From Serving to Studying: Veterans’ Education Benefits

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Get tips on how to make the most of education benefits for veterans.

Did you know that more veterans than ever are using their education benefits? In fact, nationwide, the number of veterans using these benefits increased by about 67 percent between 2012 and 2009, according to McClatchy DC. Taking advantage of these benefits is a great way to help ensure a successful transition back to civilian life and work toward long-term goals. From college classes to on-the-job training, a world of educational opportunities awaits veterans and their families—as does a range of benefits to help fund those opportunities.

Here is how to make the most of the benefits available to you:

1. Do your homework. Start by learning all you can about the key Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) programs available under the GI Bill, which include the following:

Post-9/11 GI Bill. This program offers 36 months of tuition and training benefits to those who served after September 10, 2001. Unused benefits can be transferred to your spouse or children.
Montgomery GI Bill. Veterans who contributed $1,200 to the program while on Active Duty can get funding for higher education and training. You may qualify for one of the four categories of eligibility, depending on when you enlisted and how long you served.

Veterans Educational Assistance Program (VEAP). If you made VEAP contributions from your military pay from April 1, 1987 onward, the government will match those amounts two-for-one, up to a maximum of $300 a month for full-time training. Benefits may be used for a college degree program, technical courses, apprenticeships and more.

Vocational Rehabilitation & Employment (VR&E). This program helps veterans with a service-connected disability prepare for and find work. Benefits include financial assistance for college, technical or business school, on-the-job training, employment counseling and rehabilitation services. Vets.gov offers an online GI Bill Comparison Tool to help you research approved education programs and estimate your benefit amounts.

2. Weigh options carefully. Selecting a benefit could make you ineligible for other benefits, so choose carefully. For example, deciding to receive Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits means you’ll have to say no to Montgomery GI Bill funding.

3. Watch the clock. Once your military service ends, you have a limited time to use your education benefits—15 years for the Post-9/11 GI Bill and 10 years for the Montgomery GI Bill. However, your time limit is reset if you re-enter Active Duty for more than 90 days.

4. Follow the money. It might take some digging, but you can find a wealth of education funding out there beyond your GI Bill benefits. You may be eligible for other state, federal and private education programs and scholarships.

For example:
Starbucks® offers free college tuition to veteran employees, spouses and children at the online campus of Arizona State University. Troops to Teachers is a U.S. Department of Defense program that helps eligible veterans begin new careers as teachers. Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) offers veteran scholarships of up to $5,000, along with guidance on receiving VA benefits. To help you find the funding you need, try military.com’s Scholarship Finder.

5. Take time to plan. Your education benefits can be used for a range of options, from a full college degree to technical training, on-the-job apprenticeships and work-study programs, and even flight training. Having so many possibilities can seem overwhelming, so make sure you think about your personal career goals and the types of learning environments that are the best fit for you. You’ve worked hard to earn your benefits, so plan carefully to ensure you make the most of them. If you need additional financial help, consider whether a private student loan from Navy Federal is right for you.

Veteran Student Benefits

Source: Navy Federal

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.

Why Veterans With GI Bill Benefits Still Take Out Student Loans

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servicemember holding school books

Why are so many veterans taking out student loans when GI bill benefits cover full tuition and fees at public universities, and at least partial tuition and fees at private universities?

In new survey results released today, The Pew Charitable Trusts found that most veterans who take out student loans do so to pay living expenses. Even though bill benefits also include stipends to cover books, supplies, and housing allowances, veteran borrowers face unique challenges and often have to juggle additional financial obligations, such as child care.

Nearly 6 in 10 U.S. military veterans who have taken out student loans cite living expenses, such as housing and child care, as their main reason for borrowing, according to a first-of-its-kind, nationally representative survey of veterans who have taken out student loans.

The survey—conducted for The Pew Charitable Trusts among veterans who served after Sept. 11, 2001—helps shed light on a key mystery: why so many are taking on student loan debt despite having access to robust Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits.

