Programs That Can Help Veterans Afford a Car

Programs That Can Help Veterans Afford a Car

Transitioning back to civilian life is often a hard process. You may need to find a place to live, a place to work and struggle to adjust to a new routine. One thing that would make your life easier was if you had a reliable form of transportation. Luckily, there are some great veteran benefits programs out there that can make it easier for veterans to afford a car. 

Veteran’s Affairs Automobile Allowance

If you were injured during your service, the first place you should contact is your local VA office. Through their Automobile Allowance program, you may be given money to get a car, so that you don’t have to pay any out of pocket expenses. As of October 2016, you can receive up to $20,235 for purchasing a car – an amount that will help you afford a very reliable new car. Qualifying injuries for this program include the loss of a hand or foot, burn injuries, or vision impairment. If you’re unsure if your disability qualifies you for the program, the best thing you can do is reach out to your VA office.

Progressive’s Keys to Progress

Another great program is run by Progressive, called Keys to Progress. Through this program, Progressive has donated more than 700 vehicles to veterans and veteran organizations. Every November, Progressive hosts a large one-day event in which they give away cars. Progressive begins reviewing applications for anyone wanting a car beginning in May, so if you’re interested in applying, you can learn more about the program here, including the eligibility requirements. 

Navy Federal Credit Union

When you want to buy a car, this typically means taking out a loan. If you do this through a bank, you may face some heavy interest rates that can make the car hard to afford. Often, a better option is to go through a credit union. Credit unions are like banks, except the members are the owners. Credit unions typically have a requirement for joining, such as living in a certain area or having a certain type of job. If you’re a veteran though, you can join the Navy Federal Credit Union. Through this organization, you can obtain a low-interest auto loan, along with some great other benefits. 

United Services Automobile Association

Part of owning a car is paying the insurance on it, which is yet another expense. Veterans should look to the United Services Automobile Association, as they can help you get affordable car insurance. On top of that, they can even help you get a car loan if you need it, and find you various discounts from car manufacturers. This is a great service to turn to for all your car buying needs. 

Private Lenders

Speaking of discounts, many private lenders offer discounts to veterans and active-duty military members. When shopping for a car, you should check out the fine print. You may notice several discounts available for veterans, which will significantly lower the price of the car. If you don’t see any discounts listed on their website, it doesn’t hurt to ask a sales representative if they have anything available.

In addition to discounts, some private lenders also offer help in other ways. They may accept lower credit ratings, offer a lower interest rate on the auto loan, or even require less of a down payment. Each of these can help veterans afford their next car purchase, so talk to the lender to see what they can do for you.

However, you should also be a little wary of private seller discounts. You should always investigate each discount thoroughly before accepting it – you never know who might be trying to scam you. 

Extended Warranties

Finally, you should consider getting an extended warranty on your car. These are particularly useful for veterans who might not have enough money saved up to pay for a sudden car expense. An extended warranty will cover things like mechanical breakdowns after the original manufacturer’s warranty has expired. Finding an extended warranty is easy, just search online for a warranty that matches the model of the car you are getting. For example, if you are purchasing a used Kia, you could visit a site like –https://gogetolive.com/extended-car-warranty/kia/.

Make Use of the Help Available to You

There are many programs out there designed to help veterans. If you’re unsure of how you’re going to afford your next vehicle, you should explore what options are out there for you. You may be pleasantly surprised at how many organizations are willing to make it easier for you to get a car, and before long you’ll be driving around in a reliable car.

Veterans Benefits: The VA Home Loan

Veterans Benefits: The VA Home Loan

Contributed by Alan Rohlfing

 

As members of the United States military community, we know that we have a host of benefits available to us, whether we give much conscious thought to it or not. Most of our benefits are administered by the Veterans Benefits Administration, an agency of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs that’s responsible for the Department’s programs that provide financial and other forms of assistance to Veterans, their dependents, and survivors. Eligibility for most VA benefits is based upon discharge from active military service under other than dishonorable conditions.

We’re most familiar with those programs that impact us personally. So many of us are well-versed in those benefits available in the healthcare arena, or in compensation and pension, or in education and training. Or perhaps it’s the insurance products, such as SGLI and VGLI, that resonate with you, or maybe it’s the burial and memorial services for which you qualify. The Veterans benefit that we’re going to spend a few minutes on now, however, is one that has a phenomenal impact on those that choose to use it…and that’s the VA home loan.

