Program encourages banking for Veterans - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY MONEY

Program encourages banking for Veterans

The Veterans Benefits Banking Program (VBBP) is giving Veterans and their families access to greater financial independence, resiliency, and literacy.

VBBP is a partnership between the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Veterans Benefits Administration (VBA) and the Association of Military Banks of America (AMBA). The idea for the program came after a VA analysis revealed a high rate of Veterans were “unbanked,” says Joe Gurney, Senior Advisor of Fiscal Stewardship for the Office of the Under Secretary for Benefits.

“We were seeing an uptick in fraud because hundreds of thousands of Veterans were unbanked, so the Under Secretary actually had me look into this. By unbanked we mean Veterans receiving their VA benefits on a prepaid card or by check. I spent some time doing an analysis about demographics, where they were, who they were, and it turned out there were over 200,000 Veterans who were unbanked,” Gurney said.

Dr. Paul Lawrence, VA Under Secretary for Benefits, charged Gurney with determining courses of action to address the issue. Through his research, he found AMBA — an association of banks operating on military installations. The organizations committed to a joint effort of working with those financial institutions that already “have experience dealing with the unique financial challenges of military members and their families,” retired Air Force Maj. Gen. Steven Lepper, President and CEO of AMBA, said.

A white paper identified key areas affecting today’s Veterans, such as not being able to get a bank account and incurring high fees when cashing checks or using prepaid cards. The VBBP then created a number of common requirements for participating banks and credit unions to join the program, including:

  • Willing to provide free checking accounts and free access to ATM networks to Veterans who deposit their monthly VA benefits in their account, and
  • Helping any Veteran become qualified to open a banking account.

Another pillar of the program is a goal of simplifying banking choices by helping eligible Veterans select the right bank and services for themselves and their families. The VBBP website also includes links to resources on topics like fraud protection, identity theft, financial education, and a checklist for opening a bank account.

Lepper adds the VBBP is a work in progress and there are already talks for ways to improve the program.

“Veterans have as many needs as there are Veterans. It’s hard to generalize with anyone, whether they’re military or Veterans. We’re always on the lookout to help make Veterans’ management of their financial resources much more effective and safe,” Lepper, who served 35 years in the Air Force, said.

Gurney says the VBA also looks at trends in the unbanked on a constant basis to identify lessons learned and drive future program enhancements.

“AMBA has setup a constant feedback loop to try to give our Veterans the best experience that we can. For example, we discovered that Veterans want financial education. They want information — especially during COVID – that helps them deal with money, particularly borrowing money. As a result of that feedback, we added financial education to the VBBP website and plan to expand it as we continue improving the program,” Gurney said.

Lepper explains that by giving Veterans access to banking options, it also creates a motivation to save.

“The one benefit you don’t think about immediately when you think about opening a bank account versus receiving your benefits on a prepaid card or by paper check is the ability to save money. If you cash a check or withdraw all the money on your prepaid card; you walk around all month with money in your pocket. With checks and prepaid cards, there’s no motivation to save and no mechanism to save, whereas with a bank account, you do have that ability to save money in a safe and cost-effective way.

“What we’re hoping, as a collateral effect of opening up a bank account or credit union account, is that our Veterans will be able to save money and not live month-to-month on their VA benefits,” Lepper said.

Other features of utilizing a bank or credit union account:

  • Get access to reasonable loan amounts with advantageous interest rates, and
  • Credit repair.

Thirty four financial institutions are now part of the VBBP. In addition to ensuring Veterans and their families receive benefits safely and reliably, the participating banks and credit unions offer another advantage: accessibility.

A key component of the program is to meet Veterans where they are, whether that be in a large metropolitan area, rural town, or online. By working with financial institutions that have diverse geographical and digital footprints, Veterans can receive streamlined access to information and communication that caters to their needs. Another goal was to create a robust program that is easy to navigate. The VBBP website https://veteransbenefitsbanking.org/ contains a directory that lists participating banks and credit unions, along with direct links to more specific information on products and services.

