1. Talk to your references before you include them: Once you have picked a potential reference, you will want to ask them if they are okay with being included. This is not only common courtesy, but allows your reference to prepare “what to say” and “how to say” to best highlight your assets to a future employer. Asking permission will also allow for your references an adequate amount of time to write a letter of recommendation should you need one for your desired position.
  2. List their name, title and point of contact: When listing a reference, don’t forget to include their title and a point of contact, so potential employers can quickly understand the significance of the individual who can speak so highly of you. Different companies may have a preference for an email contact or a telephone number contact, but make sure you include at least one of those avenues on your resume
  3. Pick the correct people: Remember to pick people who not only have a professional or higher-ranking status, but individuals who you would trust for this process and can truly attest to your abilities. The more knowledgeable and more favorably someone can speak of you, the more confident they will make potential employers in hiring you.

Stepping into the job field after leaving the military can be a daunting experience, but remember that you may be more qualified and desirable across the job field than you might realize. With these references by your side, you will be out in the workforce in no time.

Guide to Veterans Affairs benefits and loans

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Smiling woman in camouflage holding cardboard box and looking at camera with blurred military man on background

In a nutshell…The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs offers many benefits for eligible veterans, including VA loans, the GI Bill, job training, medical benefits and housing grants for disabled veterans.

After your time in military service, you may be eligible for numerous veteran benefits. The United States Department of Veterans Affairs, or VA, offers a range of services and assistance for eligible U.S. veterans and qualifying family members to help transition into civilian life.

Read on to understand the different benefits and loans available through the VA.

VA housing and homebuying assistance

One of the most well-known veteran benefits is VA housing assistance. It is meant to help veterans, service members and surviving spouses buy or build a home, refinance a home or make home improvements. Below are some of the specific programs and insights into each one.

VA home loans

A VA home loan is a type of mortgage loan that is backed by the Department of Veterans Affairs. Note that just because the loan is backed by the VA doesn’t mean it’s risk free. The VA backs the loan to protect the lender, not the borrower. If you miss payments, you still risk getting hit with late fees, decreased credit scores or — worse — possible home foreclosure. VA loans can be used to …

  • Buy a home
  • Build a home
  • Buy a home and fund improvements
  • Make energy-efficiency improvements to an existing home
  • Refinance an existing loan

Specific eligibility requirements can vary based on when you served. But veterans, surviving spouses and those joining the military today must generally meet one of the following eligibility criteria to qualify for a VA loan:

  • Served 90 total days of active service during wartime
  • Served 181 continuous days of active service during peacetime
  • Served six years of service in the National Guard or the Reserve
  • The applicant is a surviving spouse of a service member who died in the line of duty or passed away from ­a disability that resulted while serving.

Additional eligibility requirements apply in some circumstances, so check with the VA for specifics.

The VA offers just one type of direct loan — through its Native American Direct Loan program for purchases on qualifying tribal lands. Otherwise it offers borrowers indirect, VA-backed loans from private lenders that participate in the VA loan program. Be sure to shop around and compare mortgage rates to choose the best mortgage for you. Ask friends and family for lender recommendations and be sure to look at online reviews.

VA loan programs specify that the home purchase being financed must be for a property used as a primary residence. Here are some other rules to keep in mind:

  • Property requirements: VA loans are for single-family residences with one to four family units and must be primarily residential in nature.
  • Qualifying income considerations: VA loan rules on using rental income as qualifying income for the loan include having cash reserves for at least three months’ worth of mortgage payments and providing the previous two years of tax returns showing the rental income.