A separate Pew analysis done earlier this year using U.S. Department of Education data found that just over a quarter of veterans in undergraduate programs took out loans, with a median amount of $8,000 in the 2015-16 academic year.

The questions in the survey were crafted to give a better sense of how veterans use the borrowed money, including a request to rank the expenses covered with student loan dollars. Among the key findings:

  • 58% of those who took out student loans said they borrowed primarily to cover living expenses. The most commonly cited were housing costs (21%) and day-to-day expenses, such as groceries and child care (17%). (See Figure 1 for more detail.)
  • 42% cited educational expenses as the primary cost they borrowed to cover. Most chose tuition and fees (36%), while a small proportion selected books and supplies (6%).

Read the complete article on Pewtrusts.org

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.”

Answering Your Top Questions on the Yellow Ribbon Program

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Female cadet with backpack and laptop against American flag. Military education

The Yellow Ribbon Program, as many veterans turned students know, is a provision of the Post-9/11 GI Bill that can help cover the expenses that do not automatically apply for veterans.

Unlike the GI Bill, the Yellow Ribbon Program acts similarly to a scholarship, in that it must be met by certain criteria and enter into an agreement between your school and the Department of Veteran Affairs. This provision, though helpful, can come with a lot of questions on its proceedings. Here are some of the top questions on the Yellow Ribbon Program, answered.

What do I need to qualify for the Yellow Ribbon Program?

To qualify to receive the Yellow Ribbon benefits a veteran must meet at least one of the following criteria:

  • Served at least 36 months on active duty (either all at once or with breaks in service)
  • Received a Purple Heart on or after September 11, 2001, and were honorably discharged after any amount of service
  • Served for at least 30 continuous days (all at once, without a break) on or after September 11, 2001, and were discharged after 60 days with a service-connected disability
  • Are a dependent child using benefits transferred by a Veteran or a service member who has served for at least 36 months on active duty and qualifies at the 100% level
  • Are a Fry Scholar (eligible for the Yellow Ribbon Program on or after August 1, 2018

What does my school need to qualify for the Yellow Ribbon Program?

For schools to eligible in the Yellow Ribbon Program, they must adhere to all of the following criteria:

  • Must be an institution of higher learning
  • Offers the Yellow Ribbon Program
  • Hasn’t offered the Yellow Ribbon benefit to more than the maximum number of students in their agreement with the VA
  • Has certified your enrollment with the VA and provided Yellow Ribbon Program information

How do benefits work through the program?

Money to help pay for the higher cost of tuition at a private school or for attendance as a nonresident student at a public school. If you qualify, your school will contribute a certain amount toward your extra tuition and fees through a grant, scholarship, or similar program. Whatever contribution is provided will be matched by the VA.
Do all students in the Yellow Ribbon Program receive the same amount of funding?

This depends on the school. Schools can choose to offer different amounts to students based on 2 factors:

  • Student status (undergraduate, graduate, doctoral), and
  • Type of school (college or professional)

For example, a school could provide $1,000 for undergraduates, $1,500 for graduate students and $2,000 for doctoral students. The school also could provide $1,800 for students in the school of engineering and $2,500 for students in the school of nursing.

Will all of my tuition and fees be paid if my school participates in the Yellow Ribbon Program?

This depends on the agreement we have with your school. Your school’s agreement with the VA states how much it will contribute and how much we’ll match. This amount makes up all or part of the difference between what the Post-9/11 GI Bill will pay and the unmet tuition and fees.

What fees will the program cover?

The Yellow Ribbon Program may cover any required fees to your education. This does not include penalty fees, room and board, and study abroad programs that are not required to your graduation.

Do I have to attend full time to be in the Yellow Ribbon Program?

No, part-time students may also qualify.

If I participate in the program this year, will I automatically receive the same amount of funding next year?

Yes, as long as you stay enrolled without interruption.

If I leave my school, but return after a semester, am I still approved for the Yellow Ribbon Program?