Since the inception of the program at the end of 2019, VBBP has grown to roughly 1,000 website visitors per week, revealing a growing interest in both financial education and banking options. Now that awareness is growing, Gurney recommends Veterans take that next step of setting up an account so that they no longer have to put themselves at risk by relying on external entities like check cashing companies.

“We really want to urge Veterans during this time, especially with COVID, to consider direct deposit and setting up a bank account so they can have an easier, faster, and safer way to bank,” he said.

Once Veterans have a bank account, they can sign up for direct deposit by either updating their profile on va.gov (and providing their bank account and check routing numbers) OR by calling 1-800-827-1000.

As the partnership moves into its second year, the organizations plan to expand need-based resources that meet Veterans where they are in their financial life cycle.

Any Veteran or beneficiary who receives federal monetary benefits and who wishes to receive their benefit payments electronically can participate in the VBBP. A full list of participating banks and credits unions can be found at https://veteransbenefitsbanking.org/.

This article originally appeared on Military Families Magazine. Follow @MilFamiliesMag on Twitter.

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Pentagon considers lifetime access to Exchange system for vets

While Congress might have tinkered with the benefits many former servicemembers will receive when they leave the military beginning in 2018, the dizzying array of calculations, percentages, and investment tools now a part of a veteran’s future nest egg may come with a silver lining.


Potentially tax-free shopping for life.

The 2016 National Defense Authorization Act included significant changes to the military retirement system, including a reduction in retirement pay and matching contributions to a military Thrift Savings Plan. The so-called “blended retirement system” is similar to the kind of portable 401(k) that many civilian workers already have.

Program encourages banking for Veterans
This could be you in twenty years.

But in a separate deal, the Pentagon is set to approve a change to the Army and Air Force Exchange Service that would allow former honorably discharged servicemembers to shop at AAFES online for life.

For those not in the know, the Exchange is a department store-like retail outlet that also operates food courts, gas stations, liquor stores, and military clothing stores on U.S. military installations worldwide. While items do not have to be sold at cost (as they do at the commissary – the military grocery stores which are also on bases) if they are sold at the Exchange, they are sold tax-free.

This could mean tax-free commercial electronics for all!

Program encourages banking for Veterans
Time to relive those dorm room days.

The deal would not include access to the military commissary system.

Opening the Exchange service to all veterans would mean 20 million new customers and hundreds of millions in revenue for Morale, Welfare, Recreation services, which is where the dividends from Exchange services are reinvested, Military.com reports.

Access to the Exchange is currently restricted to military members who are active duty, guard, or reserve, retired or disabled military members, authorized family, and Medal of Honor recipients.

While the Pentagon says the proposal from Executive Resale Board is still under review, if approved, the new benefit would go into effect on November 11, 2017.

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

5 best industries for military spouses to work in

Would military spouses be happy with any ol’ job, as long as they were out of the house and earning an honest income?

My guess is, generally, no.By and large, military spouses are calling for employment that does much more than pay the bills. They want meaningful, purposeful employment that helps them advance their goals. Numerous studies support this, and the military spouse employment movement is making enormous strides.

So, if you’re a military spouse looking for meaningful employment, where should you start? What are viable career options?


Given your lifestyle, you’re probably looking for something portable, flexible, universally necessary and barrier-free. It just so happens that a number of our country’s growing industries have opportunities that fit the bill.

Let’s take a look at five promising industries that military spouses should consider for employment.

Program encourages banking for Veterans

1. Health care

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the health care industry will have the highest growth over the next decade, predicting over 3.4 million additional jobs by 2028. That’s a lot of opportunity!

Nurses, home health care aides, social workers and medical aides are examples of jobs in this field. These jobs generally pay well and are necessary everywhere (check!), making you highly marketable every time you PCS. While the process of transferring licenses or honoring licenses from other states has yet to be completely smoothed out, officials are working to lift those barriers (check-almost!).

