VA Home Loans Can Go as High as $625,000 in Some Counties

vahousing

By Debbie Gregory.

The Veterans Administration (VA) helps Servicemembers, Veterans, and eligible surviving spouses become homeowners. As part of their mission, the VA provides a home loan guaranty benefit and other housing-related programs to help you buy, build, repair, retain, or adapt a home for your own personal occupancy.

VA Home Loans are provided by private lenders, such as banks and mortgage companies. The VA guarantees a portion of the loan, enabling the lender to provide you with more favorable terms.

The 2016 VA loan limits remained static at $417,000, except in 235 high cost counties where they are as high as $625,000. This applies to all loans closed January 1, 2016 and afterwards.

To find out what the maximum VA housing benefit in your county is, visit https://militaryconnection.com/va-loan-guaranty. The link also displays the Regional Loan Center that services each county, which are:

Cleveland
Department of Veterans Affairs
VA Regional Loan Center
1240 East Ninth Street
Cleveland, OH 44199
http://benefits.va.gov/cleveland/regional-loan-center.asp

Denver
Department of Veterans Affairs
VA Regional Loan Center
155 Van Gordon Street
Lakewood, CO 80228
(Mail: Box 25126, Denver, CO 80225)
http://www.benefits.va.gov/denver/regional-loan-center.asp

Honolulu
Department of Veterans Affairs
VA Regional Office
Loan Guaranty Division (26)
459 Patterson Rd.
Honolulu, HI 96819
*Although not an RLC, this office is a fully functioning Loan Guaranty operation for Hawaii.
http://www.benefits.va.gov/honolulu/regional-loan-center.asp

Phoenix
Department of Veterans Affairs
VA Regional Loan Center
3333 N. Central Avenue
Phoenix, AZ 85012-2402
http://www.benefits.va.gov/phoenix/regional-loan-center.asp

Roanoke
Department of Veterans Affairs
VA Regional Loan Center
210 First Street
Roanoke, VA 24011

Mailing Address:
116 N. Jefferson Street
Roanoke, VA 24016
http://www.benefits.va.gov/roanoke/regional-loan-center.asp

St. Petersburg
Department of Veterans Affairs
VA Regional Loan Center
9500 Bay Pines Blvd.
St. Petersburg, FL 33708
(Mail: P.O. Box 1437, St. Petersburg, FL 33731)
http://www.benefits.va.gov/stpetersburg/regional-loan-center.asp

Serving in the U.S. military offers some great benefits, including VA home loans. You’ve earned them, you should use them.

Military Connection salutes and proudly serves veterans and service members in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, Guard and Reserve,  and their families.

Hippocampus Size May Determine PTSD Treatment

ptsd

By Debbie Gregory.

Thanks to advances in medical technology, researchers have begun to study the effect of PTSD on the brain, with researchers focusing specific attention on the hippocampus. The hippocampus is the region of the brain key to distinguishing between safety and threat, and also the ability to store and retrieve memories.

A recent study from researchers at Columbia University Medical Center (CUMC) and New York State Psychiatric Institute (NYSPI) has found that PTSD patients with a larger hippocampus are more likely to respond to exposure-based therapy for PTSD.

First author Mikael Rubin, MA, a former project coordinator at NYSPI and currently a PhD student at University of Texas at Austin said that future research may help to determine if PTSD patients with a smaller hippocampus would respond better to other treatments, such as medication, either alone or in combination with psychotherapy.

The study was published online in Psychiatry Research: Neuroimaging on May 4, 2016.

Previous research has shown that having a smaller hippocampus is associated with increased risk of PTSD. In this study, the researchers examined the relationship between hippocampus volume, measured with MRI, and response to treatment in 50 participants with PTSD and 36 trauma-exposed healthy controls. The participants were evaluated at baseline and after 10 weeks, during which time the PTSD group had prolonged exposure therapy, a type of cognitive behavioral therapy that has been shown to help patients with PTSD discriminate between real and imagined trauma.

The study found that patients with PTSD who responded to treatment had greater hippocampal volume at the beginning of the study than non-responders to treatment.

The findings add to growing evidence that the hippocampus is key to distinguishing between cues that signal safety and those that signal threat.

“If replicated, these findings have important implications for screening and treating patients who have been exposed to trauma,” noted Yuval Neria, PhD, professor of medical psychology at CUMC, director of the PTSD Program at NYSPI, and senior author of the paper. “For example, new recruits for military service may be scanned before an assignment to determine whether they are capable of dealing with the expected stress and trauma. Having a smaller hippocampus may be a contraindication for prolonged exposure to trauma.”

Military Connection salutes and proudly serves veterans and service members in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, Guard and Reserve,  and their families.

Walter Reed Scientists Working on Zika Vaccine

zika

By Debbie Gregory.

