How To Apply For A VA Home Loan

Brick home with sold sign in front yard

First, you may be wondering, how does VA loans work? The federal government doesn’t lend money with VA loans, but it does offer a guarantee. You borrow from a private lender, and the government guarantees payment for a portion of your mortgage. If you default on your loan, the government will pay back the lender.

With this type of guarantee, lenders may offer more favorable terms for VA loans compared with conventional mortgages because they are guaranteed repayment. For example, you may be able to take out a loan with no down payment.

You can use a VA loan to construct a home, make energy efficient improvements on your home or refinance a mortgage. However, you can only use a VA loan for your primary residence. This program is not available for a vacation or investment property. You don’t have to be a first-time homebuyer to use a VA loan and you can use this program more than once because it’s a lifetime benefit.

Who is eligible?

The VA loan program is available to active-duty members of the military, veterans, past and present members of the National Guard or reserves, and surviving spouses of services members who died in combat. However, if the surviving spouse remarried they are not eligible. Also, veterans with dishonorable discharged are not eligible. To be eligible, applicants must meet a minimum length of service:

  • 181 days of active service during peacetime
  • 90 days of active duty during wartime
  • Less than 90 days of active duty if discharged for a service related disability
  • Six years in the reserves or the National Guard

When you apply for a VA loan, you will need to present a certificate of eligibility, COE, from the VA lender to show you qualify for the program. You can apply for the COE online through the VA website or click here to apply. Your lender may also pull up your COE when you apply for a loan. Watch the video below to see what happens when you click the link above.

In addition to military service requirements, the lender’s income, credit score and other requirements to qualify for the mortgage. While the VA has no minimum credit score, lenders do: typically a minimum of 620. The lender will also consider your debt-to-income ratio, which is your monthly debt payments compared with your income. Most prefer a DTI of 43% or lower.

Are there loan limits?

The VA does not set a limit on how much you can borrow, but it does limit how much of the loan it will guarantee. This can determine if you will need to make a down payment. If your loan exceeds the ceiling limit of VA loan, you may be required to make up the difference with a down payment.

So what are the advantages of a VA Loan?

  • No money down
  • No mortgage insurance
  • You can qualify with fair credit
  • Sellers can help with closing cost
  • The VA funding fee can be financed
  • Cash is available for energy-efficient upgrades
  • There are no prepayment penalties
  • You can get support from the VA

So what are the disadvantages of a VA Loan?

  • You’ll pay a VA funding fee
  • They’re only available for primary residences
  • You can’t buy a fixer-upper in major disrepair

How do you apply for a VA Loan?

Applying for a VA loan is similar to a conventional loan. However, the two additional documents you will need is your COE and your DD-214. The lender will also schedule an appraisal of the property from a VA-certified appraiser. The appraiser will inspect the property to make sure it meets the VA’s minimum property requirements and is acceptable for a loan. If the property does not meet the requirements, the appraiser will point-out what needs to be repaired before you can take out a VA loan. You will need to negotiate repairs with the seller and schedule another inspection with the appraiser after the repairs are completed.

What are the different types of VA Loan Programs?

The VA offers various programs, in addition to the standard VA home loan program. If you have a home loan, you may be able to refinance with the VA for a better interest rate or to cash out the equity in your home. Native American and disabled veterans can receive additional benefits. To find out what the additional benefits are, contact your state VA offices and they will provide access to other benefits. Below is a list and a brief description of the different VA Loan Programs:

  • Interest Rate Reduction Refinance Loan – also known as the VA Streamline Refinance loan, can refinance your existing VA home loan. With the IRRRL program, you can replace your current VA loan with a new one with different terms. This program is not automatic, you need to apply for it through a lender.
  • VA Cash-out Refinance Home Loan – this program allows you to borrow against the equity of your home to make renovations, payoff credit cards or buy a new car. The VA will add the amount you cash out to your outstanding home loan.
  • Native American Direct Loan – Native American veterans who want to live on federal trust land – such as lands in tribal trusts, Alaskan Native corporate villages and Pacific island territories can use this program. If you’re eligible, you can use this loan to purchase, improve or build a home on federal trust land. You can also use this program to refinance an existing VA loan.
  • Adapted Housing Grants for Disabled Veterans – the VA offers three grants to help veterans with certain disabilities create an adapted home to accommodate disabilities. These grants pay out different amount and have different eligibility requirements. These are grants, not loans, so you don’t have to pay them back. They are as follows:
    • Specially Adapted Housing gran (SAH)t;
    • Special Housing Adaptation grant (SHA); and the
    • Home Improvements and Structural Alterations (HISA) grant.
  • State Resources – Your state may offer additional benefits for veterans. Many states, including Florida, New York and Virginia, offer an exemption from property taxes for eligible veterans.

My personal experience

In the spirit of full disclosure, my first home was bought with a conventional loan from a small local bank. That said, my younger brother, who retired from the Army in 2018, purchased his first home with a VA loan. My brother and I are very close and he was willing to share his personal experience with the VA home loan process. The following exchange is the result of my brief conversation with my brother:

Ron: So, thank you for taking the time to help out fellow veterans.

Marvin: No problem.

Ron: If you had to rank your overall experience with the VA home loan, how would you rank it from a scale of 1 to 5; 1 being the lowest score and 5 being the highest score?