One thing to consider is that not all health care-related jobs require a license. For example, home health aides, the fastest-growing subsection of the industry, may not have to be licensed, but certification requirements vary depending on the state.

Program encourages banking for Veterans

2. Entrepreneurship

You probably can’t go a day without hearing that a friend has started a home-based business, quit her job to become a freelancer or established his own web-based company. Entrepreneurship isn’t a trend that will soon fade; it’s a legit movement, which many military spouses are joining, excited to take ownership of their own careers.

While entrepreneurship can be risky, it offers you portability and flexibility (check! check!). Depending on the type of business you’re running, you may need to maintain and transfer licenses across state lines, but you’ve probably done your homework and found a niche that’s needed in the market (check!), making any paperwork worth it.

Plus, numerous organizations have established training and support programs, designed to help military spouse entrepreneurs get their businesses off the ground in the strongest way possible. As a military spouse entrepreneur, you’ll have a wide community of experts and supporters ready to offer advice and mentorship, as well as cheer you on.

Program encourages banking for Veterans

3. Leisure and hospitality

Like health care, BLS predicts favorable opportunity for the leisure and hospitality industry. Over the next 10 years, BLS says that over 1.5 million jobs will be added to this sector.

This industry is growing across America, including right in the backyard of every military spouse. It just so happens that these leisure and hospitality companies were named among the 2020 Military Spouse Friendly Employers: Motel 6/Studio 6, Hilton and La Quinta by Wyndham.

These companies offer tailored onboarding practices, career portability and flexibility (check! check!), opportunities for advancement and more – specially for military spouses. Plus, you generally won’t have to worry about transferring a license or going to school for decades to begin working (check, check and more checks!).

Program encourages banking for Veterans

4. Professional services and business

As a military spouse, you’re resourceful, adaptable, cool under pressure and organized. These “soft skills” make you an excellent contender for the types of jobs in the professional services and business sector.

This sector, which BLS projects will add 1.66 million jobs by 2028, includes a wide variety of jobs, such as sales managers, human resources managers, executive assistants, advertising, financial managers, operations managers and more. It even includes highly technical jobs like architects and engineers.

You can adapt your mad military spouse skills to suit a number of different career paths, and many of them could lead to remote work (check!). For example, virtual assistants are becoming hugely popular with real estate companies, corporations and high-achieving entrepreneurs. Many companies are outsourcing managerial and research work to remote employees, too.

Think about this industry as your oyster. With so many options to consider, you can zero in on just the right job that suits your ever-changing lifestyle – talk about flexibility! (Check!).

Program encourages banking for Veterans

5. Information Technology

Technically, this bad boy falls under the professional services industry, but since it’s such a behemoth, it makes sense to discuss it separately. There’s not a corner of civilization that isn’t wired, making information technology experts absolutely essential to any business or organization (check!).

Despite what you might think, this industry offers a lot of flexibility, too (check!). Although your particular skill set might be defined, the type of company you can apply it to (i.e., your work environment) ranges far and wide.

From schools to ski resorts, national corporations to nonprofit offices, information technology specialists are needed everywhere. Whether you prefer working solo or with a team, in an office or at home, chances are that no matter where you PCS or how often, you’ll be able to take your work in computers with you.

Explore more for you:

Is it time to find just the right job for you? Explore our complete list of Military Spouse Friendly Employers, where you can search companies by industry.

This article originally appeared on Military Spouse. Follow @MilSpouseMag on Twitter.

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NCIS investigating Camp Pendleton base housing eviction notices amid scandal

Program encourages banking for Veterans
Residents of San Onofre II housing aboard Camp Pendleton allege that Lincoln Military housing is threatening them with eviction notices if they don’t pay extremely high electric bills that they are contesting. (Photo courtesy of Kristine Schellhaas.)


The Naval Criminal Investigative Service is reportedly looking into allegations that a company which runs military housing at one of California’s largest bases is scamming its residents out of money they don’t owe.