There are some key differences between VA loans and other types of mortgages that make VA loans so appealing. These differences are:

  • No down payment may be required: Most types of home loans generally require some form of down payment. The VA loan typically requires nothing down — although you can make a down payment if you want to try to lower your total loan amount and monthly payment. If your home is appraised at a lower value than the listing or asking price — or if the lender needs it to meet secondary market requirements — you may have to make a down payment.
  • The VA has no minimum credit score requirement: There are no credit score requirements set by the VA — however, the specific lender you go through to apply for a VA loan may have their own credit requirements.
  • You may not be subject to loan limits: Unlike FHA loans, VA loans of more than $144,000 do not have a borrowing limit, as long as you have full VA loan entitlement — meaning you have not already taken out a VA home loan, or you have fully repaid a previous VA loan.
  • You do not need mortgage insurance: Unless you put 20% down, lenders typically require mortgage insurance to protect themselves in case you don’t pay your mortgage. Since a VA loan is backed by the VA, you are not required to pay for mortgage insurance.
  • VA loans have a funding fee: VA loans may require a one-time funding fee. This fee can range from 0.5% to 3.6% of your loan, depending on a number of factors, and can be wrapped up in your loan if you’re unable to pay it outright.

Types of VA home loans

There are several types of VA loans that are designed especially for the varying borrowing purposes listed above. These are:

  • VA purchase loans: A loan program that qualifying individuals use to buy, improve or build a home
  • VA cash-out refinance loans: A loan program that allows qualifying veterans, service members or surviving spouses to replace an existing loan with a new one, allowing them to borrow against equity in their home or refinance a non-VA loan into a VA loan
  • VA interest rate reduction refinance loan (IRRRL): A program that allows qualifying individuals to refinance your VA loan under new terms, potentially allowing you to reduce your monthly mortgage payments or interest rate.

There are both fixed-rate and adjustable-rate VA mortgages. With fixed-rate mortgages, you lock in your interest rate for the life of the loan. With adjustable-rate mortgages, your interest rate fluctuates according to the index of interest rates. The VA no longer prescribes specific interest rates — adjustable-rate loan changes depend on whether the loan is a standard or hybrid adjustable rate mortgage. Be sure to talk with your lender about which option is best for you, and learn how often these rates are subject to adjustment.

Homeowners insurance for veterans

Like almost any type of mortgage, institutions offering VA loans will typically require the borrower to purchase homeowners insurance. Additionally, the VA requires borrowers to have a hazard insurance policy where appropriate (flood insurance, for example, in known flood zones), which may be included in the conventional homeowners policy required by your lender. It may be worth asking your insurer or agent about possible military discounts for these types of programs.

State-specific veterans benefits

If you do not qualify for a VA loan or you are simply looking for additional housing benefits, there are generally state-specific organizations and programs designed to help veterans and others with housing at the state level. Be sure to check with your local VA office to help point you in the right direction.

VA disability benefits and programs

If you became sick or injured while serving in the military, or have an existing condition that got worse as a result of military service, you may qualify for VA disability compensation. You can file a claim for VA disability compensation online or at your local VA regional office — or send the appropriate information via mail to the address below.

Department of Veterans Affairs

Claims Intake Center

P.O. Box 4444

Janesville, WI 53547-4444

You will need the following documentation to submit your claim:

  • Military discharge papers (DD214 or any other separation documents you may have)
  • Any service treatment records
  • Medical treatment records that show proof of disability (for example, doctor reports, X-rays, test results, doctor orders/recommendations for treatment, mental status examination or operative reports)

Be sure to apply for disability compensation as soon as possible since the claims process can take a while — generally in the neighborhood of four to five months. The VA site regularly updates the average time it takes to approve or deny a claim — it was 134.4 days as of June 2021 and 139.6 days as of July 2021.

VA benefits for disabled veterans

  • Disability compensation: This is a tax-free monthly benefit paid to disabled veterans who are considered 10% disabled or higher. The exact dollar amount you receive each month fluctuates based on the degree of your disability and if you have dependents.
  • Clothing allowance: This is an annual allowance for eligible veterans and service members whose clothing has been damaged by prosthetics/orthopedic devices or topical medication for a skin condition.
  • Service-disabled veterans’ life insurance (S-DVI): This insurance benefit is for eligible veterans who may have service-connected disabilities but are in good health otherwise. The amount of premium you pay depends on your age, the type of plan and the amount of coverage you need.

The eligibility requirements and application process for each benefit can change, so be sure to check with your local VA center to determine whether you qualify and how to access the benefit.