If the school still offers the program, they must continue to give you funding as long as you meet all of the requirements listed below:

  • Make acceptable progress toward completing your school
  • Stay enrolled in the school without a break (following the school’s policy)
  • Have money left in your Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits

Source: Wikipedia and the Department of Veterans Affairs

10 Tips for College-Seeking Veterans

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Veteran in uniform holding books with a U.S. flag behind him

These tips are courtesy of the National Association of Veterans’ Programs Administrator (NAVPA).

These are their 10 best suggestions for returning veterans thinking about going to college as reported to U.S. News and World Report.

  1. Start by applying. Whether you are a first-time college student or a transfer student, you must fill out an application. Go to the school’s website to find the requirement and deadlines. Provide transcripts and test scores as needed and your DD-214 for credits you might have earned while in the service. Take a tour of the campus—either online or in person.
  2. Meet the School Certifying Official. Find the Veterans Office on campus and introduce yourself. You will be asked to provide various documents and complete different forms so your enrollment can be certified to the VA.
  3. Get your GI Bill benefits. There are many different programs and a wide variety of education benefits offered by the VA. The Post-9/11 GI Bill (including Transfer of Benefits), Montgomery GI Bill, the Yellow Ribbon Program, and Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment, to name a few. Additionally, individual states offer varying opportunities to National Guardsmen (some of the benefits come with different levels of eligibility). Whether you are a reservist, in the National Guard, or on active duty, you should check the VA website or discuss your benefits with the school’s certifying official. You can find a wealth of information—as well as the application for benefits—at the GI Bill website.
  4. Apply for financial aid. All students can apply for financial aid by filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) by going to http://www.fafsa.gov. This aid can be for grants, loans, and/or work-study.
  5. Apply for scholarships. There are many types of scholarships available based on merit, academics, or athletics, as well as private and general scholarships by area of interest. Some schools offer scholarships specifically for veterans. You just have to look. Check the school’s website and always remember: do not pay for any scholarship application.
  6. Find a place to live. The key to being placed in housing is making sure you indicate you are a veteran on all forms. By doing so, you may be able to select a roommate from the beginning. Otherwise, you might be assigned a room with traditional students (just out of high school), which can be awkward with your recent military experience. Many colleges have housing set aside for veterans; make use of it.
  7. Get an advisor. Every student is assigned to an advisor. Some schools have advisors specifically for veterans; smaller schools may not, but curriculum is standard for majors at each school. Interaction with the advisor will assist you in developing a suitable educational plan, making your course selections, and determining your major. This person will get to know you and empower you in decision-making skills in education, career, and life choices.
  8. Take the CLEP. The College Level Examination Program is a series of exams you can take to test your college-level knowledge on what you have learned through on-the-job training, professional development, etc. There is a wide range of exams both general and subjective, with up to six credits each. The cost of a CLEP is fractional compared to the cost of tuition and fees. It could assist in skipping general introductory courses, general education classes, or could even demonstrate your ability in a foreign language.
  9. Connect with other veterans on campus. Veterans Centers are popping up on many campuses. They are the place to meet other veterans, to do peer-to-peer networking, to connect student veterans with resources, and to help you to get involved or simply hang out. If there is no center on campus, start one. Student Veterans of America can assist you in forming a chapter at your school.
  10. Get career training and develop skills. Career services and job placement are available for you while getting your education. Resume writing and mock interviews are offered. You can be placed in an internship or co-op program related to your career goal and earn college credits as well as a stipend or small paycheck.

Source: Aims Community College

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

VA Expands Post 9/11 GI Bill Benefits for Dependents

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For many, the opportunity to pursue education and training beyond high school is not easily within reach. When military members are asked why they serve, the available GI Bill® education benefits are often one reason.

As a part of their earned benefits, active-duty men and women can also transfer all or part of their Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits to their spouse and/or dependent children. This is called Transfer of Entitlement (TOE). Those wishing to transfer entitlement to a dependent must be sure to do this while still on active duty.