Lincoln Military Housing has reportedly been trying to get military residents to pay hundreds of dollars more than they owe for energy bills, according to statements from families obtained by We Are the Mighty. And if the residents don’t pay up, the Lincoln Military Housing’s San Onofre district office allegedly threatens to have the service members and their families evicted, these families claim.

The exact number of families who have received these eviction notices is unknown, though WATM spoke with multiple military spouses and service members who had been notified by their commands that Lincoln was ordering them out of their homes just before the Christmas holidays.

The residents, all of whom claim they are paid up on rent, all spoke on the condition of anonymity for fear of reprisal from the housing office in question.

According to one couple who spoke to WATM, an eviction notice was sent to them in early December in response to an article that appeared on the website USMC Life, which is run by military spouse Kristine Schellhaas.

“This program has been hurting our military families since its inception,” Schellhaas told WATM in a statement. “Our families should be able to live on base without the financial burden and threat of eviction from poorly executed billing.”

Schellhaas wrote about the couple on her site in December, calling for the housing office to look into its exorbitant energy bills over the previous two months. Though Schellhaas declined to use their real names, the couple had posted about their frustrations in a Facebook neighborhood group page after being threatened with eviction.

Schellhaas indicated that NCIS was investigating the allegations. When reached for comment, NCIS said it was “unable to comment on an ongoing investigation.”

The residents of the San Onofre II district aboard Camp Pendleton claim that, until roughly two months prior, their bills had been at or below the grace period, meaning they were not billed for utilities.

According to documents obtained by WATM, the residents all saw extreme hikes that had nothing to do with increased power usage.

Lincoln Military Housing declined to respond to multiple requests for comment on these allegations.

Lincoln Military Housing takes part in a program where, if residents manage to conserve energy, they can receive money back from the housing office. If they go over the allotted amount, they pay extra.

The energy bills are managed by a company called Yes Energy Management. The premise behind the company is simple — they are essentially a paid middleman for the middleman. Basically, Lincoln Military Housing — who is contracted by the Department of Defense to manage the housing on some military installations — pays Yes Energy Management to send an electric bill to the base residents.

Rather than having the actual electric company send the bill directly to the residents, both Lincoln Military Housing and Yes Energy Management oversee these bills privately — effectively eliminating any contact between the resident and the electric company.

Each of the homes is fitted with a third party Yes Energy meter that the company uses to determine how much electricity has been used.

The way the system works is that each neighborhood gets their energy usages during a trial period combined and an average is determined by Yes Energy. Those who are above that average get penalized. Those who are below it get rewarded.

Once the residents pay their bills every month, Yes Energy pays the actual energy company, takes its fee from the remainder, and sends what’s left back to Lincoln Military Housing, according to residents.

One of the problems, according to the residents of San Onofre II, is that the neighborhoods they live in weren’t built to have their energy usage measured individually. The residents say that an unnamed employee at their housing office explained that things like Camp Pendleton street lights are wired into their houses, which means that the residents are responsible for paying much more than just their own electric bill.

One resident told We Are the Mighty, “It’s just me and my husband, so when we received the outrageous bills we said something about it and come to find out, our house was hooked up to several street lights.”

Other residents allege that, in addition to paying for the streetlights, empty houses around them drive their monthly usage allotments down. Because there are no residents in those homes, according to neighbors, there is no usage – severely impacting the average usage in that community.

That isn’t a hard thing to imagine, considering Yes Energy has this on its website:

Program encourages banking for Veterans
Yes Energy Management boasts on their website an ability to recover lost payments due to vacant homes.

Neither of these theories exactly explain why an entire group of residents suddenly saw a significant increase in their bills despite not having changed anything in their homes, residents say.

Program encourages banking for Veterans
Residents of the housing community fear retaliation from the housing office if they talk too much, but they say that not addressing the problem doesn’t fix it, either.

Several residents say they questioned their bills, first going directly to Yes Energy; they claim that Yes Energy told them that the issue was not with them or the energy provider and that they should be speaking with the housing office regarding the way the communities were built.

