Guide to Veterans Affairs benefits and loans

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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

Veterans at Bloomberg Bring Their Values and Skills to the Workplace

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Service doesn’t stop at the military; it extends into the civilian world. But the transition from military to civilian life can be challenging. Matching veterans’ strengths with employers’ needs fosters growth, understanding and success for all.

At Bloomberg, we respect and admire our employees’ service and appreciate that our own values – like innovation, collaboration, and doing the right thing – are equally recognized within the military and veteran community.

Here, members of our military & veterans community share how they have transferred their values and skills to the workplace:

 

 

Samuel Etienne

Royal Artillery Officer, British Army / Reporter and Associate Producer, Bloomberg News

Which values and skills from the military have been useful as a Bloomberg employee? 

Adapt and overcome. I used the problem-solving tools and mindset required to quickly adapt to new situations and formulate plans to overcome challenges to great length during the newsroom rotator program; I would change jobs every three months for a year and have to learn new working processes, jargon, and skills within a short time frame in order to add value promptly.

 

Jamilla Smith

Jamilla Smith

Operations Sergeant, Army Reserves / HBCU Diversity Recruiter

Which values and skills from the military have been useful as a Bloomberg employee?

The values & skills I gained from the military are leadership, integrity, attention to detail, resourcefulness, teamwork, and adaptability. They’ve been useful in my role as a Diversity Recruiter because I have to use attention to detail when I engage with my schools, candidates, and stakeholders. I have to be adaptable as things change at Bloomberg and in the recruitment space, and must be resourceful to try resolving things as much as I can with the resources I have, while collaborating with my team to get the “mission” job done.

 

Matthew Fell

Matthew Fell

Officer, Royal Engineers / COO, D&I function

Which values and skills from the military have been useful as a Bloomberg employee?

The values I have found most useful are selfless commitment and respect for others. Integrity is very high up there as well. They are three of the six values that are instilled in us as members of the British Army. In terms of skills, good communication is key in any walk of life and being able to communicate well is critical to being able to get projects and tasks completed successfully at Bloomberg.

 

Gabriel Sanchez

Gabriel Sanchez

Corporal (meritorious), Legal Services Specialist, United States Marine Corps / Earnings Specialist, Breaking News

Which values and skills from the military have been useful as a Bloomberg employee?

“Grow where you’re planted.” One does not make many choices about where they are or what they do in the military. The reminder to be content with what one has, while working with what’s at hand to strive for more, is often useful.

Click here to read the full article on Bloomberg.

Great Jobs for Veterans You May Not Have Considered

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Law enforcement, IT management and the medical field are all career fields that you’ve been told are great for veterans. And while these jobs are fantastic for transitioning veterans in almost every way, they are far from the only options veterans can pursue in their post-military life. Suppose you’re looking for a career different from the “veteran norm” while still providing job security and reasonable salaries. In that case, one of these unique career profiles might be for you:

Dental Hygienist

Job Description: Dental hygienists examine patients for signs of oral diseases, such as gingivitis, and provide preventive care, including oral hygiene.

They also educate patients about oral health. Their job tasks usually include teeth cleaning, taking x-rays, assessing oral health and documenting patient care.

Desired Skillset:

  • Critical thinking
  • Communication
  • Problem-solving skills
  • Dexterity

Education: Dental hygienists typically need an associate degree in dental hygiene; they may also get a bachelor’s degree. Programs usually take three years to complete and offer laboratory, clinical and classroom instruction. Areas of study include anatomy, medical ethics and periodontics — the study of gum disease.

Annual Salary: $77,810

Air Traffic Controller

Job Description: Air traffic controllers coordinate the movement of aircraft to maintain safe distances between them. They manage the flow of aircraft into and out of the airport airspace, guide pilots during takeoff and landing and monitor aircraft as they travel through the skies.

Desired Skillset:

  • Communication
  • Multi-tasking
  • Decision-making skills
  • Math proficiency

Education: Candidates who want to become air traffic controllers typically need an associate or bachelor’s degree, often from an AT-CTI program. Bachelor’s degree fields vary; examples include transportation, business or engineering. Other candidates must have three years of progressively responsible work experience, have completed four years of college or have a combination of both.