Marvin: I would definitely give them a 5. My mortgage broker spoke directly with the VA, so to me dealing with the VA was all done behind the scene, if you will. I never had to speak with the VA directly.

Ron: When the mortgage broker asked for the COE and your DD-214, you provided that directly to your mortgage broker?

Marvin: Yep!

Ron: What was the best part of the process?

Marvin: I can’t point to one specific thing. The entire process seemed painless. I will say that I was pre-approved for a VA loan for almost $400,000. I was shocked, but I knew what my house payments needed to be, so I told them I only needed $100,000. The look on my realtor’s face was priceless, she wanted to show me houses in a “better” neighborhood but I declined. You see, I was going through a divorce at the time and I knew I couldn’t afford anything too extravagant.

Ron: That was smart. Would you get another VA home loan?

Marvin: Absolutely!

Ron: What was the worst part of the process?

Marvin: I can’t say there was a bad part of the process.

Ron: Did your appraisal come-in at the seller’s price?

Marvin: My appraisal came in more than loan amount. So I had instant equity coming into the house. That was an awesome feeling.

Ron: If you remember, how long did the entire process take? For me, using a conventional loan, it took a little short of 30 days from approval of the seller’s offer to closing of the loan.

Marvin: Mine took about 30 days, but my ex-wife made my life miserable towards the end because she wouldn’t sign the Quit Claim Deed.

Ron: For those of you who don’t know, the Quit Claim Deed is used between a husband and a wife who are terminating their relationship. The intent is for one party to retain the property while the other party will no longer be responsible for any aspect of property ownership.

Marvin: Right! Because my ex-wife decided to drag her feet, the first lender backed out of the deal which meant I had to rent my new house to the seller for two weeks while my mortgage broker looked for another lender who was willing to close on the property. Luckily, PennyMac stepped-up and here I am.

Ron: Just to be clear, did the VA get involved when you ex-wife wouldn’t sign the Quit Claim Deed?

Marvin: Not really, again I never had to speak to them, they just guaranteed the loan. To me it appeared that the VA didn’t care who lent me the money, or if my ex-wife signed the document.

Ron: Okay, hey thanks for answering these questions.

Marvin: No problem.

Conclusion

Applying for any home loan can be a complicated process, and VA loans are no different. I hope this post was helpful in guiding you to the most common questions. The most important thing I want you to remember is that the government doesn’t make home loans. The VA only guarantees the lender that they will get their money back. Look at it as a form of insurance, for each loan. Therefore, look at VA loans as a government-backed loan from a mortgage lender, not a home loan directly from the government. So, here are the steps for getting a VA loan:

Five Steps To A VA Loan

  1. Apply for a Certificate of Eligibility
  2. Apply to a mortgage lender for the loan
  3. Decide on a home and sign a mortgage agreement
  4. Order an appraisal from the VA
  5. Close the loan and move-in

If you have any questions, please feel free to comment below. If you had a different experience using the VA home loan program please share it in the comment section below. More importantly, if this post answered any of your questions, share it with other veterans within your social media site above.

How To Appeal Or Request For Waiver: Overpayments of Benefits

Female with credit card and laptop shopping

WARNING: Do not ignore a letter from the Department of Veterans Affair and/or Debt Management Center about being overpaid. They can and will begin the collection process no matter your circumstances.

A veteran has the right to dispute the amount of a debt and/or the right to request waiver of repayment. If the veteran is presently receiving benefits, and disputes the amount of the debt, they should notify the VA of the dispute, in writing within 30 days. They can also request a hearing. If the veteran does not dispute the overpayment amount, the VA will start withholding the veteran’s benefits and applying their benefit toward repayment of the debt in 60 days.

If the veteran does not dispute the overpayment amount, but does not believe they are at fault in creating the debt and believes they are unable to repay the debt without financial hardship, they can request a waiver of the debt. Waivers must be requested in writing within 180 days from when the Debt Management Center sent the veteran the initial notice the overpayment amount was due. This is a firm statute of limitations and will not be forgiven. A debt will become final and there will be no ability to seek a waiver if a waiver is not requested in 180 days. Remember, a veteran can seek a waiver even if they do not dispute the existence of the debt. However, the veteran should also complete VA Form 5655 – Financial Status Report showing their income and expenses.

VA regulations prohibit collection of an overpayment – if a waiver has been requested within 180 days – when “collection would be against equity and good conscience.” The Court applies a six-factor analysis in deciding collection. These factors are listed below. However, if a waiver is not timely requested, the VA can and will collect the overpayment if there is a hardship and you would otherwise have been granted a waiver, if it had been timely submitted. The VA should give the waiver request a full and sympathetic reading.

  • Equity means it would not be “fair” or “just” to collect the overpayment from the veteran’s benefits.
  • Good Conscience means that given all the facts and circumstances of the case, the veteran’s fault, the veteran’s financial situation, the veteran’s age of expenses, or all other factors such that collecting it would disturb or greatly upset or shock the conscience of a reasonable human being.