VA disability housing programs

  • Home Improvements and Structural Alterations (HISA): The HISA program provides up to $6,800 in funding for home improvements and structural alterations to a disabled veteran’s primary residence. The intent behind the program is to improve home accessibility.
  • Specially Adapted Housing grants (SAH): The SAH grant helps certain veterans and service members with disabilities work toward independent living by creating barrier-free environments.
  • Temporary Residence Adaptation grant (TRA): The TRA grant may be available as part of the SAH program described and linked above. It is used to help veterans and service members make accommodations when living temporarily in a family member’s home that needs changes to meet their needs.

Automobile allowance for veterans

Although the VA does not offer specialized car loans for all veterans, it does provide an automobile allowance for veterans and service members with qualifying injuries. This is a one-time allowance for disabled veterans and service members to help them purchase a vehicle that better accommodates their needs.

Qualifying individuals can use this allowance to purchase a new or used vehicle that is already equipped with adaptive equipment, or they can purchase and install adaptive equipment to an existing vehicle.

VA education, training and employment benefits

The VA offers several education, training and employment benefits to veterans, service members and their qualified dependents to help with education costs, finding a training program or career guidance and counseling. Below are the different VA education and training benefits.

  • Veteran Readiness & Employment (VR&E): The VR&E program is designed to help veterans and service members with service-related disabilities with job training, employment accommodations, resume developments and job-search coaching. In some cases, these benefits may extend to dependents.
  • Personalized Career Planning and Guidance (PCPG): The PCPG program offers education/training, career, academic, resume and goal-planning counseling to eligible service members, veterans and dependents.
  • Dependents and Survivors Educational Assistance: This is a specialized program for spouses and children of veterans or service members who died or received permanent disabilities while serving. The program helps with tuition, housing, books and school supply costs.
  • Veteran Employment Through Technology Education Courses (VET TEC): The VET TEC program helps veterans with training and educational courses in high-demand areas of the tech industry. The training is for computer software, computer programming, data processing, information science and media applications.
  • VetSuccess on Campus: This program is designed to help veterans and service members transition from life in service to life on campus. Each school that is a part of the program has a VA Vocational Rehabilitation Counselor to help support veterans with assistance needed to pursue their educational and employment goals.
  • Montgomery GI Bill Selected Reserve (MGIB-SR): The MGIB-SR program pays for up to 36 months of education or training benefits for qualifying reservists and members of the Army National Guard or Air National Guard.
  • The National Call to Service Program: This program offers a choice between a $5,000 cash bonus, up to $18,000 of student loan repayment, or educational assistance for eligible veterans who performed a period of national service.
  • Veteran Rapid Retraining Assistance Program (VRRAP): The VRRAP is a temporary program that provides up to 12 months of tuition and schooling fees as well as a monthly housing allowance for qualified veterans who became unemployed because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Eligibility for other unemployment and education benefits can impact eligibility for this program.

Next steps

To find out if you are eligible for VA home loan programs, visit the VA website or your local VA regional office to discuss the programs and your service record.

Continue to read the complete article on CreditKarma.com

4 Strategies for Rebounding from a Rejection Letter

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Young man with tablet computer checking his e-mail at home

Hunting for a post-military job can sometimes feel like a roller coaster. There are some definite highs in the job search, like spotting the perfect position for you, landing an interview and receiving an offer.

But unfortunately, there are also some lows mixed in – including the dreaded rejection letter.

While it may be disappointing, getting a rejection letter can actually help you in your job search. It offers you an opportunity to learn from the process and improve upon certain areas for the next dream job that crosses your path.