Annual Salary: $129,750

School Principal

Job Description: Elementary, middle and high school principals oversee all school operations, including daily activities. They coordinate curriculums, manage staff and provide students with a safe and productive learning environment. In public schools, principals also implement standards and programs set by the school district and state and federal regulations. They evaluate and prepare reports based on these standards by assessing their school’s student achievement and teacher performance.

Desired Skillset:

  • Interpersonal skills
  • Leadership
  • Problem-solving skills
  • Communication

Education: Principals typically need a master’s degree in education leadership or education administration. These master’s degree programs teach prospective principals how to manage staff, create budgets, set goals and work with parents and the community. Principals also need teaching experience.

Annual Salary: $98,870

Wind Turbine Technician

Job Description: Wind turbine service technicians, also known as windtechs, install, maintain and repair wind turbines. They are usually responsible for inspecting wind turbine towers’ exterior and physical integrity, performing maintenance and repairs and collecting turbine data.

Desired Skillset:

  • Physical strength
  • Physical stamina
  • Troubleshooting skills
  • Detail-oriented

Education: Most windtechs learn their trade by attending technical schools or community colleges, where they typically complete certificates in wind energy technology. However, some workers choose to earn an associate degree. Windtechs usually acquire knowledge in mechanical systems, computers, electrical and hydraulic maintenance, first aid, rescue and safety and CPR.

Annual Salary: $56,260

Railroad Workers

Job Description: Railroad workers ensure that passenger and freight trains run on time and travel safely. Some workers drive trains, some coordinate the activities of the trains and others operate signals and switches in the rail yard.

Desired Skillset:

  • Customer-service skills
  • Hearing and visual ability
  • Hand-eye coordination
  • Leadership skills

Education: Rail companies typically require workers to have a high school diploma or equivalent. However, employers may prefer to hire workers with postsecondary education, such as coursework, a certificate, or an associate or bachelor’s degree. Locomotive engineers and conductors must be certified by the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA).

Annual Salary: $64,150

Sources: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Trade-schools.net

How ABC’s Stephanie Ramos Built Her Journalism Career While Serving In The U.S. Army

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I’ve always known that I wanted to be a reporter. I started watching the news around 10th grade, and I was a big fan of WNBC. I learned that you could make so much of an impact on people’s lives as a reporter, and that really motivated me.

So, as soon as I got to college, I declared my major as broadcast journalism. While I was still in undergrad, 9/11 happened. As a native New Yorker, I wanted to do something for my country; I wanted to be a part of something bigger, and I was drawn to the military.

I initially planned to join the Marines, but I ran into an Army recruiter before my decision was final, and they were able to offer me a schedule that worked better for pursuing my education and military service at the same time. I started as an enlisted soldier; then, after completing basic training and receiving my master’s degree in mass communication and media studies, I was commissioned and became a public affairs officer. I started out as a private; now, I’m a major in the Army Reserve.

I moved my way up the ranks while moving around the country: in South Carolina, I worked as an assignment editor for WIS-TV; in Kansas, as a television news reporter for WIBW-TV; in Missouri, as an anchor for KMBC; in Washington, D.C., as a multi-platform reporter for ABC.

During that time, I remained in the Reserve, reporting to units that corresponded with each new location, participating in training exercises and taking military courses. In 2008, while I was in Kansas, I deployed to Baghdad for the first time for a year, serving as a historical ambassador at Camp Slayer in Victory Base Complex.

Initially, finding out I was being deployed was a shock, but I also knew that that’s what I signed up for. I had about a month to pack everything up, tell my employer, then take off. My employer was very understanding; we even did a lot of stories about me leaving: the process and the steps you have to take to put your civilian life on hold before deploying to another country.