These same residents allege that they then took their concerns to base housing, where it took months for just a handful of them to receive any type of response. Those that were fortunate enough to get a response also received messages that hinted Yes Energy was to blame for the outrageous bills.

Chelsea Levin, a service coordinator for Lincoln’s San Onofre Housing office, wrote in an email to a resident dated Dec. 7, “I am e-mailing as a follow up regarding the issues you have been having in the home with the Yes Energy account. I wanted to let you know that we are now waiting on the utility company to make the changes.”

The email is in response to a phone call placed to the housing office in September, according to the resident who provided the original email.

So where does that leave the residents?

Program encourages banking for Veterans
Residents who lived both off base and aboard other military installations know that this isn’t how the program is supposed to work, nor does it work this way elsewhere. But they love their community, so they’re at an impasse.

Right where they were, for now.

The resident who originally spoke with Schellhaas alleges that they were served an eviction notice the day after Schellhaas’s post went live. According to that resident and the resident’s active duty spouse, the housing office contacted the service member’s command to deliver the notice.

In a Facebook post, the resident said that Lincoln cited the resident’s use of salty language in a phone call with the office as the reason they were being evicted.

The resident claimed that the office gave that reason directly to the service member’s command.

“They’re saying I was verbally abusive,” the resident wrote.

When We Are the Mighty reached out to the couple, the resident responded, “I feel as if the housing office saw the article that was posted in USMCLife and that is what caused them to call this morning as well as tell us we were being evicted.”

Other residents who spoke with us cited a fear of retaliation after it became public information that the original residents in Schellhaas’s story were being evicted. One resident wrote: “If you wouldn’t mind, could you please not mention our names or resident IDs? He’s a Marine.”

And another resident wrote to us regarding her husband’s concern about her speaking with us, “He’s terrified we will get evicted. I kept trying to reassure him, but the longer I was looking [at our bill] the more he started to freak out. … He says he’d rather get screwed than be homeless.”

Program encourages banking for Veterans
Residents are legitimately afraid of retaliation from the housing office for speaking to We Are the Mighty.

Recently, Schellhaas was tasked with updating Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Joe Dunford’s wife Ellyn on “hot-button” issues facing the military community.

In preparation for that meeting, she collected energy data from 17 base homes and four off base homes. What she found was that base residents were charged nearly 45 percent more for comparable energy usage off base. An entire breakdown of her findings can be reviewed here.

Schellhaas issued this statement to We Are the Mighty in regards to the entire energy program:

“I believe there hasn’t been enough due diligence in its implementation and no one authority has demonstrated that the organizations can be made accountable for their actions,” she said. “Privatized housing blames Yes Energy and vice-versa, meanwhile our families are suffering.”

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Here’s what Hardship Duty Pay is and how you qualify for it

Program encourages banking for Veterans
U.S. Marines with Task Force Koa Moana unload gear after arriving in Ancon, Peru, Sept. 2, 2016. Peru is on the list of locations that qualify for HDP-L.


Hardship duty pay is a compensation in addition to base pay and other entitlements for service members stationed in or deployed to locations where the living conditions are significantly below those in the continental United States, the mission lasts longer than a typical deployment or requires specific types of work (i.e. recovering bodies of fallen military members in other countries).

Under specific circumstances, some or all of your hardship duty pay may be tax free. For more information on what is taxable and what isn’t, consult your financial advisor.

There are three different types of hardship duty pay: location, mission, and tempo.

1. Hardship duty pay – location, or “HDP-L,” is paid to service members who are outside of the continental United States in countries where the quality of life falls well below the standard of living that most service members who are in the U.S. would normally expect. Service members who also receive Hostile Fire/Imminent Danger pay of $225 per month only rate $100 a month for HDP-L. Find out if your OCONUS station is on the list.

Who: All service members who are executing a permanent change of station (PCS), temporary duty (TDA/TAD/TDY), or deployment to a designated area.