The Six-Factors:

  1. Fault of Veteran – did the veteran engage in fraud or misrepresent something to the VA that caused them to be overpaid?
  2. Fault of the VA – was the overpayment due to VA error such as a miscalculation by the VA?
  3. Hardship – would repayment cause “undue hardship” to veterans and family depriving them of basic necessities?
  4. Reason for Benefit Defeated – would recovery defeat the purpose for which benefit were rewarded? If the veteran receives pension benefits due to being poor, this safety net should not be taken away and cause them to be homeless.
  5. Unjust Enrichment – would the veteran experience an undeserving windfall if there was no collection?
  6. Reliance – has the veteran changed their position in justifiable reliance on the benefit such that collection would be unfair and the veteran would be made worse off? Would repayment result in the veteran having to relinquish a valuable right or incur a legal obligation (e.g. They purchased a home or car and incurred debt and would lose it and be sued if they defaulted on the debt).

So, if you received a collection or overpayment letter from the Department of Veteran Affairs or the Debt Management Center, Do Not Ignore It! Contact your VSO at the American Legion, VFW, or DAV and they will be able to help you out.

If you have already gone through this process, please let us know below how the process went so others can benefit from your experience.

How Veterans Can Upgrade Their Discharge

Legal OfficeDid you know veterans are able to upgrade their discharge? I didn’t. Apparently each military branch of service has two types of Boards that can grant discharge upgrades. It was created only to upgrade discharges, so you will never have to worry about being downgraded. The Boards can change both the character of the discharge and the narrative reason for the discharge. The Boards can also authorize monetary payments where appropriate.

Discharge Review Board (DRB)

In order to go before the DRB, the veteran can’t have more than 15 years since their date of discharge. No General Court Martial Conviction can be upgraded at this review board. The DRB does not change reenlistment codes or reinstate people to service. The veteran needs to complete an application for a DD293 and generally include their Official Military Personnel and Medical Records (OMPF). They should include anything else they want the board to consider, including a veteran personal statement. An attorney will generally prepare a brief to submit legal arguments warranting an upgrade, so the veteran should consult an attorney.

Standard of Review

The veteran must convince the board that their discharge reason or characterization was “inequitable” or “improper.” Inequitable means the reason or characterization of the discharge is not consistent with the policies and traditions of the service. For example, an inequity would be: “My discharge was inequitable because it was based on one isolated incident in 28 months of service with no other adverse action.” Improper means that the reason or characterization of the discharge was in error (i.e., is false, or violates a regulation or a law). For example, “The discharge was improper because the veteran’s pre-service civilian conviction, properly listed on his/her enlistment documents, was used in the discharge proceedings.”

Types of Review

A review can be on the record or on in-person. If you request on the record first, you can then request an in-person hearing if you did not win the first time. If you request the personal hearing first, you are finished at the DRB, you can submit a request for an upgrade to the Board of Correction for Military Records.

Board of Correction for Military Records (BCMR)

The BCMR may correct any military record when necessary to correct an error or remove an injustice. The statute of limitation is ordinarily three years from the date the error was discovered – the boards can waive this statute of limitations. The veteran needs to complete an application for a DD149 and generally include their OMPF. They should include anything else they want the board to consider, including a personal statement. Again, an attorney will generally prepare a brief to submit legal arguments warranting an upgrade, so the veteran should consult an attorney.

Standard of Review

The veteran must convince the board that their discharge reason or characterization was the result of “error” or “injustice.” An error means an error of fact, law procedure, or discretion that was prejudicial to the veteran. An injustice means that the discharge given was warranted based on the conduct of the soldier and to not change it would be wrong.

Clemency – Discharge occurring as a result of a court-martial conviction may only be upgraded by a grant of clemency and will include a review of all in service and post service conduct and medical conditions.

The intent of this discharge upgrade was to ease the application process for veterans who are seeking redress and assisting the Boards in reaching fair and consistent results. So, if your discharge is impeding you from receiving benefits and you’re a disabled veteran, or just a veteran looking to receive benefits for the first time , check-out upgrading your discharge.

If you were successful in upgrading your discharge, please let us know which Board you used and provide any tips, or recommendations below.

Veteran Court: Does Your County Have One?

Military soldier in front of the American Flag

Veterans experience injuries during war that forever changes the rest of their lives. Some of these injuries are physical, some are mental, some are a combination of both. Even though they make it back home, the “war within themselves never goes away.” This constant internal struggle, combined with substance abuse, makes it easy for some of these veterans’ to acquire criminal charges.

These criminal charges are a result of the underlying problem: mental health and drug abuse issues due to military service. Signs of this often include: drinking or drug problems, feelings of hopelessness, shame or despair, employment problems, relationship problems (including divorce and violence) and various physical symptoms. The Veteran Treatment Court (VTC) in our county was created to help veterans’ with their mental health and drug abuse problems so that they have better tools to help themselves and to not be involved with legal trouble.

What is VTC?

The VTC is a voluntary program that includes regular court appearances before the Judge. Treatment includes weekly individual and/or group counseling, drug and alcohol testing, mental health treatment, and/or regular attendance at recovery support/self-help meetings. It’s possible to be provided with referrals for vocational training, education and/or job placement services. The program length will be a minimum of 15 months, maximum 18 months. Ongoing aftercare services is available to all graduates.