Being away from home was hard at first; it was lonely. What I tried to keep in mind during that year was not to become complacent. While deployed, I volunteered with the Iraqi Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts, which was the most meaningful experience to me; they were so aware that they were in the middle of a war—they knew why we were there—and still, they just had so much joy. I could never get over that.

A lot of the luxuries that we have here, you don’t have over there. I realized that I don’t need much, as long as I have my health and my routine.

Eventually, when I returned home, I settled into my current role as an ABC News national correspondent, covering stories that range from military issues—including the murder of Vanessa Guillén, a 20-year-old U.S. soldier who went missing in April 2020 and was later found to have been killed by fellow solider Aaron David Robinson inside an armory at Fort Hood, Texas—to mental health crises in Latinx communities to Miss USA cheating allegations.

Balancing two careers at the same time has been challenging, but my time in the military is also what helped me in the news business. Anything can be thrown my way, and I’m just like, “Everyone calm down, we can do this. It’s okay.”

Read the complete article originally posted on Women’s Health Magazine here.

Utilizing your COOL Benefits

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Created by the Department of Defense, Credentialing Opportunities On-Line (COOL) is the result of extensive inter-service collaboration to facilitate credentialing of service members.

All services recognize the important role that occupational credentials can play in professionalizing the force and in enhancing the service member’s ability to transition to the civilian workforce upon completion of military service. The Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps and Coast Guard each have their own service-specific COOL programs designed to match military occupations to civilian credentials (occupational certifications, licenses and apprenticeships) and provide resources to help Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, Marines and Coast Guardsmen attain these credentials. The services disseminate this information on their own COOL websites.

What does COOL help me do?

DOD COOL contains resources and information on credentialing and the military for decision makers, leaders, agencies and other interested parties. It is intended as a workforce professionalization tool for active duty, reserve and civilian personnel to understand what their military training could translate to in the workforce and the professional development opportunities available in their career field. COOL is also a main hub for credentialing agencies and resources to help new veterans have a smooth transition into the civilian workforce.

The branch-specific COOL sites contain a variety of service-specific information about certifications and licenses related to military occupations. Use the branch-specific COOL sites to:

  • Get background information about civilian licensure and certification in general and specific information on individual credentials, including eligibility and testing requirements and resources to prepare for an exam.
  • Identify licenses and certifications relevant to individual military occupations.
  • Learn how to fill gaps between military training and experience and civilian credentialing requirements.
  • Learn about resources available to service members that can help them gain civilian job credentials.

Depending on qualifications and specifics, COOL can also fully cover the costs associated with certain credentials needed for your civilian career.

That being said, COOL is not a credentialing agency or testing center in and of itself. Service members do not get credentials from COOL or take tests or purchase training materials through COOL. It also doesn’t create credentialing standards, nor is it reserved exclusively for veterans, being used primarily by service members.

What does my branch COOL website provide?

For ease of use, the COOL sites are all organized in the same way. The key differences among the sites are the personnel categories covered and the scope of credentials paid for by the respective service. The following highlights the similarities and differences:

    Army

    Enlisted members:

  • Credential information, including Promotion Points, Skill Level and Star credentials
  • Credential payment for all credentials listed on Army COOL
    Warrant Officer:

  • Credential information
  • Credential payment for all credentials listed
    Officer:

  • Credential information for select Advanced Operations Courses
  • Credential payment for all credentials listed on Army COOL
    Navy

    Enlisted members:

  • Credential information
  • Credential payment for all credentials directly related to the rating or to an embedded skill set
    Officer:

  • Credential information, including Cybersecurity Workforce (CSWF)
  • Credential payment for certain mandatory credentials
    DOD civilians:

  • Credential information, including Cybersecurity Workforce (CSWF)
  • Credential payment for certain mandatory credentials
    Air Force

    Enlisted members:

  • Credential information
  • Credential payment for all credentials directly related to the rating or to an embedded skill set
    Marine Corps

    Enlisted members:

  • Credential information
  • Credential payment for all credentials directly related to the rating or to an embedded skill set
    DOD civilians:

  • Limited credential information, for Cybersecurity Workforce (CSWF)
  • Credential information for select federal occupational series with more to be added on an ongoing basis
    Coast Guard

    Enlisted members:

  • Credential information
  • Credential payment for all credentials directly related to the rating or to an embedded skill set
    DOD Civilian

    Enlisted members:

  • Credential information

To learn more about COOL and your branch specific website, visit cool.osd.mil.

