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Military Connection: VA Loans Boost Housing Market: By Debbie Gregory

Va loansThe nation’s struggling housing market could be seeing improvement, thanks to military Veterans. Approximately 2.8 million Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans may be able to take advantage of VA mortgages and special discounts in order to achieve home ownership. VA home loans are already nearing a twenty year high.

There are currently over 2 million VA loans, with total balances reaching over $370 billion. Despite popular belief, the VA doesn’t loan money to Veterans. VA loans are actually loans from private lenders that are secured through the VA. The federal government reduces the risk for lenders by covering up to 25 percent of the loan amount if the loan is defaulted on. These loans have already accounted for 8.1% of mortgages made in the first quarter of 2014. This number is up from 6.9% in 2013.

In 1944, President Franklin Roosevelt signed the Servicemen’s Readjustment Act, also known as the G.I. Bill of Rights, into law.  The law included benefits for military Veterans such as college tuition assistance, Veteran mortgages, business loans and unemployment benefits. VA mortgage benefits are available to active duty service members, reservists, Veterans, as well as their surviving spouses.

More and more active-duty service members and younger Veterans are using their VA mortgage benefits to buy homes. This may be because the cost to rent is getting more expensive, and the risks of homeownership now seem less dangerous.

Service members and Veterans are also using additional resources in their real estate ventures. Homes for Heroes provides additional savings to service members and Veterans by offering rebates, discounts and other exclusive deals. By using a Homes for Heroes affiliate for your real estate business, you enjoy significant savings while contributing resources for the operation and management of the Homes for Heroes Foundation. The foundation is a 501 (c) 3 that provides ***or*** coordinates financial assistance and housing resources to our Nation’s Heroes such as Military personnel, police/peace officers, firefighters and first responders in need.

Military Connection proudly serves those who serve in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, Guard &amp,amp,amp, Reserve, Veterans and their Families. We are the go to site for Veteran Employment and information on Veteran education. Militaryconnection.com provides Veterans with and Directory of Employers, a Job Board, information on the Post-9/11 GI Bill, and a blog that offers Veterans boundless information. Be sure to visit Militaryconnection.com, the go to site.

Military Connection: VA Loans Boost Housing Market: By Debbie Gregory

Military Connection: Commissary Cuts Postponed 1yr: By Debbie Gregory

CommissaryAs the economy struggles to rebound,  there are many government programs that will need to be trimmed down *****or***** eliminated completely. The defense department’s budget is not exempted from the reductions, and neither are the programs that affect the members of the DOD and their families.

But military families recently dodged a bullet, after the Senate budget panel voted to restore $200 million in cuts from commissaries.

Base commissaries are essentially supermarkets. The program is run by the Defense Commissary Agency (DeCA), which falls under the DOD. Commissaries sell basic food and household goods, most of which can also be found at the Base Exchange (which is more like a Wal-Mart). Commissaries are different from exchanges in that  they try to offer the same products to service members and military families, no matter where they are in the world, at a subsidized price.

While civilians who are unfamiliar with commissaries may see the program as a handout, most military families see commissaries as part of their income, and one of the benefits that caused them to jointhe military. Service members don’t make much in the way of base pay. In order to make ends meet, most military families rely on the other military benefits, including Base Allowance for Housing (BAH), subsidized on-base gas stations, military banking centers, base exchanges and commissaries. The DeCA estimates that the average military family saves more than $4,000 per year by shopping at the commissary.

It takes an estimated $1.4 billion each year to operate 178 commissaries located within the U.S. and the additional 67 commissaries located overseas. Last year, there were talks of eliminating commissaries completely. The Senate budget panel recently voted on whether *****or***** not to cut $200 million from the program, which the DeCA estimates would have cost military families approximately $1,500 per year in higher prices.

The commissary has not been saved for good. The panel only agreed to put off cuts for one year.

Civilians might question why service members don’t just do their shopping in town. But service members and their families sacrifice so much, and in reality, earn so little, that these benefits are not perks, they are necessities. Saving money by shopping at the commissary helps military familiesafford a better life… one that they have truly sacrificed for and deserve.

Military Connection proudly serves those who serve in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, Guard &amp, Reserve, Veterans and their Families. We are the go to site for Veteran Employment and information on Veteran education. Militaryconnection.com provides Veterans with and Directory of Employers, a Job Board, information on the Post-9/11 GI Bill, and a blog that offers Veterans boundless information. Be sure to visit Militaryconnection.com, the go to site.