Just a few short months ago, most people had never heard of the Zika virus. But as the virus has been found to cause severe birth defects to infected expectant mothers, cause for alarm has greatly increased.

While there is no current vaccine against Zika, scientists at Walter Reed Army Institute of Research (WRAIR ) are moving quickly, conducting preclinical research on a Zika vaccine candidate with collaborators at the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. They plan to start human testing before the end of the year.

Zika is a flavivirus, a mosquito-borne virus that causes yellow fever, dengue, Japanese encephalitis.

Army Col. (Dr.) Stephen Thomas, an infectious disease physician and a vaccinologist specializing in flaviviruses, is the Zika program lead.

“Zika is a flavivirus, and we have been working on flaviviruses our entire history — since 1893 [on yellow fever],” he said. “So it’s in our DNA to work on flaviviruses, and we’ve been doing vaccine development for flaviviruses since World War II.” He noted that before Albert Sabin developed a polio vaccine, he was in the Army and helped to develop vaccines for dengue and Japanese encephalitis.

The most common symptoms of Zika are fever, rash, joint pain, and conjunctivitis. The illness is usually mild with symptoms lasting for several days to a week after being bitten by an infected mosquito. People usually don’t get sick enough to go to the hospital, and they very rarely die of Zika. For this reason, many people might not realize they have been infected. However, Zika virus infection during pregnancy can cause a serious birth defect called microcephaly, as well as other severe fetal brain defects.

“There’s a race to get this done as quickly as possible,” Thomas said, “because there’s a public health emergency going on,” and because WRAIR is focused on supporting U.S. force readiness for service members deployed worldwide.

Thomas and his colleagues considered many factors when planning the Zika virus vaccine development effort, he said, including a charge by DoD to get something in the field as quickly as possible while mitigating regulatory agency risk and speeding up the process where possible, he said.

Military Connection salutes and proudly serves veterans and service members in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, Guard and Reserve,  and their families.

 

Walters Nominated to Replace Paxton as Assistant Marine Corps Commandant

walters

By Debbie Gregory.

Defense Secretary Ash Carter has announced that Marine Lt. Gen. Glenn Walters has been nominated to serve as the next assistant commandant of the Marine Corps. If confirmed by the Senate, Walters will replace Gen. John Paxton Jr. as the Marine Corps’ second-highest ranking officer and 33rd assistant commandant.

A Cobra pilot by trade, Walters currently serves as the deputy commandant for Marine Corps Programs and Resources.

Walters, who has been tapped to receive a fourth star, has served with a host of helicopter and test squadrons. He was the first commanding officer of Marine Operational and Evaluation Squadron 22 and has served as the assistant deputy commandant for Marine Corps Aviation. Walters led 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing (Forward) in Afghanistan.

He was commissioned in the Marine Corps in 1979 after graduating from The Citadel in South Carolina. He attended flight training in Pensacola, Florida.

Walters was designated a naval aviator in March 1981 and was assigned to Marine Aircraft Group 39, where he trained to fly the AH-1T Cobra helicopter. He was then transferred to Marine Attack Helicopter Squadron 169 where he served as the flight line officer.

In 1987, Walters deployed in support of Operation Earnest Will, the U.S. military’s mission to protect Kuwaiti tankers from Iranian attacks.

His awards include the Defense Superior Service Medal, the Legion of Merit, two Meritorious Service Awards and the Air Medal.

Paxton, who turned 65 on June 25th, retires after 42 years in uniform. Prior to current assignment, he served as the Commanding General of U.S. Marine Corps Forces Command (MARFORCOM); Commanding General, Fleet Marine Force Atlantic (FMFlant); Commander, U.S. Marine Corps Forces Europe, as well as II Marine Expeditionary Force.

Military Connection salutes and proudly serves veterans and service members in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, Guard and Reserve,  and their families.

When Seeking Jobs for Veterans or Military Spouses, What Should You Wear to the Interview?

dressforsuccess

By Debbie Gregory.

When looking for jobs for veterans or military spouses, there is one question that always comes up: what do I wear to the interview?

A good rule of thumb is wearing a suit or an outfit that is a higher level than the job that you’re applying for. By dressing a notch or two above what’s standard apparel for the position you’re interviewing for, you’re demonstrating that you care about getting the job.

Additionally, dressing on the conservative side is always the safest bet. The last thing you want to do is stand out for something other than your personality and qualifications.

While a suit isn’t always required, it’s usually alright to inquire about the dress code when you set up the interview.

Even if the dress is casual, make sure your footwear is not. Closed toed, closed back shoes are the best choice for both men and women.