Source: DOD COOL

U.S. Veterans Magazine Wins Two Awards in One Week

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Tonya Kinsey smiles while holding award in her hands

U.S. Veterans Magazine, the premier resource magazine for transitioning service members, service-disabled veterans, veteran business owners and their spouses and families, has been awarded two prestigious awards in just one week.

The first award was received on November 7th from Veterans Legal Institute (VLI). Each year, VLI reviews the contributions given by their partners and chooses a group to recognize for their continual support of veterans. This year, U.S. Veterans Magazine was the recipient of VLI’s Community Partner of the Year award for its dedication and contribution to veterans.

The second award was received just a few days later, on November 9th from the National Veteran Business Development Council (NVBDC). Every year, the Board of Officers at NVBDC reviews the activity of their corporations, members, certified veterans and partners, and recognizes individuals and groups for their dedication to going above and beyond to support veterans. This year, U.S. Veterans Magazine and its Partnerships Division Lead, Tonya Kinsey, were the recipients of the Media Partner of the Year Award.

“I am extremely proud of the work U.S. Veterans Magazine is doing through important organizations that value our veterans and give them vital resources when they most need them,” Kinsey stated of the honor, “I have worked closely with both organizations to help them expand their platform and highlight their stories.  We truly value their partnerships and are honored to have received recognition from both organizations!”

“We are so honored to receive these awards from these two veteran-focused organizations,” U.S. Veterans Magazine Publisher and Founder, Mona Lisa Faris, said of the awards. “Our partnership with each of these organizations works so well because our mission statements align. We were created to help veterans advance and both VLI and the NVBDC have the same goal.”

About U.S. Veterans Magazine

U.S. Veterans Magazine (USVM) is the premier resource magazine for transitioning service members, service-disabled veterans, veteran business owners and their spouses and families. USVM is the link between the qualified students, career and business candidates from the ranks of our nation’s veteran organizations, educational institutions, corporate America and the federal government. We provide our readers with relevant and timely information about employment, recruitment, supplier diversity, education, wellness and benefits. We recognize the immense value veterans offer as employees, and link job seekers with companies eager to hire them. Our publication connects entrepreneurs with opportunities to grow their businesses, and for those seeking educational prospects and scholarships, we share the information they need to support their academic success. Visit our official website at https://usveteransmagazine.com/

About Veterans Legal Institute (VLI)

Veterans Legal Institute® (VLI) is an organization that provides pro bono legal assistance to homeless, disabled, at risk and low-income service members with opportunities for healthcare, housing, education, employment and more. VLI is dedicated to help current and former service members foster a sense of self-sufficiency for the future. To learn more, visit their official website at https://www.vetslegal.com/

About the National Veteran Business Development Council (NVBDC)

The National Veteran Business Development Council (NVBDC) is the original Veteran-Owned Business Certification organization developed by veterans, for veterans. The NVBDC is dedicated to providing credible and reliable certifying authority for veteran-owned businesses of all sizes to ensure that valid documentation exists for veteran status, ownership and operational control. The organization even offers a FASTRACK process, allowing businesses who are already certified with other certifiers to qualify for Veteran-Owned Business Certification in as little as 30 days. To learn more, visit their website at https://nvbdc.org/

A Letter From the Editor–What’s Your Legacy?

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Retired Marine Paul Masi pauses by the name of his high school classmate, Robert Zwerlein.

By Danielle Jackola

As we honor the 40th anniversary of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, I had the privilege of speaking with Jan Scruggs and learning about “The Story Behind the Wall” (page 12). Our conversation prompted some introspection, and I considered my legacy.