Long story short: VA direct and VA-backed Veterans home loans can help Veterans, service members, and eligible surviving spouses become homeowners (and buy, build, improve, or refinance a home). Created in 1944, the VA home loan program was part of the original Servicemen’s Readjustment Act. Also known as the GI Bill of Rights, it was signed into law by President Franklin D. Roosevelt and was considered to be part of sweeping legislation aimed to level the playing field for those who served our country during World War II. Homeownership was at the heart of those efforts, and rather than provide Veterans with a cash bonus to help with the purchase of a home, the government decided a loan guarantee was a more powerful, long-term solution. Early on, the VA guarantee was limited to 50 percent of the loan amount, not to exceed $2,000. The average home price in 1944 was about $8,600. Loans had a 4 percent interest rate cap, and the term couldn’t exceed 20 years. All loans required VA approval.

So, what’s the big deal with the VA home loan program? Well, VA loans are some of the only loans around that offer no down payment (with more conventional loans, the buyer is required to provide up to 20% down); there’s no private mortgage insurance (PMI), which can save a borrower hundreds of dollars a month over conventional loans; there is a 2-3% funding fee, but not everyone has to pay that fee (such as those with a service-connected disability); and the loan limits are pretty generous. Beginning this year, there is no maximum amount for which a home buyer can receive a VA loan, but lenders may set their own limits.

As a rule, the VA isn’t a bank or a mortgage company (except for the Native American Direct Loan Program). VA Home Loans are provided by private lenders and the VA guarantees a portion of the loan…if a VA-backed home loan goes into foreclosure, the guarantee allows the lender to recover some or all of their losses. This lets the lender view the transaction as a little less risky and give the borrower more favorable terms.

As with most benefits programs, there are some pretty tight eligibility criteria. Who’s eligible for this VA program? Well, surprising to some is that VA loans are available not only to Veterans, but also other classes of military personnel. The list of eligibles includes active-duty Servicemembers, members of the National Guard & Reserve, surviving spouses of Veterans, and a few other groups.  You’ll need a Certificate of Eligibility (COE) to demonstrate eligibility to a lender, and you’ll need to meet standard VA loan requirements, such as income and employment verifications. Just because you have a COE, however, doesn’t mean you’re guaranteed a VA loan; it just shows the lender that you’re eligible for the VA guarantee. You can obtain a COE through eBenefits, by mail, and often through your lender. Another good thing is that your eligibility never expires…Veterans who earned their benefit long ago are still using the program to buy homes.

There are several different financial products in this broad Veterans benefit. VA-guaranteed loans are available for homes that Veterans purchase for primary occupancy or to refinance, such as the Interest Rate Reduction Refinance Loan (IRRRL). The IRRRL is generally performed to lower the interest and reduce the monthly payment on the existing VA guaranteed loan. There’s also the Native American Direct Loan (NADL) Program, which helps Native American Veterans purchase, construct, improve, or refinance a home on Native American trust lands; and the Adapted Housing Grants program, where the VA helps Veterans with certain total and permanent disabilities related to military service obtain suitable housing.

While the particulars of the home loan benefit have changed some over the years (and who’s to say there won’t be some modification next month or next year), here are some other factoids about the program, in excruciatingly little detail:

-A VA loan can be used to buy a detached house, condo, new-built home, manufactured home or duplex, triplex or four-unit property or to refinance an existing loan for those types of properties. You might also be able to borrow extra money to make repairs or improvements to the home; or, make it more energy efficient;

-You cannot use a VA loan to buy a home in a foreign country. You are only permitted to purchase homes located in the United States or a U.S. territory or possession;

– You can’t use a VA loan to buy a rental property, but you might be able to use a VA loan to refinance an existing rental home you once occupied as a primary home. An exception to this rule is the IRRRL, which can be used to refinance an existing VA loan for a home where you currently live or where you used to live, but no longer do;

– Federal regulations do limit loans guaranteed by the Department of Veterans Affairs to “primary residences” only, however, “primary residence” is defined as the home in which you live “most of the year;” and

– Lenders follow VA standards when making VA-backed home loans, such as requiring a high enough credit score or getting an updated home appraisal (an expert’s estimate of the value of your home). The VA does not set a minimum score for home loan approval, but experts say most lenders will require a score of 620 or higher.