Entry into VTC is voluntary and will require veterans’ to admit guilt. They will be placed on probation for a deferred prosecution or in the pretrial release program. Supervision will include random drug and alcohol testing and unannounced home visits, during which both the veteran and their place of residence are subject to search. The VTC defense counsel will continue to represent the veteran throughout their participation in VTC. There is an initial 30-day “assessment period” in which the veteran may withdraw admission and request prosecution of their case, or during which an eligibility or suitability issue may arise which may disqualify them. Successful completion and graduation from the program may result in having the charges dismissed or significantly reduced and termination of probation. Failure or discharge from the program will result in prosecution for the veterans’ original charges.

Supervision

Veterans will be required to appear in court for progress reviews. The Judge will be provided information prepared by the VTC Coordinator with input from all other agencies, regarding the veterans’ performance in the program. If the veteran is doing well, he/she will be encouraged to continue with the program, and to work with their treatment team toward success. If the veteran is not doing well, the Judge will discuss this with you and your treatment team, and further action will be determined. With repeated violations or the failure to progress satisfactorily, the court may discharge the veteran from the program.

Program Rules

  1. Attend all ordered treatment
  2. Report to your Probation Officer or Pretrial Supervising Officer as directed
  3. Submit to drug and alcohol testing
  4. Be on time to all appointments including court appearances
  5. Fraternization between participants is prohibited

Treatment Procedures

The treatment team will assess what level of treatment will best meet the veterans’ needs and recommend to the Judge that he/she receives either outpatient or residential treatment. If the veteran is admitted to a residential treatment program, his/her treatment plan will include the requirements of that program. Upon release from a residential program, the veteran will continue his/her participation in the program as directed by the Court and treatment team. If the veteran is not admitted into a residential treatment program, he/she will participate in a multi-component, outpatient program developed through the VA, which includes developing a treatment plan, drug testing , counseling, recovery support services, recovery support/self-help meetings, and working with the veteran’s mentor. If the veteran is not eligible for VA services, he/she will be served by a community Mental Health/Substance Abuse provider.

Drug Testing

The veteran will be tested for drug and alcohol use at random times throughout the entire treatment process. During Phase 1, the veteran may be tested a minimum of two times weekly additionally he/sh may be required to wear an alcohol monitoring device. Treatment phases will be discussed more later. However, as you progress through the phases of the program, the veteran may be tested less frequently. The Judge and the team will have access may be tested less frequently. The Judge and the team will have access to all drug tests results, including any failures to test, and may order a drug test at any time. Relapses may occur in recovery. However, a positive, diluted or missed test will result in a court-imposed sanction. Tampering with any drug test will be deemed a positive test  and may result in program termination. The Judge will review the veteran’s overall performance in the program. Repeated offenses may result in progressively severe sanctions.

Counseling

Substance abuse counseling and mental health counseling is composed of two separate formats: individual and group. As part of the veterans’ treatment plan, he/she will be required to participate in both types of counseling if it is appropriate. Together they are designed to develop self-awareness, self-discipline, and coping mechanisms necessary to maintain the veteran’s sobriety. The veteran may be required to attend additional treatment such as individual or group treatment for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

The veteran may be required to attend counseling or other treatment for Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI), anger management, parenting, or any other therapy the treatment team recognizes as necessary for the veteran’s well-being. The veteran attendance at both individual and group counseling sessions will be reported to the Judge as part of the veteran’s progress report. The veteran must have permission from his/her counselor to be excused from any counseling sessions.

Mentorship Program

The veteran will be assigned a volunteer veteran mentor from the community to support his/her efforts to create a better life. The veteran must meet with his/her mentor at regular intervals.

Recovery Support/Self-Help Meetings

The veteran may be required to attend recovery support/self-help meetings. The frequency of required attendance is determined by his/her progress in the program and his/her phase level. Attendance is an important part of the recovery process. The meetings will familiarize the veteran with the recovery support/self-help philosophy, and help the veteran to create social bonds with other recovering addicts. The veterans’ treatment team will provide him/her with information regarding the time and location of these meetings and will also direct the veteran to special interest and recovery events in his/her community. The veteran must provide proof of attendance to his/her health care counselor, Probation Officer and VTC Coordinator prior to each court appearance. The program requires the veteran to have a sponsor and work the steps of his/her program.

Treatment Phases

The VTC is a five-phase, highly-structured program, lasting for a minimum of 15 months and maximum of 18 months. Individual progress will vary. Each phase consists of specified treatment objectives and specific requirements for advancement into the next phase. Requirements for advancement from each phase are described below.

The assessment/selection period is a thirty-day period during which the veteran will decide if the VTC is right for them. At the same time, the VTC team will evaluate the veterans’ appropriateness for the program. During this period, the veteran will actively participate in the program. The Judge may extend this window if deemed necessary. Phase 1 includes the assessment/evaluation period. The veteran is subject to all VTC, VA, treatment providers, and Pretrial Release and Probation rules during this period. If the rules are violated, the veteran is subject to sanctions.

Phase 1-Treatment Plan Development

In Phase 1 the veteran will be assigned a VA Justice Outreach Specialist as well as a community Mental Health/Substance Abuse counselor, a probation officer and a mentor. The veteran will be assessed by the treatment team and their progress will be closely monitored and reported to the Judge. Requirements include the following:

  • Participate in full assessment in order to determine treatment needs. Course of treatment is individualized according to needs of the veteran.
  • Participate in all forms of treatment as directed by the treatment team.
  • Comply with additional case management services as determined by the treatment team.
  • May be drug and alcohol tested two times per week. Breathalyzer and immediate result drug tests may be used at the VTC team’d discretion, as well as a continuous alcohol monitoring device.
  • Take non-narcotic medication as directed by medical and mental health professionals.
  • Attend a minimum of two recovery support/self-help meetings per week and actively seek a recovery support/self-help sponsor
  • Participate in clean and sober recreation.
  • Attend twice monthly court appearances as determined by the Judge.
  • Curfew is set at the discretion of the team.
  • GPS monitoring for the initial 60 days.