As a MilSpouse, I have dedicated my time and treasure to serve our military and military families. My husband retired five years ago. I have continued as a mentor and volunteer by connecting veterans and their spouses to employment opportunities.

There are many ways people are called to a life of service.

In our Veterans Day issue, we celebrate you and commend your service to our country. Many of you continue to serve our military, veteran organizations and your communities in various capacities, working to improve the world.

As The King of Rock ‘n’ Roll, Elvis Presley has had an enduring impact on music and his fans. When Presley was drafted into the Army in 1957, he was eager to prove to naysayers that he could make it as a Soldier. He was “proud of his service” and continues to be the most famous veteran. In our cover story, we reflect on Presley’s time in the Army on page 86 and recognize other “Famous Veterans Throughout History” on page 64.

In this issue, we share Hot Jobs on page 10 for those seeking employment or a career change. For business owners taking the “First Steps on the Road to Certification” to expand their business, visit page 60 to get started. The “PACT Act Passed,” and we share everything you need to know on page 126, including how to file a claim.

On Veterans Day and throughout the year, U.S. Veterans Magazine honors you. We stand in gratitude for your commitment, bravery and the sacrifices you have made in service to our country.

— Danielle Jackola
Editor, U.S. Veterans Magazine
Sr. Manager of Veteran Affairs

Image caption: Retired Marine Paul Masi pauses by the name of his high school classmate, Robert Zwerlein.
Photo credit: Tom Williams/Cq-Roll Call, Inc. Via Getty Images

The Dos and Don’ts of Veteran Interviews

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professional woman seated behind monitor extending her hand

Many civilian employers have admitted challenges when it comes to evaluating a veteran during a job interview. This is often because veterans have difficulty explaining how their military experience relates to the needs of the civilian employer. Additionally, while veterans will be quick to praise their team or unit, they are typically not self-boastful in interviews, so civilian employers can often feel like veteran candidates are not “selling themselves.”

It is important to keep in mind that the concept of professional presentation is often different for former military personnel than for civilians. Military personnel (particularly those recently separated/discharged from military service) will often present themselves with eyes forward, back straight and using “Sir” and “Ma’am” vocabulary (often without much smiling). This behavior may be misperceived as cold, distant, unapproachable or demonstrating a lack of social skills. While this is generally not the case, these perceptions have caused many service members to be discarded early in the interview process.

Employers should recognize that former military personnel may need permission to “speak freely” to create a comfort level where they can appear in the most positive light. Hiring managers should be encouraged to be patient with these candidates and to “dig deep” with follow up questions to find qualities that are not apparent at first glance. It is worth remembering that veteran candidates, unlike many civilian candidates, may not be accustomed to interviewing and may require a little latitude.

Know What You Can and Should Not Ask During an Interview

First and foremost, interviewing a veteran or wounded warrior is no different than interviewing any other candidate. It is important to ask all questions of all candidates, without exception. A good interviewing practice is to ask all candidates the following question: “Have you read the job description? Yes or no — can you, with or without a reasonable accommodation, perform the essential functions of the job?” You are not asking the candidate to disclose whether or not they have a disability but are ensuring they can perform the essential functions of the job. In addition, you make it clear that as an employer you understand this process and are not likely to discriminate due to disability.

Great questions to ask veterans can include:

  • What is in the job description that interests you most?
  • Can you, with or without a reasonable accommodation, perform the essential functions of the job?
  • What type of training and education did you receive in the military?
  • Were you involved in the day-to-day management of people or supplies?

Questions you should NEVER ask veterans include:

  • What type of discharge did you receive?
  • Are you to be called up for duty anytime soon?
  • Did you experience any combat operations?
  • How could you leave your family while you were deployed?
  • Have you ever killed anyone?
  • Do you have post-traumatic stress disorder?