I first used this benefit in the early 1990s, and I still have a VA-backed home loan today (different house, different loan). I’ve always viewed it as a great way to transition from home renter to homeowner, but I get that it’s not for everyone. If owning your own home is something you plan on experiencing in the near future, I encourage you to take a closer look at a VA home loan. I’ve read that the VA has backed somewhere in the neighborhood of 25 million home loans, and the program just turned 75 years last spring…I doubt it’s going away anytime soon. If you’re eligible for this benefit, it can help deliver the joys of home ownership to your doorstep, too.

 

PTSD Service Dogs

It’s no surprise that dogs can soothe us when we feel troubled. But research shows bonding with dogs has positive benefits even on a biological level. Dogs elevate levels of the hormone oxytocin in our bodies, which promotes feelings of trust and well being. Oxytocin also heightens the ability to interpret facial expressions, helps one overcome paranoia and can have positive effects on social interactions.

A specially trained PTSD service dog can provide an extra sense of security and have a calming effect on veterans, help with episodes of depression, anxiety, and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder as well as being loving companions. These dogs can sense a PTSD veteran’s mood and will know when it’s a difficult day for their veteran, sometimes before the veteran may even fully realize their own emotional state. Additionally, these service dogs are trained by qualified organizations to respond to a PTSD episode and help bring their humans back to a relaxed and coherent state. 

 

Experts agree that approximately 20% of veterans experience PTSD after their time serving on the front lines of the military no matter their branch of service. Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is defined as a mental health condition triggered by a terrifyingly traumatic event – either witnessing it or experiencing it. Symptoms may include flashbacks and nightmares, severe anxiety and uncontrollable thoughts related to the event…and those are just a few of the symptoms and challenges veterans surviving with PTSD face each and every day.

 

From the VA, “Veterans with substantial mobility limitations associated with a mental health disorder, PTSD,  for which a service dog has been identified as the optimal way to address the mobility impairment may be eligible for  veterinary health benefits through the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Mental Health Mobility Service Dog Initiative. A diagnosis of substantial mobility limitation indicates that most common life and work activities (i.e., leaving the house, or getting to medical appointments, using public transportation, etc.) are impaired or prevented for the person more than half the time. Under the Mental Health Mobility Service Dog Initiative, this benefit has been offered for Veterans with a mental health condition. It provides comprehensive coverage for the canine’s health and wellness and any prescription medications necessary to enable the dog to perform its duties in service to the Veteran.” 

 

While the VA does not pay for the adoption or purchase of a trained service dog, there are many organizations whose mission is to help veterans obtain and learn to work with these canine companions. The VA, however, does provide, for qualifying veterans living with PTSD, a Veterinary Health Benefit and equipment for the working life of the trained PTSD service dog. This benefit is administered via the Offices of Mental Health Services and Prosthetic and Sensory Aids Service at [email protected] and once a veteran is approved they are directed to an ADI-accredited agency to apply for a service dog. The VA does NOT pay for grooming, boarding, food or other routine expenses associated with dog ownership.

 

Among the many reputable and amazing organizations dedicated to helping match veterans with highly-skilled service dogs, including specialized PTSD service dogs, is K9s for Warriors. K9s for Warriors rescues and trains shelter dogs to be paired as service dogs for warriors with service-connected PostTraumatic Stress Disorder, traumatic brain injury and/or military sexual Trauma.The goal of their work is helping to end veteran suicide and return our nation’s brave veterans to a life of independence and dignity. They are the nation’s largest provider of service dogs for disabled American veterans. To date, the organization has rescued over 1,000 shelter dogs and paired them with over 600 veterans in need. 

The non-profit organization provides PTSD service dogs of the highest quality at no cost to those participating in the  program in order to help restore their physical and emotional independence.  Their focus is on healing – helping the veteran and paired service dog build a bond to facilitate healing and recovery.  As the healing takes place, the reintegration to society begins. Warriors can return to their communities with a new “leash” on life as productive citizens who make a positive difference. After completing their three-week training program the veterans have gained the emotional means to repair their relationship with themselves, their families and their friends. 

Roughly 90% of their service dogs come from shelters or are owner-surrendered. Instead of a life of abandonment or euthanasia, they are given a new purpose.  With each graduate pair, K9’s for Warriors save two lives; they rescue the dog, and the dog rescues the warrior. 