How much: The rate is paid out in increments of $50, $100, and $150 per month, depending on the level of QoL at that location as determined by the Department of Defense.

Hardship duty pay – mission, or HDP-M, is designed for hardship missions.

Who: All service members, officer and enlisted alike.

How much: $150 per month, max.

Hardship duty pay – tempo, or HDP-T, is for service members operating at a higher tempo for longer times, like during extended deployments or when service members are deployed longer than a set number of consecutive days. The Navy sets that number at 220, for example.

Who: All service members, officer and enlisted alike.

How much: $495 per month, max.

MIGHTY MONEY

An easy 9-step car buying guide for the military spouse

It’s happened to the best of us. The second our service member boards that plane to deploy, Murphy decides to insert himself into our world.

It’s almost a given: someone gets sick, one of your spouse’s bills doesn’t get paid, or something inevitably breaks down…and often it’s our mode of transportation that ends up busting out on us.


If this happens to you, I PROMISE, you aren’t alone. But if your car breaks down, how are you going to do all of the things? Well, if there’s no getting around having to purchase a vehicle while your service member is away, we have some tips and tricks to help you through the car buying routine WITHOUT breaking your bank in the process. We realize that big purchases are usually done as a team, and these decisions should (when possible) be made together. Obviously, that isn’t always possible, but here are some things you can do if/when you find yourself squaring off with Murphy over your car.

Program encourages banking for Veterans

(Flickr / David Wall)

1. Power of attorney (POA)

If you plan on having your service member’s name on the loan or registration, you’ll want to make sure you have your POA handy. This legal document will allow you to act on behalf of your service member for transactions that would otherwise require their physical presence. NOTE: Depending on the financial institution you use to finance your vehicle, a general POA may not pass muster with their terms, so make sure you call to make sure. Some banks just require a faxed copy of the general POA, while others have a special form of their own or require a “special” or “limited” POA.

2. Research, research, RESEARCH!

What kind of vehicle do you need? How much can your family afford each month? Are their certain dealerships in your area that are known for inappropriate practices? These are just a few of the questions you should be asking yourself before you even think of stepping foot into a car dealership.

There are plenty of websites that will help answer these questions so that you’re better able at making an informed decision. One of the first things you can do is figure out the type of features you need and find a few makes and models to look over. It’s not just about the price…it’s about knowing what it is you’re looking to buy. Kelley Blue Book is a one stop shop that has plenty of research tools to help spin you up on the “must-knows” of car buying.

3. Get financed FIRST

When it comes to financing, it’s best to get pre-approved BEFORE you start your search. You aren’t required to know what kind of vehicle you’re purchasing before being approved for financing because the financial institution is approving you…not a certain vehicle. Make sure you understand the terms of your financing as well. If you end up negotiating, say, 00 off the sticker price of the car when you’re haggling with the dealer, that isn’t going to matter in the long run if your interest rate is out of this world.

4. Don’t rush

Buying a car is a big deal, so take your time and don’t rush the process. You need to make sure the car is everything you need/want, both literally and financially. Make absolutely sure you know exactly what your family can and cannot afford. If you find a car you want but it’s a bit over budget, other websites, like Auto Trader, might be able to find you the same car at a lower price somewhere else.

5. When possible, find the right time to buy

Of course there’s no real way to know when Murphy will strike…if we could plan that, Murphy’s Law wouldn’t even be a thing! But it doesn’t hurt to know that timing is everything in the car buying business.

Yes, There Really IS a Right Time to Buy

Of course there’s no real way to know when Murphy will strike…if we could plan that, Murphy’s Law wouldn’t even be a thing! But it doesn’t hurt to know that timing is everything in the car buying business.

The end of the month is usually a good time to buy because dealers often have a quota that needs to be met each month. Each car on their lot needs to be paid for at the start of each month, so car salesmen are looking to unload as many as possible to meet their quota. But buying a car at the end of the year is even better (though, again, Murphy can rarely be planned for).