Making a Decision

If you feel like the veteran you interviewed for the position is simply not the right fit, you shouldn’t feel obligated to hire a veteran just because they are veteran. However, you do need to take special factors into consideration when it comes to making a final decision on whether you should hire a veteran:

  • Did the veteran progress throughout his/her military career?
  • Identify the strengths such as leadership, accountability and team building
  • Look for compatibility — did the veteran match their military skills with the position?
  • Remember veterans have a myriad of soft skills, like leadership and flexibility
  • Veterans possess skills that can make them some of your best employees

Make sure that whatever your decision for hiring, that you hire the veteran because they are the best candidate. In the end, it will be the most beneficial to the employer and employee alike.

Sources: Obama White House Archives, Department of Veteran Services Ohio

Taking the Initial Steps to Certification

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Successful businessman clarifying provisions of contract with business partner, discussing terms of agreement, explaining strategy or financial plan

By Natalie Rodgers

If you’re a business owner, then you may already be aware of the basics of Veteran-Owned (VOBE) and Service-Disabled Veteran-Owned (SDVOBE) business certifications. But going through the process to actually obtain the certification can be daunting, especially when considering the paperwork and fees that often go into the process. However, even if your business is thriving by your standards, earning your certification can take your business to new heights. Some of the benefits that certification can bring to your business include:

Funding Opportunities

Money is helpful no matter what kind of business you run, and certification opens the doors to funding opportunities that other businesses can’t access. Every year the government puts aside 23 percent of all of their contracts for small businesses, with 3 percent of that total going specifically towards VOBE and SDVOBE businesses. However, to be eligible to compete for these funds, you have to be a VOBE or SDVOBE certified business. Depending on the network you use to earn your certification, you may also become eligible for other funding opportunities through your certifier.

Corporate Partnerships

Businesses work with other companies all the time, but what a lot of people don’t know is that big name, Fortune 500 companies are often looking to work with minority, women and veteran-owned businesses to increase their supplier diversity efforts. To find these small businesses, these companies go directly to small business certifiers like NAVOBA, the SBA and the VA. When you become VOBE or SDVOBE certified, you will be given access to networking opportunities that could gain you a deal with some of the biggest businesses in the country. These kinds of partnerships can lead to an increase of sales and publicity. Some of the top corporations who have dedicated their efforts to work with veteran-owned businesses include USAA, JPMorgan, FedEx, Lowe’s, T-Mobile, Hilton, Ford and many more.

Resources Galore

Even if you aren’t looking for government funding or corporate partnerships, certification can still benefit your business in tremendous ways. By becoming certified, you gain access to courses, classes, conferences and networking opportunities that can help you grow your business in every aspect. Through whichever certifier you choose, you can learn the best methods of filing your business taxes, handling payroll, marketing your brands, working with social media and so much more.

Veteran Connections

Being certified not only allows you to connect with big-name companies but to other veteran-owned businesses and the customers that support them. When you become certified, you have the perfect platform for connecting with other veterans on their entrepreneurial journey. This can lead to potential business partnerships, mentoring opportunities or even just friendships with other veterans.

So How Do I Get Started?

If the benefits of becoming certified are enticing, but you’re feeling overwhelmed by what may be required of you, remember that you are not alone. If hundreds of veteran-owned businesses across the country can become certified, then you can too. To simplify the process, start with our preparation guide.

  1. Choose the certification that’s right for you. This will depend on your business and your needs.

For those interested in federal contracts, try:

  • The Department of Veterans Affairs: vetbiz.va.gov/vip

For those interested in private contracts, try:

  • National Veteran-Owned Business Association (NaVOBA): apps.adaptone.com/navoba
  • National Veteran Business Development Council (NVBDC): nvbdc.org/certification-landing-page
  1. Gather your documents. The kinds of documents you need will depend on your specific program, but just about any certifier you choose will need the following:
  • Government issued ID
  • Your resume
  • Past tax returns
  • Articles of organization or incorporation
  • Operating agreement
  • Your DD214
  • Payroll information
  • VA Disability Documentation (SDVOSB certification)
  1. Utilize your certifying organization’s contacts. If you run into any trouble during the application process or just need clarity on what to do next, feel free to reach out to your organization via the email or telephone number provided on their website. They are willing to assist and want to help you get your certification.