Phase 2 – Ongoing Treatment

In Phase 2 the veterans’ treatment plan will be updated to identify ongoing treatment goals. Counseling and meeting will focus on areas that are challenging for you, and will identify ways of coping with stressful situations. Phase 2 requirements include the following:

  • Participate in all forms of treatment as directed by the treatment team.
  • Comply with additional case management services as determined by the treatment team.
  • Drug and alcohol test as directed. Breathalyzer and immediate result drug tests may be used at the treatment team’s discretion, as well as continuous alcohol monitoring.
  • Take non-narcotic medication as directed by medical and mental health professionals.
  • Attend a minimum of two recovery support/self-help meetings per week, maintenance of a recovery support/self-help sponsor.
  • Report to the VA Justice Outreach Specialist or community Mental Health/Substance Abuse program, pretrial or probation officer as instructed.
  • Participate in clean and sober recreation.
  • Maintain employment or engage in productive use of time such as community service and school attendance.
  • Formulate personal goals in conjunction with the treatment team such as vocational/educational counseling, psychotherapy, exercise, anger management and parenting goals.
  • Attend twice monthly court appearances as determined by the Judge.
  • Curfew is set at the discretion of the team, if required.

    Phase 3 – Stabilization/Mentoring

In Phase 3 the veteran will address ongoing recovery needs. The focus will be on daily living skills. This phase is designed to support you as a productive and responsible member of our community. Phase 3 requirements include the following:

  • Participate in all forms of treatment as directed by the treatment team.
  • Attend other treatment services as determined to be necessary by the treatment team.
  • Drug and alcohol test as directed breathalyzer and immediate result drug tests used at the team’s discretion.
  • Take non-narcotic medication as directed by medical and mental health professionals.
  • Attend a minimum of at least two recovery support/self-help meetings per week and maintenance of a recovery support/self-help sponsor.
  • Report to the VA Justice Outreach Specialist or Carolina Outreach Therapist along with the Pretrial and/or Probation Officer as directed.
  • Participate in clean and sober recreation.
  • Maintain full-time employment and/or progress toward an educational goal.
  • Participate in community service as determined by the team.
  • Attend court as determined by the Judge.
  • Curfew (if required) is set at the discretion of the team.

Phase 4 – Achievement/Graduation

In Phase 4 the veteran will transition from the VTC structure to a lifestyle more representative of what you will experience following graduation. Phase 4 requirements include the following:

  • Participate in all forms of treatment as directed/instructed by the treatment team and attend individual counseling sessions to complete an exit plan.
  • Attend other treatment services deemed necessary by the treatment team
  • Take non-narcotic medication as directed by medical/mental health professional
  • Attend recovery support/self-help meetings as determined by the treatment team.
  • Report to VA Justice Ourtreach Specialist or Carolina Ourteach Counselor and the Pretrial and/or Probation Officer as directed.
  • Participate in clean and sober recreation
  • Maintain full-time employment and/or progress toward a vocational/educational goal.
  • Continue established mentoring relationship.
  • Become a mentor to a new VTC participant pending approval of the veteran’s treatment team after a minimum of six months post-graduation.
  • Attend court as directed by the Judge.
  • Prepare a graduation speech.

Graduation

Once the veteran has successfully completed the criteria for each Phase, he/she will advance to the next level and eventually be a candidate to graduate from the VTC. The veteran will submit a graduation speech to his/her VTC Coordinator in which he/she will discuss his/her progress towards the goals he/she initially set, and why he/she believes he/she is ready to graduate. The final decision regarding advancement from each phase and graduation is determined solely by the Judge, assisted by input from the team. At graduation, the veteran may be given the opportunity to plea to a charge reduction or his/her case may be dismissed. The veteran’s family will be invited to join the veteran as the Judge congratulates him/her.

Conclusion

A candidate for the VTC program does not have to be diagnosed with PTSD, TBI, or other injuries to be accepted into the program. The only requirement is to be a veteran of the armed services. That said, the program has helped veterans that previously thought they had no service-related injuries receive disability benefits from the VA.

The VTC program is designed to help the veteran live in our community as a productive and responsible citizen. The Judge, the Court staff and the treatment team will guide and assist the veteran, but the final responsibility is the veterans’. He/She must be committed to change.

If you were a part of veteran court in your area, please let me know below if you are following a similar plan. If different, please let me know how it is different.

Thank you.

Veterans Remember 9/11

World Trade Center Towers

When I reflect back to the horrific events of September 11, I am overcome by the deep sense of patriotism it brings. Like most veterans, we know exactly where we were and what we were doing when we first heard the news that the United States was under attack. And like most veterans of this generation, this single event served as a call to action. Most of the active duty military members I talked to, who were in the service when the attacks happened, felt they were “sucker-punched.” My story was something similar.