Program encourages banking for Veterans

6. History reports are KEY

If you’re not out to purchase a brand new, right off the assembly-line vehicle, you’ll really want to get your hands on a vehicle’s history report. Don’t just take someone’s word that it’s “good to go” as is.

Most dealerships (if they’re worth a darn) will pay for the cost of a vehicle history report themselves, but you can do this as well. Car Fax is a great resource for consumers, and they provide a report that will tell you just about everything you need to know about the car: hidden issues, who owned it last, where it came from, etc. It does cost money to obtain a history report, but it’s chump change compared to the investment you’re making in a vehicle.

7. Don’t skip the test drive

Once you’ve narrowed down your choice(s), it’s time to take it for a test drive.

Sure, the car’s body looks fantastic, but the only way you’ll know that everything is in working order under the hood is if you take it for a spin. Listen for noises that shouldn’t be there, trouble shifting gears, service lights on the dashboard, etc. Many people will return to test drive in the evening, but if that isn’t feasible (because, you know…who wants to pay for a babysitter ON TOP of having to pay for a new car), a lot of dealerships allow you to take the car home for 24 hours to see how it works out. Either way, do NOT skip the test drive.

Again…Don’t Rush!

If you’re just not sure it’s the right vehicle for you or need a night or so to sleep on it, don’t rush it. Take the time you need to mull it over. This is YOUR money, YOUR time and YOUR choice; don’t let anyone push you around. Speaking of which…

8. Don’t be intimidated

It’s not uncommon to feel intimidated when buying a car…especially if that role isn’t really your jam (i.e. it is SO not MY jam). But there’s a difference in FEELING intimidated and BEING intimidated. If, at ANY point in the negotiation process, you feel uncomfortable, or don’t like how you’re being spoken to, SPEAK UP. You hold all the cards and the ball is in your court. If you don’t feel like you’re being treated fairly, tell the service manager. Or better yet…

9. Don’t be afraid to walk out

If you feel like you’re being pushed into signing a contract, or just aren’t picking up what the dealer is putting down…WALK IT OUT. There are plenty of other places that would love to have your business. Do not feel guilty about keeping your money, and your family’s financial security, safe.

This guide is a great way to get started on your car-buying adventure, but we want to add to it! If you have a strategy or a story about buying a car when you were flying solo, we want to hear it!

This article originally appeared on Military Spouse. Follow @MilSpouseMag on Twitter.

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

Everything you need to know about startup accelerators for vet-owned businesses

If someone told you the only way for you to survive the coming recession unscathed would be to start your own business, would you even know where to begin? Would you be able to afford the startup costs on your own? Can you handle the workload that might come with such a venture? For most people, especially veterans, that answer is no. That’s what startup accelerators are for – access to knowledge, access to capital, mentorship, connections, talent – all these things can be acquired through these programs.


Vets have some unique skills and traits that make them natural entrepreneurs. And that’s why a startup accelerator like Bunker Labs has big plans for those who are ready to take the first steps toward entrepreneurship.

Program encourages banking for Veterans

When some of the most powerful brands get together for vets, big things happen.

Veterans are an interesting slice of Americans, especially where entrepreneurship is concerned. Time and again, veterans show they have the work ethic and drive it takes to start their own enterprises. Of the 200,000 separating veterans every year, 25 percent of those are interested in starting their own businesses but only 4.5 percent of those 50,000 vets are actually able to pursue their own entrepreneurial vision. The reason is because starting your own business takes knowledge veterans may not have and capital most definitely do not have.

That’s where a veteran-owned business accelerator can come into play. If you don’t know where to begin but you have a great idea, an accelerator like Bunker Labs is a great place to start. Starting a business isn’t obvious – there’s a lot that goes into it that you will just not know. Bunker Labs is a non-profit startup accelerator for the military-veteran community comprised of veteran volunteers with the tools and resources to help their fellow vetrepreneurs start their business.