But, while you’re looking for that next opportunity, how can you stay motivated for the next search? While everyone will have their own process, here are our four strategies for rebounding from a rejection letter:

  • Take a minute. There’s no denying it – rejection stings. It’s true in life, love and even work. Before you dive back into the job hunt, take some time to process your disappointment. Talk with friends or fellow service members, go for a walk, meditate, eat a whole bag of chips (okay, maybe not that last one). You might even need more than a minute. It’s okay to take a breather from your job hunt. Though it can be hard to step back when you’re facing the end of your military career, a pause may be the key to landing your first post-military job.
  • Keep perspective. Remember, there’s only so much you can control in a job search. Maybe you were a great candidate, but there was only one open position and a lot of great applicants. “Maintain healthy expectations about the process and don’t lose hope,” said James Marfield, associate director of VA’s National Recruitment Service. “It is not necessarily an indictment on your candidacy – it may just be that the hiring manager had better qualified candidates to choose from.” While it may look from the outside like some people have it easy and catch all the breaks, everyone gets a rejection letter at some point in their career. Transitioning to a post-military career can be an especially big leap, but there are plenty of people who have successfully made the transition. Have faith that you will, too.
  • Look in the rear view mirror. You got as far as an interview, so you know you’re doing a lot of things right. If you’re applying for a federal job like one at VA, you made it through the recruiter and were referred to the hiring manager, which is a big step. Your resume and cover letter are on point, and you’ve completed all the right federal forms to accompany your application. Before you dive back in to your job hunt, take some time to review your interview performance and see if there’s anything you could improve. Do you need to come up with better examples for VA’s performance-based interview format, or did you remember to send a thank you letter after your interview? Each interview is great preparation for the next one, but if you want even more practice, ask a friend or family member to rehearse with you.
  • Move forward. Once the feeling of rejection starts to fade and you’re feeling positive again, jump back in to your search with renewed energy and enthusiasm. As you continue to apply, look for ways you can continue to add to your skills and improve your candidacy for a civilian career, whether that’s through volunteering, additional training or part-time work experiences. Veterans can take advantage of a free year of LinkedIn premium, which includes access to training through LinkedIn Learning. The Department of Defense also offers transition assistance for Veterans, including training, apprenticeships and internships through SkillBridge.

No roller coaster lasts forever – even the job search coaster. While there may be more than one “no” along the way, all you need is one “yes” to land your dream post-military job.

Source: VAntage Point Blog and VA Careers (blogs.va.gov)

Kellie Pickler: On a Mission to Serve

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Collage of Kellie Pickler images

Interview and Story by Tawanah Reeves-Ligon

Not everyone has been called to serve as a member of our Armed Forces, but country star, actress, television host and philanthropist Kellie Pickler feels it’s her duty to serve the called.

By partnering with the USO (United Service Organizations), one of the nation’s leading nonprofit charities dedicated to members of the military and their families, Pickler, alongside other celebrities, gets the chance to give back to a community that means the world to her. “They have enabled me to be a part of something that matters,” she shared. “Working with the USO, it’s really all about keeping the families connected and keeping our servicemen and women connected with their loved ones.

We take a piece of home to them…when we do holiday tours, we take a professional athlete, a singer, comedian, actor, actress and just develop this show with them. We sign [autographs], laugh; we take pictures. We have breakfast, lunch and dinner. If they’re stationed somewhere where their families are able to be with them, we have family day. We get to break bread together and laugh and share their stories…break up the monotony of what they do.”

And Pickler, a North Carolina native, was a great choice for this role because she is a wiz at putting on a show. The now 35-year-old got her start in the industry in 2005 on the fifth season of American Idol, finishing in sixth place.

WASHINGTON, DC – OCTOBER 27: Kellie Pickler sings with the U.S. Army Chorus at the American Veterans Center’s “American Valor: A Salute to Our Heroes” Veterans Day special on October 27, 2018 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Shannon Finney/Getty Images)

Her debut album sold over 900,000 copies, was certified gold and produced three top 20 singles on the Billboard “Hot Country Songs” charts. During her music career, Pickler has won or been nominated for numerous awards, such as the CMT Music Awards Breakthrough Video of the Year, Top New Female Vocalist of the Year, Female Video of the Year, Collaborative Video of the Year and Performance of The Year. She’s also won the prestigious Songwriter Award twice from the American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers.