 

Sources: NaVOBA, US Chamber, Fulton Bank, Veteran Owned Business Round Table, Indeed

FOX Nation’s 4th Annual Patriot Awards Ceremony Benefitting the American Red Cross is Tonight

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Fox Nation Patriot Awards

By Kellie Speed

FOX Nation is hosting its fourth annual Patriot Awards at Hard Rock Live in Hollywood, Florida, tonight. You can catch the patriotic show live at 7 p.m. ET on FOX Nation, and it will also be offered in a repeat presentation on FOX News Channel on Sunday, November 27, at 10 p.m. ET.

Each year, the awards show honors standout Americans who have gone above and beyond the call of duty in support of this great nation. The event gives true American heroes the recognition they deserve.

“It is the awards show that America needs and that America deserves,” said FOX & Friends Weekend co-host and Iraq and Afghanistan war veteran Pete Hegseth, who will return for his fourth year as the emcee.

Hegseth will join FOX News Media personalities Tucker Carlson, Sean Hannity, Laura Ingraham, Jesse Watters, Greg Gutfeld, Steve Doocy, Ainsley Earhardt, Brian Kilmeade, Judge Jeanine Pirro, the cast of The Five, Harris Faulkner, Will Cain, Rachel Campos-Duffy, Dan Bongino, John Rich, Mike Rowe, Nancy Grace, Lawrence Jones, Johnny Joey Jones and Abby Hornacek.

This year’s Patriot Awards include the Most Valuable Patriot Award, Heroism Award, Service to Veterans Award and Back the Blue Award. Additionally, The Five (weekdays, 5 p.m. ET), Tucker Carlson Tonight (weekdays, 8 p.m. ET) and Gutfeld! (weekdays, 11 p.m. ET) will present live shows at the venue.

Last year’s Patriot Award recipients included “Most Valuable Patriot” Olympic Gold Medalist Tamyra Mensah-Stock; Award for Heroism recipient Lt. Col. (Ret.), Former Green Beret Scott Mann for his work in Afghanistan with Task Force Pineapple; “Modern Warrior” recipient Army Sergeant First Class John Goudie, and the “Courage” award recipient posthumously awarded to Todd Beamer in United Airlines Flight 93 (accepted by his parents David and Peggy Beamer).

They also paid a humbling tribute to the nation’s 13 fallen heroes killed on August 26, 2021, during the United States withdrawal from Afghanistan – Marine Corps Lance Corporal David L. Espinoza, Marine Corps Sergeant Nicole L. Gee, Marine Corps Staff Sergeant Darin T. Hoover, Army Staff Sergeant Ryan C. Knauss, Marine Corps Corporal Hunter Lopez, Marine Corps Lance Corporal Rylee J. McCollum, Marine Corps Lance Corporal Dylan R. Merola, Marine Corps Lance Corporal Kareem M. Nikoui, Marine Corps Sergeant Johanny Rosario Pichardo, Marine Corps Corporal Humberto A. Sanchez, Marine Corps Lance Corporal Jared M. Schmitz, Navy Hospital Corpsman Maxton W. Soviak and Marine Corps Corporal Daegan W. Page.

Keep an eye out in the next issue of U.S. Veterans Magazine for a full feature on the event.

For more information, be sure to visit nation.foxnews.com

Challenge Accepted: Mastering Military Transition

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“Women veterans are a strong group of people. They worked hard, deployed, raised families and sacrificed their time, energy and selves to earn their ranks, titles and places in history books that have not yet been written.

Women have great instincts and deserve a seat at every table, in every boardroom, at every town hall meeting and at any discussion where decisions need to be made. Women have always been an integral part of society and [the] future of the world. It’s time that women are put out front to receive the recognition of all the decades of hard work that has been put in to establish a legacy in the armed forces.” -retired Master Gunnery Sergeant Carla Perez, USMC

Let’s meet one of these esteemed women, 28-year USMC veteran retired Master Gunnery Sergeant Carla Perez. MGySgt Perez began her career in the Marines on May 17, 1993, and retired on December 31, 2021. Her service included three deployments: Bosnia in 1996, Iraq in 2008-2009 and Afghanistan in 2010-2011. She was stationed in many places around the globe, including 29 Palms, California; Iwakuni, Japan; Camp Pendleton, California; Vancouver, Washington; Marine Corps Air Station, Mira Mar in San Diego and Camp Lejeune, North Carolina.