My Personal 9/11

On September 11, 2001, my day started like any normal day. Unfortunately, this day would prove to be anything but normal. At 8:46 a.m., the first plane struck The Twin Towers of the World Trade Center in New York City. At 9:00 a.m., I began a meeting at an architects office in Crystal City, Virginia, to go over the construction plans for our next project. Crystal City is about a mile south of the Pentagon. At 9:03 a.m. the second plane hit the other Tower of the World Trade Center. Even after the second plane hit, nobody in the meeting was aware of what was happening. At 9:37 a.m. the third plane hit the Pentagon. Shortly thereafter, the architects wife called and he excused himself from the meeting. When he returned he didn’t say a word. He just went right to the conference room window and opened the blinds. We all saw a thick plume of smoke billowing from the direction of the Pentagon. As we were wondering what was happening, the architect again said nothing but turned on the TV in the conference room. We watched the news, like so many millions of Americans, and were informed that the United States was under attack.

Needless to say, the architect ended the meeting because he needed to pick-up his kids so he could be home with his family. As for me, I went back to office to gather my things and to process what was happening. What normally was a five minute drive to get back to the office turned into an hour drive due to the traffic. Back at the office many employees had decided to stay put due the heavy traffic. So there we were, gathered together and watching the news to see who could have perpetrated this dispicable act. When I heard and saw the second plane hit the World Trade Center, my thoughts immediately turned to Osama Bin Linden.

My Duty

So there I was, a civilian, so upset that someone had the audacity to strike us in our homeland, that I was ready to enlist at the first sight of a recruiters office. As the recovery efforts in New York were underway and our President assured the American people that the people who committed this horrible crime would be brought to justice, cooler heads prevailed. I continued to work in construction for next nine years but the desire to enlist never went away. In the end, my sense of duty got the better of me. I enlisted into the Army just before I turned 40-years-old, and it has been the best decision of my life.

For me, September 11, 2001 will always be a constent reminder that the American military must always project power. Why? Because peace is best served by using power to affect the calculation of foreign nations. Political and military power is perhaps the best way to project this power. They are a necessary means for a strong national defense, for a credible deterrence, and for an effective foreign policy.

To all my fellow veterans out there and first responders… thank you.

Can Dogs Really Help Our Disabled Veterans?

Growing up, we always had a dog. In fact, in the United States over 48% of households have a pet dog. When an owner makes a connection with his/her dog, it is a wonderful thing. It goes beyond being just a companion. Dogs have an amazing ability to read people and respond Yellow Lab Dogappropriately. This ability is probably why humans favor dogs more than other animals. Whatever the relationship between dogs and humans, these animals can improve our lives in many ways. Below is a list of how dogs are beneficial to humans.

Provides a Healthier Life

People who own dogs are healthier than people who don’t have dogs. This is no brainer. It’s more likely that dog owner get out and take the pooch out for walk around the neighborhood. In fact, taking the dog out for a walk a few times each week may improve your general health and reduce the rate of obesity.

Provides Assistance Towards Mental Health

Many dogs help protect our veterans. Service dogs help veterans and other who suffer from PTSD or TBI, however many people may not be prepared to accommodate those with service dogs. These dogs are specially trained to perform tasks for the benefit of the veteran with a chronic disability. These service dogs can help remind a veteran to take his/her medicine or calm a veteran during an anxiety attack. Furthermore, studies have shown that veterans with dogs reported being less angry, less anxious, and receive better sleep. Studies have also shown that interacting with dogs increases dopamine and decreases cortisol, the stress hormone. In fact, 62% of dog owner said that helped them de-stress after a long day at work. Therefore, dog owners are happier and healthier than the population at large.

Reduces the Risk of Allergies

Dog owners have reported that owning a dog helped reduce their risk of allergies. This is contrary to current beliefs, where it is perceived that owning a dog makes one more susceptible to allergies. Studies suggest that being exposed to pets early in life decreases your risk of animal allergies later on.

In Conclusion

When I came back from my deployment, I didn’t get a dog. I thought I didn’t need one because I believed there wasn’t any benefit to having one. Boy, was I wrong. In our lifetime we might have several companions that enter our lives and becomes family. All of them will help improve your life, but there will probably only be one that is extra special.

Like dogs Wealthy Affiliate has the amazing capability to read people and respond appropriately. Not just for civilians but also for our Veterans. Read my review of Wealthy Affiliate here and see what it has to offer. You have nothing to lose because the starter membership is free.

Tips For Veterans Transitioning To Civilian Life

Soldier backpack transitioning to civilian lifeIf you’re a veteran and you’re fortunate enough to live in a military town, you may be able to count on military personnel to help with your transition to civilian life. However, if you don’t live in a military town, veterans’ should come to the realization that no help will be coming from our society when transitioning from military life to civilian life. It’s hard to admit but it becomes harder if you go into the ETS process with the mindset that you expect society to help you – because they won’t. It’s amazing how ignorant most civilians are of life in the military.

This post is not intended to solve societies disconnect with the military. However, if you’re a veteran and you’re making the transition to civilian life, here are a few tips to help your transition go a little smoother.

Get Enrolled In The VA Healthcare System

This is the first thing you should do when you ETS out of the military. To enroll and get verified in the VA healthcare system all you need to do is go by your local VA center. If you live in an area where the VA is several hours away, you may want to call first before you show up. If you live in an area with a VA center, all you need to do is show up. The receptionist, or information desk, will point you to the right direction. After you finished enrolling and you get verified they will make an appointment for you to get a physical, blood work done and drug testing done.