The option to transfer education assistance to dependent family members provides them with the financial means to pay for their education and training.

However, until recently, this benefit was not available to all dependent children. With the recent passing of the Johnny Isakson and David P. Roe Veterans Health Care and Benefits Improvement Act of 2020, commonly referred to as Isakson and Roe, beginning January 6, 2021, service members can transfer all or part of their Post-9/11 GI Bill entitlement to their ward or foster child. This new law changes how VA administers education benefits, and more importantly, is a major step in recognizing the diversity of the nation’s military families and their unique needs.

According to the Department of Defense, more than five million people are part of today’s military family. The men and women who serve in our nation’s armed forces are a diverse group. So, too, are their families, to include spouses, children and other family members who represent varying demographics, experiences and needs. With the implementation of Isakson and Roe, VA is able to address the needs of more families and ensure that the GI Bill’s purpose is further realized.

Now, even more military dependents can receive help paying for tuition, books and housing using Post-9/11 GI Bill education benefits. Eligible dependents, who are pursuing a degree or certification in a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) field, can maximize their benefits through the Edith Nourse Rogers STEM Scholarship. To help pay for higher out-of-state, private or graduate tuition that the Post-9/11 GI Bill doesn’t cover, the Yellow Ribbon Program provides additional assistance.

In addition to education and training, GI Bill benefits can provide other assistance to eligible students, such as help with paying for certain test fees and help with deciding on the right school or program, using the GI Bill Comparison Tool.

In support of our nation’s military families, VA will continue to do its part to acknowledge the differences that make them unique, while ensuring that their unique needs are also met.

Source: VAntage Point (blogs.va.gov)

Going Back to School as a Military Spouse

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black woman college student holding a book

You’ve made the rewarding choice to go back to school. By pursuing your education goals, you can expand your job opportunities and boost your earning power. But where should you start?

And what military spouse scholarships are out there to help?

Start with Spouse Education and Career Opportunities — SECO. The SECO program can provide you with the resources you need to get back in the education game. The MySECO website, built exclusively for military spouses, ensures you have 24/7 online access to information fora successful return to school.

Visit the MySECO Education, Training and Licensing section to identify your education path, plan for your education and compare colleges. You can also connect with a career coach who can help you decide on an education path and how to pay for it.

Choosing the right education and training

Got a career in mind? The career you choose will determine the type of program you’ll need. Take a look at the differences between each program and decide what’s best for you.

■ Certificate Program:
Can take a few weeks, months or years to complete, depending on the subject matter. Typically focuses on specific skills and are offered at community colleges or technical schools.

■ Associate Degree:
Takes about two years to complete. Offered by community colleges, an associate degree focuses on entry-level specialization within a field.

■ Bachelor’s Degree:
Takes about four years to complete. Four-year colleges and universities award a bachelor’s degree in the arts or sciences.

■ Advanced Degree:
Takes anywhere between two and four years to complete. Degrees beyond a bachelor’s degree can include master’s, specialist, professional and doctoral degrees.

Options for a mobile military life

Don’t let a move stop you from going back to school. Consider online education or satellite campuses. You can discover and compare schools based on location, learning format, the ability to transfer credits and more with the College Scorecard on MySECO.

Scholarships for military spouses
Wondering how much is this going to cost you? Fortunately, there’s help out there. Check MySECO for financial assistance resources and career development opportunities offered specifically to military spouses and family members.

The My Career Advancement Account Scholarship is a workforce development program that provides eligible military spouses with up to $4,000 in financial assistance for licenses, certifications or associate degrees to pursue an occupation or career field. Military spouses can sometimes take advantage of their spouse’s GI Bill® benefits. Visit the veterans’ benefits section online for more information.

The U.S. Department of Education provides billions of dollars of educational loans and grants for qualifying students each year. In order to be considered for financial aid, you’ll need to complete a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).

To view the FAFSA form, and for more information, visit https://studentaid.gov/h/apply-for-aid/fafsa.

Source: MilitaryOneSource

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)

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