If you’re on a budget, make sure to take a second look at what is already hanging in your closet. While you may think what you have is outdated, often times your look  can be updated by accessorizing with a nice handbag, earrings or necklace for the ladies, and a nice briefcase, cuff links or tie for the men.

If you must purchase something to wear, stick to basic colors such as blue and gray so that your pieces will be timeless. Although black and brown can be worn, they are not as good of a choice.

Don’t rule out consignment shops that specialize in higher end clothing, as well as outlet stores.

The most important take away is make sure that whatever you buy fits properly. You don’t want to look unprofessional is a suit that hangs on you, and you don’t want to distract your interviewer with buttons that are pulling because the shirt or blouse is too tight.

Military Connection salutes and proudly serves veterans and service members in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, Guard and Reserve,  and their families.

Like Father, Like Son- A Military Tradition

travis boys

By Debbie Gregory.

In some families, military service is much more than an echo of history. It’s a tradition threaded through generation after generation, as alive and thriving as ever. The Travis family is one of those.

Chief Warrant Officer 5 Thomas Travis joined the Army in 1984. He is a jumpmaster and rotary wing advisor for U.S. Army Special Operations Aviation Command Now, his son Josh has followed in his footsteps.

“Our family’s military history goes all the way back to a Norman chief named Travers who crossed the channel with William the Conqueror,” Tom Travis said. “In the U.S., our family fought in the Revolution, the war for Texas independence, both sides of the Civil War; and my father and uncle fought in WWII in the Pacific.”

Pvt. Joshua Travis joined the Army in 2015

“My dad was my inspiration to join the Army, and go to Airborne School, and while I was at Airborne School, he got to jump with me on my second jump,” Josh Travis said. “I feel a lot of pride in being able to jump with my dad, and in him basically passing on the torch to me, so to speak.”

Although Tom Travis’s 30-year military career is winding down, he has had “a lot of fun” doing what he loves.

His words of wisdom for his son?

“Always do the right thing even when no one is watching and learn from both good and bad leadership experiences,” he said. “Remember that all jobs are important, so give those troops the respect they deserve. Be able to lead and follow.”

“I am very proud of my son for choosing this path. I have always tried to guide and advise him, but the decision to join the military should always rest with the individual. A parent should never push their son or daughter into serving,” Tom Travis said.

Josh Travis said that he looks forward to the possibility of one day sharing with his own son or daughter the same experiences he’s had with his father.

Military Connection salutes and proudly serves veterans and service members in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, Guard and Reserve,  and their families.

Should VA Medical Facilities Be a Non-Profit?

vvvaaa

By Debbie Gregory.

Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-Wash., unveiled a legislative proposal in an attempt to reform the Veterans Health Administration.

McMorris Rodgers’ plan would turn the VA into a government-chartered nonprofit corporation, much like the hospital networks already operating in the private sector today.

The “Caring for our Heroes in the 21st Century Act” would launch a “Veterans Accountable Care Organization” to run the VA’s health care facilities. It would help create a new voucher system whereby soldiers could use VA funding to get care from the private sector.

Veterans who are currently enrolled would be able to choose where they get care, while new veterans would be automatically enrolled in the new VetsCare Choice, giving them access to private health care.

McMorris Rodgers said the proposal would serve as the starting point for putting veterans in charge of their health care. A longtime advocate for members of the military and their families, McMorris Rodgers co-founded the bipartisan Military Family Caucus to provide military spouses and children a voice in Congress.

For a number of years, the VA system has been under attack, with allegations of mismanagement, inefficiency, claim backlogs and long wait times for medical care. The scandal came to a head when it was discovered that VA workers were getting millions of dollars in taxpayer-funded bonuses even as injured vets waited to get their claims approved, and veterans were dying due to lack of medical care as VA office workers faked records.

The bill would strengthen the power of VA’s management in the hiring and firing of the VA’s 330,000 workers, many of whom are in a government union. It would give management the flexibility to rewarding good workers and to get rid of the bad workers.

The VA already allows some veterans to receive care at non-VA health providers as a result of changes in the law resulting from the secret wait list scandals of 2014.

Under this $10 billion program, veterans waiting over 30 days for VA appointments and veterans who live more than 40 miles from VA medical facilities can get care outside the VA. But this program has is also fraught with problems, as the number of approved participating providers is limited.

Military Connection salutes and proudly serves veterans and service members in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, Guard and Reserve,  and their families.

Tech Companies Set High Veteran Hiring Expectations

space jobs

By Debbie Gregory.

Matching up veterans and transitioning service members with tech jobs makes sense, since many of those who have served have already utilized tech-related skills.

To that end, tech giants like Dell, Hewlett Packard Enterprise and EMC pledged to hire 1,000 to 3,000 veterans and military spouses over the next five years. Additionally, GoDaddy and Seagate Technology have pledged to hire 200 to 500 veterans.