Currently, K9’s for Warriors works exclusively with veterans disabled serving during or after 9/11/01. While the disability does not need to be combat related, applicants must have a verified, clinical diagnosis of PTSD, TBI, or MST to qualify for the program. At this time, K9s For Warriors does not provide Service Dogs to individuals who are legally blind or hearing impaired. They accept applications from all 50 states. Before being matched with their new PTSD service dog, applicants participate in a phone interview to assess their needs, discuss their lifestyle, work environment, personality and family. Veterans also must agree to a background check before acceptance into the program and meeting their dog. Experts working with the organization pair candidates with the service dog best suited for them. Veterans do not get to choose their dog nor supply their own dog to the K9s for Warriors for training.  

Once accepted, the training program takes 21 days to complete. Veterans travel to one of the organization’s two campuses in Florida for the duration of the training. Since this is a full immersion program, veterans stay and have their meals at the campus. During this three week period humans and canines learn to work together and bond to each other in order to effectively mitigate the precise needs of the veteran. 

 

PTSD service dogs can be specifically trained to calm their veteran when they are having a flashback or panic attack, use their bodies to prevent their veteran from feeling anxious and uncomfortable when out in society and alert them to sounds and lights that may go unnoticed when they are in the midst of an episode, like a smoke or house alarm.They can remind their veteran to take their medications, provide emotional support that may help lower instances of substance abuse and so much more. Many people, veterans living with PTSD, and otherwise find comfort in the unconditional love a dog provides and have an easier time allowing them to provide that comfort, companionship and assistance than with another person aiding them. 

For more information about the K9’s for Warriors organization,  visit https://www.k9sforwarriors.org/

 

 

 

What Veterans and their Spouses Need to Know about Life Insurance

What Veterans and their Spouses Need to Know about Life Insurance

Submitted by Veronica Baxter

Before separating from military service, there are some decisions you need to make regarding the financial future of your family. An individual life insurance policy may figure into those plans.

Government-sponsored Ways to Protect Your Family Financially

Military Pension

Prior to separating, you will have the option to provide that your spouse receive a portion of your military pension when you die. This is at significant cost, so be sure to weigh the benefits of provided for your surviving spouse against the loss of retirement income to pay for that.

 

If you are a war-time veteran, your surviving spouse and unmarried surviving children may be eligible for a modest Survivors Pension, also called a Death Pension.

Serviceman’s Group Life Insurance (SGLI)

This low-cost group term life insurance policy is available to active duty, active duty/inactive duty for training, and National Guardsman and Reservists. Upon separation from the military you have the opportunity to convert this policy to a either Veterans’ Group Life Insurance (VGLI) or to an individual plan. Again, veterans should weigh the cost of converting this insurance with the potential benefit.

 

To convert the SGLI policy to VGLI, a veteran must take action within one year and 120 of discharge. If the veteran submits an application to convert within 240 days of discharge the insurer will not require any proof of insurability or take a medical exam.

Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (DIC)

Veterans’ survivors can receive thousands of dollars in tax-free payments if certain criteria is met: 

 

  • Service member dies during service;
  • Veteran dies due to a service-connected disability;
  • Veteran’s death unrelated to service but VA rated him or her totally disabled from a service connected disability.

Service-Disabled Veterans Insurance (S-DVI)

Any veteran who is rated disabled qualifies for a Serivice-Disabled Veterans Insurance (S-DVI) that provides life insurance coverage up to $10,000. Totally disabled veterans can have premiums waived and apply for an additional $30,000 in life insurance coverage, for which they must pay premiums.

Private Individual Life Insurance

For many veterans, private individual life insurance bridges the gap between what is available to their surviving spouse and children through the government, and what their surviving family needs to survive financially. Even if you and your family qualify for all available government financial assistance programs listed above, those benefits may still leave your family short.

 

For those who do not qualify for many of these benefits, for example, the surviving spouses who married veterans after they separated from the military, or for the surviving spouses of those who did not opt to convert their Serviceman’s Group Life Insurance to an individual plan, or for the surviving spouse of a veteran who was not disabled prior to death, a private individual life insurance policy may be the only remaining way a veterant can provide for his or her spouse.

AD&D Insurance

Accidental Death and Dismemberment Insurance is a type of life insurance policy that pays benefits to the insured should he or she become accidentally injured, and death benefits to the insured’s named beneficiaries should the insured die accidentally or from injuries sustained in an accident.