Military Connection: Commissary Cuts Postponed 1yr: By Debbie Gregory

Military Connection: Next VA Sec Addresses Congress: By Debbie Gregory

mcdonald

Robert McDonald, President Obama’s nominee to be the permanent secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) addressed Congress on July 22, 2014. During his meeting with the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee, the future head of the VA vowed to transform the department, agreeing that systematic failures in transparency, accountability, integrity, and patient access to healthcare must be addressed.

“The seriousness of the moment demands urgent action,” McDonald told the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee. “There is a lot of work to do to transform the department and it will not be easy, but it is essential and can be achieved.”

McDonald is perfectly positioned to address these issues.  The former CEO of Procter &amp,amp,amp,amp, Gambleis an Army Veteran, and his father served in the Army Air Corps.  McDonald’s father-in-law was prisoner of war during WWII. McDonald also shared that he has a relative who was exposed to Agent Orange in Vietnam, and receives care from the VA, and his nephew is in the Air Force, currently deployed in the Middle East. Due to his own Veteran status and the care that his family members receive from the VA, McDonald would be vested in the quality and timeliness of the department he would be entrusted with overseeing.

If confirmed, McDonald plans to implement a Veteran-first vision for the department. His plan includes frequent video conferences with VA employees, and extensive travel to field offices around the country.

Sources say that McDonald’s confirmation is all but assured, as lawmakers from both parties have voiced their approval for McDonald’s nomination.

Military Connection proudly serves those who serve in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, Guard &amp,amp,amp, Reserve, Veterans and their Families. We are the go to site for Veteran Employment and information on Veteran education. Militaryconnection.com provides Veterans with and Directory of Employers, a Job Board, information on the Post-9/11 GI Bill, and a blog that offers Veterans boundless information. Be sure to visit Militaryconnection.com, the go to site.

Military Connection: Next VA Sec Addresses Congress: By Debbie Gregory

Military Connection: Iowa to Open Veterans Court: By Debbie Gregory

veteran court

District Judge Jeffrey Poulson is leading the effort to establish a Veterans Treatment Court in Woodbury County, Iowa.

The first Veterans Court was started in Buffalo, New York in 2008. Since then, more and more state and county legal systems are seeing an increasing amount of Veterans mustering through their courtrooms.

Over a decade spent fighting two wars has produced a large population of combat Veterans who fought for their country in Iraq and Afghanistan. These Veterans survived their deployments, only to come home to rampant unemployment and underemployment. Many of them have been ill-equipped to succeed on the home front. Discouraged, and often times dealing with varying degrees of post-traumatic stress, many Veterans have turned to substance abuse. Abusing drugs and alcohol is often the cause of many Veteran arrests.

Judge Poulson, like many other judges across the U.S., is convinced that Veterans who find themselves in trouble with the law need help of a different sort, something other than a jail ***or*** prison sentence. Other county judges, after seeing similar scenarios in cases concerning scores of Veterans, want to find a way to help Veterans and their communities by offering alternative solutions. That is why Veteran courts are springing up all over the nation.

Judges presiding over Veteran courts have the ability to order mentorship, counseling, and treatment programs in lieu of jail time. They also have the ability to expunge criminal records for Veterans who cooperate while on the program. Of course, Veterans who fail to comply with the program will end up spending time behind bars.

Woodbury County’s Veterans Court is expected to utilize a system that matches each offender with a Veteran mentor. Poulson envisions mentorship pairs that share similar military experiences. Mentors are not intended to be counselors for the offenders, but rather someone to whom they can go to for advice and guidance.

Judge Poulson hopes that the Woodbury County Veterans Court will be operational by January 1, 2015.

Military Connection proudly serves those who serve in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, Guard &amp,amp, Reserve, Veterans and their Families. We are the go to site for Veteran Employment and information on Veteran education. Militaryconnection.com provides Veterans with and Directory of Employers, a Job Board, information on the Post-9/11 GI Bill, and a blog that offers Veterans boundless information. Be sure to visit Militaryconnection.com, the go to site.

Military Connection: Iowa to Open Veterans Court: By Debbie Gregory

Military Connection: 11 More Army SHARP Centers: By Debbie Gregory

Sharp_logoBefore 2013, the U.S. Army didn’t have any sexual assault response centers. Soon, there will twelve.

In July, 2013, the Sexual Harassment and Assault Response and Prevention (SHARP) Center opened at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, near Tacoma, Washington. The center was the first of its kind for the Army, *****or***** any branch of the U.S. Military for that matter.

The SHARP Center consolidates legal, medical, mental health, advocacy and education services in one location. Previously, victims would have to go to different offices on base for each of these services, often having to revisit the traumatic experiences while speaking with advocates at each stop.