Use Your GI Bill

This is perhaps the most utilized benefit given to veterans’. Depending on how your contract was set-up by your recruiter, you could use the Montgomery GI Bill (Ch. 30) or the Post 9/11 GI Bill (Ch. 33). I would strongly advise that you attend a school that has a veterans’ office. Not a veteran/administration office, but strictly a veterans’ office with people who know the VA process backwards and forwards: every form, every document, and every phone number necessary if something goes wrong. If you’re interested in learning a trade, schools for that are also covered by the GI Bill. Whichever school you decide to enroll to, make sure they are accredited and approved. Division one schools will always be accredited. However, the for profit schools should be verified.

Consider Being An Entrepreneur

Prior to your ETS date, veterans’ should consider becoming an entrepreneur. In post-military life, veterans’ may find themselves wanting to work but just not for anyone other than themselves. Veteran-owned small businesses get preference when competing for government contracts with the Department of Veterans Affairs. And we aren’t talking small contracts, either. The VA spends $3 billion annually with small businesses.

Wealthy Affiliate is perfectly suited for veterans’. If your job prospects are slim, or if your academically challenged, you should seriously consider online affiliate marketing.

Wealthy Affiliate is an all-inclusive marketing platform that will allow you to create, grow and manage your business in any level online. The service includes training, live classes, personal and expert support, website & hosting, and ability to network with close to 1,000 members. It is the largest affiliate marketing community in the world and absolutely the most caring. But don’t take my word for it, read my full, comprehensive, and insightful review on my Review page of my website. This platform is ideal for veterans’ because you can be a beginner in affiliate marketing or an expert in affiliate marketing and you will find success.

Ready Your Paperwork

There are three things you should do with your DD214 copy 4; Copy, Secure and Scan your DD214. When you went to your ETS briefing, I’m sure someone told you to make copies of your DD214. That is good advise but now you are also able to get your DD214 at eBenefits. So have no fear, if you’re one of those people who don’t like paperwork, eBenefits will be your best friend. Next, secure your DD214 copy 4. When you are given your DD214 make sure you add it to wherever you keep important papers. If you have a bank safe deposit box you should include the DD214 copy 4 to it because it will be safe in case of fire, flood, hurricane, etc. So why should you scan your DD214? One important reason is when you apply for jobs online, most employers will request your DD214. So having it on your computer, ready to submit for your job applications, will be a valuable time saver.

Second, local, state and federal government gives preference to job-seeking veterans over other applicants. Only veterans discharged or released from active duty under honorable conditions are eligible for veterans’ preference. Veterans’ preference does not guarantee veterans a job and it does not apply to internal agency actions such as promotions, transfers, reassignments and reinstatements. Also, if you are a retired from the military you are not included in the definition of preference eligible unless you are a disabled veteran OR you retired below the rank of major or its equivalent. So, when you apply for government jobs, make sure you check that you are a job-seeking veteran and submit your DD214, it will be required as part of your application package.

Stay Connected

If you are an introvert like me and you are not comfortable pounding the pavement and shaking hands all day, you can be as good at networking as the next veteran. Luckily for us we live in age of technology where networking in person is no longer the only way to network. Thanks to social media sites like Twitter, Pinterest, Facebook, and the many other social networks out there, it is very easy to find people who are currently working in the field that you want to pursue. However, if you would rather be close to other veterans, I would strongly recommend organizations like the American Legion or Veterans of Foreign War. Whatever networking style works for you the import thing to remember is to take the professional approach to networking where you target who you are connecting with rather than randomly hoping you connect with someone.

The intent of this post was not to make an all-inclusive list. These are just suggestions that helped me and I thought it might help other fellow veterans. Do you have other tips for veterans making the transition to civilian life? If so, please feel free to share below.

Disabled Veterans Could Benefit From Wealthy Affiliate

Folks, the numbers don’t lie. According to a report from the ADA National Network, themployment rate of veterans with disabilities is significantly lower than that of veterans without disabilities. Only about a third of veterans who report both an ACS and SC disability (32%) and only 37% of those reporting only an ACS disability are employed, compared with over three- quarters of veterans without disabilities (77%).

Employment Rate Graph for Civilian Veterans w/Disabilities

An Amerircan Community Survey (ACS) disability is a difficulty with one or more of the following: hearing, vision, cognitive, ambulatory, self-care and independent living. However, an ACS disability may or may not be acquired during military service. A Service Connected (SC) Disability is a disease or injury determined to have occurred during military service. The Veterans’ Administration assigns a disability rating as a percentage from 0% -100% disabled.

What About PTSD and TBI?

The Report further stated that Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), traumatic brain injury (TBI) and/or depression are called the “signature” disabilities because these impairments are so common among returning veterans. Because of the questions asked on the survey, some veterans with the signature disabilities might not have indicated they had disabilities. Also, many veterans with these impairments might not have been diagnosed. They may have acquired their disabilities at a time when the symptoms displayed were not thought to be related to a disability or they may not yet recognize that they have a disability. It is estimated that the number of Operation Enduring Freedom/Operation Iriaqi Freedom veterans with one or more of the signature disabilities is about 30%.