Joining Forces, the national employment and career development initiative launched by First Lady Michelle Obama and Dr. Jill Biden now has five years of success. The program has resulted in 1.2 million veterans and military spouses receiving jobs and training.

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, whose company pledged to make 25,000 veteran and military spouse hires said, “”We’re constantly looking for leaders who can invent, think big, have a bias for action, and who want to deliver for customers.” Bezos added, “Well, those principles look very familiar to the men and women who served our country in the armed forces. And also their spouses. These guys work hard and have lots of skills.”

SpaceX has a solid reputation when it comes to employing members of the military, and has been named one of the 10 best companies for veterans in the country. The company boasts a high percentage of recent hires who were veterans, as well as a 95% retention rate among hired former service members.

This talent pool has also worked in the most challenging and stressful environments imaginable.

At MilitaryConnection.com, we offer a multitude of resources for veterans and military spouses who are seeking employment, including our Virtual Job Fair and our Job Board.  We also spread the word to employers about the tax credits available to employers who hire veterans.

We salute and proudly serves veterans and service members in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, Guard and Reserve,  and their families.

The Lowdown on Navy SEAL Leadership

seals

By Debbie Gregory.

Rear Adm. Tim Szymanski, named to assume command of the Naval Special Warfare headquarters in Coronado this summer, was confirmed for promotion to a second star by the U.S. Senate.

But questions have been raised by Rep. Duncan Hunter, a Marine Corps veteran who asked for an investigation of contracts that Szymanski played a role in earlier in his career.

The congressman, a member of the House Armed Services Committee, asked Defense Secretary Ashton Carter to investigate Navy SEAL training contracts for evidence of insider dealings by Szymanski. Hunter said he would stick to his demand for investigative scrutiny and continue to speak out against Szymanski’s rise to the top SEAL job in Coronado until he was satisfied.

A retired SEAL, Eric Deming of Virginia, wrote to Hunter saying that a 2008 formal complaint Deming filed alleging nepotism and misconduct led to reprisals that destroyed his career.

Bill Wilson, who retired as a Navy SEAL captain in 2014 and who served with Szymanski said, “Right when we need a good Naval Special Warfare leader, for Duncan Hunter to do this is baffling. I know all of these guys, and Tim is the best leader of all of his peer group.”

Wilson noted that Szymanski was co-author of the SEAL “Ethos,” a set of personal and professional codes that Naval Special Warfare adopted in 2005.

Meanwhile, Rear Adm. Brian Losey, the SEAL commander slated for retirement this summer after political pressure sunk his promotion to a second star, has broken his silence about what his camp calls a deeply flawed process for investigating military wrongdoing.

“I remain fully accountable for my actions in command. The highest priority of any line commander is in ensuring that our service members have the resources, guidance and empowerment to succeed,” Losey said.

Military Connection salutes and proudly serves veterans and service members in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, Guard and Reserve,  and their families.

Marine Veteran’s Heroic Actions Saved Lives in Orlando Attack

imran

By Debbie Gregory.

Hero is a word that gets tossed around a lot. By definition, a hero is a person of distinguished courage or ability, admired for brave deeds and noble qualities.

As the first shots of the mass shooting in Orlando were fired, Pulse bouncer Imran Yousuf’s first instinct was to escape. But he wasn’t just thinking of himself; he wanted to get as many people out of harm’s way as he could. He knew that on the other side of a group of panicked people was a door that would lead them to safety. But someone had to unlatch it.

“I’m screaming ‘Open the door! Open the door!’” Yousuf said. “And no one is moving because they are scared.”

“There was only one choice — either we all stay there and we all die, or I could take the chance, and I jumped over to open that latch and we got everyone that we could out of there.”

Yousuf managed to open the backdoor that led out into the street, evacuating more than 60 people. After he got them out, he began carrying the injured to ambulances outside.

In total, the former Marine of Indian descent saved between 60 and 70 of the clubs patrons.

Imran’s brother, Ameer, had recently moved down to Orlando from Schenectady to be with his brother and other family members.

“This was so unexpected but because of my brother’s training in the Marine Corps, he was prepared and used strategies from that to do everything he did,” said Ameer Yousuf.

Imran Yousuf joined the Marine Corps right after graduating from Niskayuna High School in 2010. He served as an engineer equipment electrical systems technician in the Marine Corps from June 2010 to May 2016, according to service officials. He was deployed to Afghanistan in 2011. He was last assigned to 3rd Marine Logistics Group.

“Because of his training, he knew to remove his security shirt and how to think as quickly as he did,” said Ameer Yousuf.

According to Ameer, his brother only regrets that he couldn’t save more people.

Military Connection salutes and proudly serves veterans and service members in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, Guard and Reserve,  and their families.