 

AD&D insurance can be a stand-alone policy, in which case it is generally less expensive than traditional life insurance. AD&D insurance can also be a rider on an existing life insurance policy.

 

AD&D insurance can be valuable if a veteran later becomes disabled or dies due to injuries sustained in a non-service-related accident.

Burial Insurance or PreNeed Funeral Insurance

For veterans who do not qualify for whatever reason for government burial benefits, other types of insurance can cover funeral costs. These policies vary greatly among different insurance companies, but in general, the benefit is quite low, ranging from $5,000 to $25,000.

 

Burial insurance pays the benefit directly to the beneficiary and any amount left over after funeral and burial costs are paid may be used to pay other expenses, such as outstanding medical bills, etc.

 

PreNeed Funeral Insurance pays the benefit directly to the funeral service provider of the insured’s choice.

Converting SGLI to USAA Term LIfe Insurance

For members of the military and veterans, USAA offers terms from 10 to 30 years and can replace some or all of the life insurance coverage a veteran had under SGLI. USAA also offers a term life event option rider which permits veterans to increase coverage by up to $100,000 if he or she gets married, buys a house, or has a baby.

Converting SGLI to AAFMAA Term Life Insurance

Veterans who are members of AAFMAA are eligible for up to $800,000 in term life insurance coverage. Term options available to veterans depend upon the age of the veteran and how long he or she needs life insurance coverage.

 

In conclusion, there are private sector insurance options that can make up for the gap in what amount funds your lifestyle now, and what amount will be available to your surviving family once you die.  Consult an insurance agent in your area to explore your options, and get the peace of mind that comes with providing for your family’s financial future.

 

About the Author

Veronica Baxter is a blogger and legal assistant living and working in the great city of Philadelphia.  She works frequently with Chad G. Boonswang, Esq., a life insurance attorney in Philadelphia.

The Veterans Service Organization

The Veterans Service Organization

Contributed by Alan Rohlfing

 

The Veterans Service Organization has long been a part of the American landscape. For many of us, the groups that fall in this particular category have been recognized as cornerstones in our communities for decades. We grew up in their halls, going to all-you-can-eat pancake breakfasts in the morning and playing bingo at night.

Some of them host karaoke and trivia nights, while others focus on baseball or dart leagues. By and large, though, they all have a higher purpose that resonates with those of us in the military community…and that’s to serve.

There are many – oh, so many – organizations that seemingly help with Veterans’ causes. A quick Google search of Veterans Service Organizations (VSO, for short) yielded about 156,000,000 results in 1.07 seconds. I don’t mean to imply that there are 156 million such groups, but you’ll probably need to dig a little deeper to really see what your options are.

Most of these organizations compete with each other – for members, for publicity, and for money. It seems they’re all vying for that federal grant, or that private foundation award, or for your hard-earned twenty bucks. Some have a great track record of using those donated dollars wisely, and others not so much, but you’ll have to decide where that ranks for you, when choosing where you should donate your time, talent, or treasure.

So, if you’re looking to connect with one, you’re going to have to wade through more than just the first few pages of your vague online query to find your next VSO home. Narrow your search a bit more…are you looking for one that’s local, regardless of their national footprint, or do you need a group to be Congressionally chartered before you’ll support it? Maybe you’re looking for one (or more) that has someone that can help with processing a VA claim.

If that’s the case, then that’s a whole other search, and an entirely different article. The other VSO is an acronym for Veterans Service Officer, not Veterans Service Organization. A VSO, in that sense of the word, can help you with the preparation, presentation, and prosecution of claims...and can be worth their weight in gold, if they know what they’re doing. Connect with a good VSO (organization) and they’ll help connect you with a good VSO (officer).

Getting back to your search for the right Veterans Service Organization, a really good place to start is the US Department of Veterans Affairs’ 2019 Directory of Veterans and Military Service Organizations. Found at va.gov/vso, this particular listing is provided as an informational service and is arranged in five parts: 

  • Part I is a listing of Congressionally chartered Veterans Service Organizations that are also recognized by the Department of VA Office of General Counsel for the purpose of preparation, presentation, and prosecution of VA claims;
  • Part II is a listing of Veterans Service Organizations that are Congressionally chartered but that are NOT recognized by the VA for the purpose of preparation, presentation, and prosecution of Veteran’s claims;
  • Part III is a list of Veteran organizations that are not Congressionally chartered but that are officially recognized by the VA for the purpose of preparation, presentation, and prosecution of Veteran’s claims; 
  • Part IV lists those Veteran organizations that are neither Congressionally chartered nor officially recognized by the Department of Veterans Affairs for the purpose of preparation, presentation, and prosecution of Veteran’s claims, but that represent the interest of American Veterans; and
  • Part V, a section focused on Intergovernmental Affairs and official resources at the state level.