Why WA Is Perfect For Disabled Veterans

Wealthy Affiliate is an all-inclusive marketing platform that will allow you to create, grow and manage your business in any level online. The service includes training, live classes, personal and expert support, website & hosting, and ability to network with close to 1,000 members. It is the largest affiliate marketing community in the world and absolutely the most caring. But don’t take my word for it, read my full, comprehensive, and insightful review on The Review page of my website. This platform is ideal for disabled veterans because you can be a beginner in affiliate marketing or an expert in affiliate marketing and you will find success.

Learning the proper techniques and strategies that “work” today and will work tomorrow is obviously a very critical element to your success within the affiliate marketing space. At Wealthy Affiliate you are going to get access to the most current training in the industry. The training is updated daily in many cases, with new resources being rolled out to the community each and every day. Plus, there are numerous formats for training depending on your learning style.

So, if you’re an unemployed, disabled veteran, and you have a desire to work, Wealthy Affiliate is made for you. Have the courage to take the next step, you have nothing to lose because the starter membership is absolutely FREE.

To see the full report mentioned in this post, click here.

Veterans Online Shopping Benefit

American FlagIf you’re not currently serving in the military, or you didn’t retire from the military, or, if you’re not fortunate enough to live near a military post, have no fear. You still may qualify to shop at the Exchange. You see, one of the best unknown benefits for veterans is the ability to shop at the Exchange, online. However, according MilitaryBenefits, that too is about to change. This Veterans Day AAFES and all online military exchanges will be open to veterans. This is a win, win for veterans.

THE BENEFITS

The benefits for shopping at the Exchange online is free statewide shipping on orders of $49 or more, tax-free shopping, and the option to sign-up for a Military Star credit card. But how does a veteran qualify for this benefit? I’m glad you asked. All you have to do is go to my Veteran Resources page on this website, click Military Exchange from the drop down menu, and find the link at the top right-hand corner that says “Veterans Online Shopping Benefit.”

HOW TO QUALIFY

To qualify for this benefit a veteran must be honorably discharged. If you’ve been honorably discharged, AAFES will ask to verify your eligibility through VetVerify.org. You will be asked four things; your full name; the last four of your social security number, your date of birth, and a contact email address. If your successful, you will be taken to a “Thank You” page, which tells you when you can start using this benefit. Click below to see a quick video on how to qualify for the benefit.

MY EXPERIENCE

In the spirit of full disclosure, I must say that my experience with shopping for clothes was not the best. Like most veterans I know, since leaving the military we gained a few pounds. So, some sizes I requested were not readily available. Other than that, this is definitely a benefit all veterans should sign-up for, ASAP.

If you had a good, or bad, experience shopping on the Exchange online, please let us know below.

The Aid and Attendance Program: An Unrealized Benefit Available for Veterans

Self imageAs veterans age, it’s important they know ALL the benefits they have earned. That is why when I heard about the Aid and Attendance Program offered to veterans by the Veterans Administration, I was shocked. I was shocked because I didn’t know such a program was offered. Although I don’t intend to use this program in the near future, it would have been nice to know it existed.

Although many veterans’ think of themselves as immortals it is a statistical fact that many veterans’ will eventually require long-term care. It’s true, Medicaid will help defer the cost of nursing home stays, however, it normally will not pay for assisted living and home care. Most veterans’ see themselves as independent and are reluctant to ask for assisted living or home care. While others would rather use assisted living or home care than be placed in a nursing home. Enter the Aid and Attendance program offered by the Veterans Administration. This benefit for veterans’ can be used to cover the costs of assisted living and home care.

The Aid and Attendance Program

If you’re a veteran, or the spouse of a veteran, this program provides assistance with basic daily activities such as bathing, dressing, and eating. The benefit can be paid to various types of people, i.e., a family member, someone outside the home, the veteran’s spouse, or an assisted living facility. However, it’s important to note that if the benefit is paid to a spouse, the funds are considered income when determining eligibility. In 2019, qualifying veterans could be eligible for up to $2,230 per month to help cover the costs of assisted living and home care.

Qualifications for the Aid and Attendance Program

If you served in the military, Coast Guard and the U.S. Merchant Marines, you are considered a veteran under this program. To be eligible you must have ninety (90) days of active military service with at least one day of service during a war time period. You must suffer from a permanent and total disability or be sixty-five (65) or older. Eligibility will also be based on you’re income and net worth.

Financial Qualification

In order for the veteran to qualify financially for the program the VA considers you’re countable income, not you’re total income. So what is a countable income? The countable income is you’re total income less you’re unreimbursed recurring health care expenses. Examples of you’re recurring monthly health care costs is assisted living costs; nursing home costs; home care services; health insurance premiums; medicare premiums; and regular prescription drugs. Multiply you’re monthly recurring health care costs by twelve (12) and subtract that figure from you’re total income. The delta is you’re countable income.

Most veterans know about the basic health care and education benefits available to them through the VA. However, if you’re anything like me, you probably didn’t know anything about this program. As a veteran, you owe it to yourself and your loved ones to get ALL the benefits you have earned and rightly deserve. As I finish writing this I wonder, what other benefits are out there that I didn’t know was available for veterans?

Visit my review of Wealthy Affiliate and find out how this online marketing platform can benefit veterans like you.