The one-stop SHARP Center is intended to make it easier for soldiers who have been victims of sexual assault to report misconduct, and seek any assistance that they need. Soldiers can go to the center to report a sexual assault, especially important if they don’t want to go through their units. Since misconduct can often stem from members of their unit’s leadership and involve parties that are familiar with each other, having to go through their own unit makes reporting the misconduct more stressful.

Soldiers and officers in leadership and command positions can also use the SHARP center to better serve their soldiers who have reported a sexual assault. Staff at the center provides them with information regarding the process of a case, and can help them to better understand what their soldier is going through.

The Army has announced plans to replicate the SHARP Center model at 11 other posts.

Military Connection proudly serves those who serve in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, Guard &amp,amp, Reserve, Veterans and their Families. We are the go to site for Veteran Employment and information on Veteran education. Militaryconnection.com provides Veterans with and Directory of Employers, a Job Board, information on the Post-9/11 GI Bill, and a blog that offers Veterans boundless information. Be sure to visit Militaryconnection.com, the go to site.

Military Connection: 11 More Army SHARP Centers: By Debbie Gregory

Military Connection: New Hi-tech Job Program: By Debbie Gregory

Biden RevealsAt the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) annual national convention in St. Louis, Vice President Joe Biden announced that the White House will be launching a new high-tech job training campaign that will include training and placement programs specifically for Veterans.

In the July 21st statement, Biden said that the initial phase of the program will target communities with high rates of Veterans unemployment. The intention is to rapidly retrain these Veterans to work in high-demand programming and technology trades.

The initiative comes after a months-long study on ways to ensure that all Americans have access to high-skill job training. As part of that study, researchers believe there will be approximately 1.4 million technology jobs that will need to be filled by American businesses over the next five years.

The U.S. issues nearly 500,000 work visas each year to immigrants who come to this country to work in high-tech fields, earning $70,000 and up. The White House’s plan is to prepare Americans to fill those positions. The vice president told the convention that Veterans will be among the leaders of the new highly skilled American work force.

“Nobody views this as a favor to veterans. I view this as a favor to American businesses,” Biden said. “Our veterans are the best employees our businesses could ever ask for.”

We are still waiting for the official announcement about the White House’s high-tech job training initiative, and the program’s eventual launch schedule.

Military Connection proudly serves those who serve in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, Guard &amp,amp,amp,amp,amp, Reserve, Veterans and their Families. We are the go to site for Veteran Employment and information on Veteran education. Militaryconnection.com provides Veterans with and Directory of Employers, a Job Board, information on the Post-9/11 GI Bill, and a blog that offers Veterans boundless information. Be sure to visit Militaryconnection.com, the go to site.

Military Connection: New Hi-tech Job Program: By Debbie Gregory

Military Connection: No Help for Vets with TBI? By Debbie Gregory

TBI AL extension

As the August recess quickly approaches, Veterans are still waiting for Congress to take action on renewing an important piece of legislation allowing Veterans with traumatic brain injuries to receive treatment in assisted living facilities.

More than twelve years of war on two fronts has resulted in a whole generation of Americans who have sustained traumatic brain injuries. Many Veteran advocates, and even members of Congress, believe that the government has a responsibility to support the recovery of wounded Veterans and help all Veterans transition back to civilian life when their service is complete.

The current pilot program that provides assisted living care for Veterans with traumatic brain injuries is currently set to expire on September 30th, unless Congress acts to renew it.

There is pending legislation in the Senate that would extend the program for three years, at a cost of $46 million. But lawmakers in both houses are currently preoccupied with trying to reach an agreement on reforming the hot-ticket Veterans healthcare system. Along with drawing Congress’s attention away from the program’s legislation, the VA reform bill is expected to cost over $40 billion per year, so it may be taking the funding from the assisted living program as well.

The program, which began in 2008 was intended to generate more effective rehabilitation methods for Veterans suffering from a traumatic brain injury.

Many leading Veteran advocacy groups are demanding that Congress needs to find both the time and the resources to extend the assisted living program.

Military Connection proudly serves those who serve in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, Guard &amp,amp, Reserve, Veterans and their Families. We are the go to site for Veteran Employment and information on Veteran education. Militaryconnection.com provides Veterans with and Directory of Employers, a Job Board, information on the Post-9/11 GI Bill, and a blog that offers Veterans boundless information. Be sure to visit Militaryconnection.com, the go to site.

Military Connection: No Help for Vets with TBI? By Debbie Gregory