I could take up a lot of digital real estate listing out some of these groups, but I won’t do that here. Just know that most of the organizations you’ve already heard of are on this list, as well as many of the ones you haven’t…from The American Legion, VFW, and DAV, to The Mission Continues and The National Association of Atomic Veterans. If this directory is still a little too much, get in touch with your state’s Department or Commission on Veterans Affairs and let them help you navigate these waters.

So, I challenge you to get involved. Join one or two Veterans Service Organizations whose mission connects with you. Whether you’re joining to start really giving back to the military community, or for the camaraderie and sense of belonging, I think you’ll be glad that you did.

Until next time…

Veterans’ Preference in the Job Search

Veterans’ Preference in the Job Search

Contributed by Alan Rohlfing

 

If you’re part of the Military community and you’ve spent any time at all looking for a job, you’re probably at least vaguely familiar with the term “Veterans’ Preference.” For most of us, though, that’s the extent of it…we have a vague familiarity with the words, something that gives us a conceptual warm and fuzzy, but we’re not quite sure why.

Simply stated, Veterans’ Preference is a policy that may allow an applicant to receive preference in the hiring process over non-Veterans. State and local public-sector programs and companies in private enterprise may have their own preference policies in place, but for the rest of this post, we’ll be talking about Veterans’ Preference in the federal jobs environment.

According to OPM (the US Office of Personnel Management that serves as the country’s chief Human Resources agency and that oversees its federal hiring processes), Veterans of the US Armed Forces have been given some degree of preference in appointments to federal jobs since the Civil War. Veterans’ Preference was used to “recognize the economic loss suffered by citizens who have served their country in uniform, restore Veterans to a favorable competitive position for Government employment, and acknowledge the larger obligation owed to disabled Veterans.” In its current form, the policy has its roots in the Veterans’ Preference Act of 1944 (codified in Title 5, United States Code).

If you really want to do a deep dive on the subject, you should supplement your education with a visit to OPM’s web page for HR professionals at https://www.opm.gov/policy-data-oversight/veterans-services/vet-guide-for-hr-professionals/. While you’re there, you’ll find that, by law, preference in hiring “applies to permanent and temporary positions in the competitive and excepted services of the Executive branch,” but that the Legislative and Judicial branches of the Federal Government are exempt, unless made subject to the Veterans’ Preference Act by some other law. If you find yourself longing for more on the topic, I’d also visit https://www.fedshirevets.gov/job-seekers/veterans-preference/. You’ll be able to really get in the weeds about when preference applies and the type you’re eligible for, which we’ll just touch on here and now…

Types of Veterans’ Preference (Federal level). Veterans’ Preference eligibility can be based on dates of active duty service, receipt of a campaign badge, receipt of a Purple Heart, or a service-connected disability, but know that not all active duty service qualifies for Veterans’ Preference. Only Veterans discharged or released from active duty under honorable conditions are eligible for veterans’ preference. Military retirees at the rank of Major, Lieutenant Commander, or higher are not eligible for preference in appointment unless they are disabled veterans (but this doesn’t apply to gray-area retirees, those Reservists who won’t draw military retired pay until age 60.) There are three types of preference eligibility: sole survivorship (0-point preference), non-disabled (5-point preference), and disabled (10-point preference). Here are a few of the details:

…0-point preference eligibility. You were released or discharged from a period of active duty from the armed forces, after August 29, 2008, by reason of being the only surviving child in a family in which the father or mother or one or more siblings: 1) Served in the armed forces, AND 2) was killed, died as a result of wounds, accident, or disease, is in a captured or missing in action status, or is permanently 100 percent disabled or hospitalized on a continuing basis (and is not employed gainfully because of the disability or hospitalization); WHERE the death, status, or disability did not result from the intentional misconduct or willful neglect of the parent or sibling and was not incurred during a period of unauthorized absence. (While no points are added to a scored application for 0-point eligibles, they are listed ahead of non-preference eligibles with the same score or in the same quality category.)