Although Perez was raised in a family of veterans, the military was not initially in her plans. She graduated high school and went on to college at the University of Montana but returned home to Oregon when she didn’t have the funds to continue her studies. There, she worked a few odd jobs until a recruiter found her and offered her the opportunity to join the Marine Corps. You can say the rest is history!

While serving in the Marines, Perez found that women progressed in the Marine Corps in both rank and job opportunities at a fair rate. She never felt as though being a woman held her back. Previously closed jobs in the combat arms MOS had opened, and women were assigned to traditionally male units. Early in that transition, women were doing combat supporting jobs, admin, supply

In 2008 for one year as their Logistics/Supply Chief. The unit was assigned a Civil Affairs mission. There were only a handful of women assigned to that battalion for the duration of that deployment.

Transitions can be difficult. Moving from a career in the military to civilian life is one of those challenging transitions. I asked Perez how she prepared for her retirement. She had been thinking about the transition for a few years before submitting papers to retire and felt as prepared as she could be. Perez is a few college courses shy of a BS in Criminal Justice and initially thought about returning to school at the beginning of her transition. Throughout her time in the Marine Corps, she worked in the Supply/Logistics field and felt that her resume would make her a strong candidate in either of those fields. She knew she had more to give beyond the last 29 years of her life as a Marine, and she was excited to see what opportunities awaited her.

Initially, she took a few months off to spend time with her family and relax. Everyone should take time off from the rigorous schedule the military requires of its service members to just exhale. She highly recommends this approach! In February 2022, she was given the opportunity to work for Liberty Military Housing. She currently holds the position of Director of Military Affairs, Southwest Marines, Housing. Her region encompasses Camp Pendleton, 29 Palms, Yuma, Colville and Kansas City — a few locations where she was stationed during her career.

I asked her how her military career prepared her for her current role in her civilian career. She responded, “Being a Marine and being a person of service was something I am very good at. I am flexible yet mission-oriented. I like to get things done and take care of people. This job is the perfect fit for me. My job responsibilities are very closely tied to the military and taking care of military families. I bridge the gap between our government housing partner and Liberty Military Housing. I am honored to be able to continue to be so closely connected to Marines and military families that live aboard our installations.”

I inquired about the advice she would give someone considering a career in the military or someone preparing to transition to the civilian sector. Perez replied, “Choosing a career in the USMC is like no other job in the world. Hard work will always be rewarded and not go unnoticed. Being a Marine is a tough job that comes with a lot of responsibility. Upholding and honoring traditions of all the men and women that have gone before us is something that sets Marines apart. There are very few Marines and even fewer female Marines — expect to work just as hard as all of those around you, if not harder, both men and women. There are so many intangible traits and feelings that make Marines who they are that cannot be explained — experiences and a sense of pride that cannot be compared to anything else. Being a good leader takes time and  work. More energy and personal time spent away from your daily duties are what it takes to go the distance in the USMC. Working hard and staying focused is the best advice I can give.

”Perez continues, “Think ahead about your transition out of the USMC. A few years in advance, have a mental picture of what you want your life after to look like. Take the necessary steps to prepare to depart. It will have to be a fluid plan until you make your final decision. Be flexible and keep an open mind. You will have so much to offer the world, more than you can just write on a paper or summarize on a resume. You will have all the tools you need to make the move, don’t be afraid; just have a plan with a few options.

”And that, my friends, is proof that the long-standing slogan, “Once a Marine, Always a Marine,” is as true today as it was when Marine Corps Master Sergeant Paul Woyshner first shouted it. I enjoyed my time with MGySgt Perez and appreciated her insight into navigating the transition after a career in service to our country.

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