Later, after the release of her fourth studio album, The Woman I Am, Pickler went on to win the sixteenth season of Dancing with the Stars, alongside professional dancer Derek Hough in 2013. She would also go on to star in two successful television programs, I Love Killie Pickler, a reality show about her life with husband Kyle Jacobs, as well as Pickler & Ben, a daytime talk show she hosted for two years alongside influencer Ben Aaron.

Pickler has also starred in television movies for Hallmark, Christmas at Graceland, Wedding at Graceland and The Mistletoe Secret. However, for Pickler, these achievements are not the hallmark of her career or representative of her purpose. “…accolades, awards, that don’t matter. People matter,” Pickler said. “You never wake up after doing the right thing and think, ‘I wish I hadn’t done the right thing there.’ It’s easy to be kind; it’s easy to love your neighbor.”

NASHVILLE, TN – APRIL 29: (L-R) Kyle Jacobs, Recording Artist Kellie Pickler, Allison Baker, Andi Zack-Johnson and Ken Johnson attend the St. Jude Rock ‘n’ ROll Nashville Marathon on April 29, 2017 in Nashville, Tennessee. (Photo by Jason Davis/Getty Images for St. Jude)

For Pickler, her real job is about what happens offstage, “I know that I was not put on this Earth to just be a country singer, performer and entertainer. That’s just my vehicle to get me through the door. I know what my calling is. I know that my purpose in life is to be a voice for the broken, to be a sanctuary for people.

I’m not perfect by no means. I know my heart. I know my integrity. And that’s not for sale. I feel very blessed to be in a position where I can use my gifts and blessings…” As a USO Ambassador, Pickler is excited about taking the opportunity to give back to those who she knows are prepared to give everything for our citizens and our country.

According to her, “It’s imperative that they know (and that the families know) that we have their backs too. It takes a very selfless person to do what they do.” She is especially sensitive to the families of servicemembers, “The families serve. I’m very close with many Gold Star Families and Gold Star Wives. The USO is a community that’s very, very much needed.

When someone gets that folded flag at their front door, that dreaded conversation, it’s imperative that they have community around them, to love them, help them, be there for their children…The USO has kept so many families connected, and even connected me with these families, in a way that I can have a relationship with them and let them know that they aren’t alone.”

KANDAHAR, AFGHANISTAN: Kellie Pickler signs autographs after performing for U.S. service members as part of USO’s holiday tour.
(Photo by /The Washington Post via Getty Images)

The USO sponsors many programs with these goals in mind and works in over 250 locations. Their programs, predominately, fall into one of four categories: Unites, Delivers, Entertains or Transitions. Each category represents one part of the mission to keep servicemembers in touch with the places, people and positivity they need to keep going.

Programs include, but aren’t limited to: the Bob Hope Legacy Program, which helps servicemembers read to their children virtually; USO Coffee Connections, which gathers military spouses together at monthly gatherings in comfortable spaces where they can share and relate; USO Care Package Program, which delivers familiar snacks, toiletries and hygiene essentials to troops, predominately those overseas; and of course their many resources for those transitioning (or who have transitioned) out of military service.

Participating in the promotion of these programs, as well as having the chance to meet and link with servicemembers and their families, has been a dream for Pickler.

Though she and her immediate family did not come from a military background, she still feels as though she can serve, love on and relate to these families in her own way.

LAS VEGAS, NV – APRIL 07: Singer Kellie Pickler (L) and Staff Sgt. Baily Zimmerman perform onstage during ACM Presents: An All-Star Salute To The Troops in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images for ACM)

“We all have so much more in common than we realize,” she said. “I do feel that in my line of work, the music business is all about putting truth in the form of a song. I believe that there’s several songs of mine that have been autobiographical where I was able to put a pinprick of my life into a song. But it’s helped people heal. I do believe in sharing parts of my story…” Pickler continued, saying that her time, her story and her music have “brought people together and helped people find closure in whatever it is that they’re going through.” And that’s where the fulfillment comes from for her.

“There are countless things that the USO has done [for our servicemembers], and, again, it’s been just very life changing for me to be a part of the USO family. I feel that’s the way that I can serve those who serve.”

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