…5-point preference eligibility. You served on active duty in a war, campaign or expedition for which a campaign medal or badge has been authorized; OR for more than 180 consecutive days, other than for training, during various periods of time over the last 65 years or so. (I refer you back to the OPM webpage earlier in this post for the exact dates.)

…10-Point preference eligibility.  You served at any time, AND 1) you have a service-connected disability, OR 2) you received a Purple Heart.

How Veterans’ Preference is applied & other things you’ll need. When applying for Federal jobs, eligible Veterans should claim preference on their application or resume; when agencies use a numerical rating and ranking system to determine the best qualified applicants for a position, an additional 5 or 10 points are added to the numerical score of qualified preference-eligible Veterans. When claiming Veterans’ Preference, you’ll typically need to provide a copy of your DD-214, Certificate of Release or Discharge from Active Duty, or other acceptable documentation. Applicants claiming 10-point preference will usually need to submit form SF-15, Application for 10-point Veterans’ Preference, or other acceptable documentation (such as a letter from the VA that contains details on dates of service, discharge status, and disability rating).

 

The informal feedback I’ve received over the last decade indicates that most of us in the general population of job seekers have mixed feelings about Veterans’ Preference. I, for one, appreciate the gesture our national leadership put in place all those years ago, but I can’t say as I’ve ever benefited from being awarded those preference points in the application process. I’ve heard many folks say they’ve applied to countless position and (even with points applied) have never even been called for an interview, and therefore are less than enamored with the policy. Still others make no bones about their dislike and distrust of the process, believing that nepotism and the ‘good old boy’ system is still alive and well, regardless of what OPM has to say.

My take is that you’d have to have a look deep under the hood to gauge whether or not Veterans’ Preference in the federal hiring arena has had the kind of impact its writers had hoped it would. But if you’re applying for a position or a program that uses Veterans’ Preference and you’re eligible, I encourage you to use it to your advantage – you’ve earned it. Remember that Veterans’ Preference doesn’t guarantee a job to those that qualify, and it typically doesn’t apply to internal agency actions like promotions, transfers, reassignments, and reinstatements.

Personally, I never thought Veterans’ Preference would be that ‘X’ factor that got me the job, but rather that it might be what gives me that competitive edge one day, and propels me to the interview phase of the job search. And here’s hoping that it will for you, too.

Until next time…

 

 

Aging Gracefully in the VA: Collecting Disability Benefits in Your Golden Years

Aging Gracefully in the VA: Collecting Disability Benefits in Your Golden Years
Contributed by Kris Baydalla-Galasso
There are over 76 million baby boomers in the United States. Over 10 million of those baby boomers are Veterans. When you include the Silent and Greatest Generations, you are looking at nearly 15 million Veterans who have reached retirement age and may be in need of senior services beyond just a customary discount.
Senior Veterans have an increased likelihood to not utilize their VA benefits to their full extent. In many cases, seniors might not actually even be aware of the benefits for which they are eligible. The underutilized benefits begin with compensation. Most elderly veterans are entitled to receive compensation above and beyond the service-related compensation. In fact, there are a variety of health care programs that are actually common benefits for those who might need them.
Did you know that Elderly Veterans are entitled to Aid and Attendance? This is a program available for veterans who need help with basic daily functions. Bed-ridden, blind, nursing home Veterans can all enlist the help of an attendant to assist with their daily needs. Housebound Veterans who are unable to leave their home as a result of their disability are also eligible for similar services. Adult Day Health Care can also be life changing to elderly Veterans in need. As we age, our needs change, and Adult Day Health Care helps address and fulfill many of those needs. From companionship to recreational activity and care from therapists to nurses, the care provided might literally be life changing.
When health care needs go beyond the scope of companionship, Home Based Primary Care might be the route a family would want to take. This program brings a VA doctor into the home of the Veteran. That VA doctor will supervise an entire team that will meet and perform services within the home. This option is for veterans with health issues that are beyond the scope of care that can be provided by a clinic. Homemaker and Home Health Aides are available as well to help with daily care. This service would be customized for a Veteran who requires daily living assistance.
As age and illnesses progress, more intense services may be required to fully assist in the patient’s care. Palliative Care tends to those needs with the goal of managing pain, suffering, and symptoms. Palliative Care comes into work with the veteran and their families to evaluate the needs of the patient and put a plan into place that will best control a patient’s symptoms. When a patient is given less than six months to live, Veterans are eligible to receive Hospice Care.
Veterans that are confined to their home or live too great of a distance from their local VA are eligible for Skilled Home Health Care. The VA contracts with a local provider to ensure the needs of the Veteran are appropriately met. The care doesn’t end with the Veteran. The VA understands that the family of a Veteran can get worn out as well. Respite Care comes in to give the family of the elderly or infirmed Veteran a break from their day-to-day responsibilities and work.
The VA is aware that different cases require different solutions. Telehealth gives nurses and doctors access to monitoring equipment so that a veteran can stay in their own home while still receiving care. Veteran Directed Care provides case management and allows a Veteran and family to completely customize a health care plan to ensure their needs are being met. This might include skilled in-home services, daily assistance or medical needs.
Our Veterans are aging with every passing day. As their need for care increases, it is likely that the types of care provided will increase as well. For now, however, the list of care options is fairly comprehensive and many of the options will help address those needs.

New VA Medical Center in Redding, CA Plans Underway

New VA Medical Center in Redding, CA Plans Underway

Just a few months after the existing VA medical center in Redding, CA was threatened by nearby wildfires, the VA has awarded a lease for a new medical facility. The new complex will rehome the two existing VA treatment facilities in Redding as well as increase the amount of space available for medical professionals. This new facility will serve more than 60,000 Veterans. In addition to all of the services currently provided, the new facility in Redding will have room for 17 new mental health providers, a mammography center and a second x-ray center.

 

The lease award in Redding is just one of thirteen major leases that have been awarded across the country.

 

“These awards are the next step in increasing access for our Veterans across the country,” said VA Secretary Robert Wilkie. “VA stands firm in ensuring our Veterans are treated in state-of-the-art facilities and continue to access the high quality of care VA is able to provide.”

 

Charleston, SC

Chattanooga, Tennessee

Houston, TX

Lincoln, Nebraska

Lubbock, Texas

Myrtle Beach, South Carolina

New Port Richey, Florida

Phoenix, Arizona

Ponce, Puerto Rico

San Antonio, Texas

Tulsa, Oklahoma

Bakersfield, California

 

While timelines have not been provided for these projects, the VA is hopeful to have construction underway as quickly as possible.

 

Loan Benefits: How the VA Helps You

Loan Benefits: How the VA Helps You

Can you imagine getting a home loan without a down payment? How about avoiding PMI? Your VA Loan Benefit can make both of those home-buying pitfalls completely avoidable in many cases.

Veterans and active duty servicemembers are eligible to apply for VA Loan Benefits, which can make the home buying process easier and more affordable. In many cases, eligible homebuyers do not need to have a down payment. In contrast, FHA loans require 3.5% down payment and conventional loans are typical around 5%. This is a huge savings for the home buyer!

Another benefit to a VA Loan is the avoidance of mortgage insurance premiums. PMI is required in other loans. Conventional loans require PMI when the down payment is less than 20%. FHA Loans require PMI that have an annual cost in addition to the upfront charges. Avoiding the PMI provides a significant savings to the home buyer – and so does limiting the closing costs, another VA Loan perk. Sellers can be required to pay all of your closing costs – and up to 4% in concessions!

VA Loan Benefits will provide you the comfort of lower average interest rates than other lenders. There is no prepayment penalty on a VA loan, which means VA home buyers can pay off a loan early without any penalties or financial repercussions.

If a Veteran has already used their loan benefits, they may still be eligible for VA financing through “Second Tier Entitlement.” This allows Veterans to restore loan entitlement and buy homes again.

The VA Loan program has two different refinancing options for eligible homeowners – one for those with an existing VA Loan and another for those who have a conventional loan and wish to refinance into the VA Loan Program.

The VA Loan Program also tries to help protect its borrowers should difficult times arise. In the event of financial hardship, a VA Loan might be assumable by another party. There are also advocates to help Veterans and active duty servicemembers avoid foreclosure.

Your VA Loan doesn’t guarantee that your house will be perfect – no house is! The VA will appraise your intended property, but this is not an inspection. It is in your best interest as a potential homebuyer to have a full home inspection performed on any house you buy.