Bunker Labs has helped create more than 1,000 veteran jobs in the United States and helped raise some million in startup capital. This accelerator captures the ambition and innovation veterans bring to startups and equips them with knowledge, mentorship, and opportunities they might otherwise not have had access to. There are labs online, labs in-residency for vets, and when the ball really gets rolling, a cadre of CEO vetrepreneurs who are taking their work to the next level. Bunker Labs is even a partner with the 2019 Military Influencer Conference, a three-day entrepreneurial workshop which brings together the brightest and most inspiring veteran entrepreneurs to teach and share their lessons learned and best practices.

Program encourages banking for Veterans

To get started with Bunker Labs, vets simply have to start with registering for their Launch Labs Online, fill out some quick demographic information and from there you can connect with other new members, find a mentor, engage the Facebook group, and more. After activating your account, you can start taking classes with Bunker Labs right away. The core classes include knowing yourself, knowing your customers, and how to make money. From there, the sky could be the limit.

If you’re interested in starting your own business and don’t know where to begin, the Military Influencer Conferences are the perfect place to start. There, you can network with other veteran entrepreneurs while listening to the best speakers and panels the military-veteran community of entrepreneurs can muster. Visit the Military Influencer Conference website for more information.

MIGHTY MONEY

4 tips for buying your first car as a junior troop

Purchasing your first car is a minefield filled with predatory lenders and scams. Young troops, unfortunately, fall victim to these bloodsuckers every year because they do not know of the special offers and protections available to them. It’s exciting to be on the lot, test driving your potential steed, but knowing the pitfalls that lurk in those lots will save you and your wallet a lot of grief.

It’s your first car and having your finances accounted for will make it easier when the additional expenses of maintenance, insurance, gas, and registration come into play. You wouldn’t go into battle without ammunition and you should equally not venture onto a lot without knowing your credit score, pre-approval amount, and potential financial threats.

Here are 4 tips for identifying and preventing scams targeting you, a junior troop, as you shop for your first car.


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The “refusing pre-approved checks” scam

You found it. It’s the perfect car to take you from base to places where knife hands and regulation haircuts do not exist, but there is one problem: the dealer doesn’t want to accept your pre-approved check from your lender (bank). They may try to spin something along the lines of, “I don’t trust those, I’ve been scammed before.” They’re playing the victim; don’t believe them. Their next move will be to convince you to sign a financing agreement with them instead, effectively scamming you into a higher APR loan.

Walk off that lot and never look back. You don’t need that evil put on you, Ricky Bobby.

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The “you have bad credit” scam

As a young troop, you probably don’t have a credit history at all, which is a double-edged sword. The positive is that lenders will give you the benefit of the doubt. Why? Well, because of your service, you’re easy to find and collect from if you become delinquent on payments. So, if a dealer says you have bad credit when you know, for a fact, that you don’t, it’s another scam waiting to happen.

We’re willing to bet that the dealer will tell you your only option for approval is to finance through them at a ridiculously high rate. The solution here is the same as before — walk.

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The “buy here, pay here” financing scam

In this scam, the dealer will promise that you’re going to get a sweet APR if you finance through him, but the application process takes a few weeks. He’s a nice guy, though, so he’ll let you take the car home while everything finalizes. He’s trusting you, but then, once those weeks pass, he calls you with bad news: the loan was denied, and you’re forced to pay a much higher APR or lose that car.

The best defense against this scam is shop around for different lenders, get pre-approved, and don’t accept any unknowns. Do not let dealers talk you into something you’ll regret later. Not all “buy here, pay here” offers are scams, but why take the risk when the alternative is clear as day?

The “price is too good to be true” scam

There are advantages to buying directly from a person instead of a dealer, like a faster turnaround or a better deal. But keep your head on a swivel because you’ll also leave yourself open to other risks and scam artists. As always, if in doubt, bring a friend. With some information and a properly calibrated BS meter, a troop can venture into the unknown unafraid.

The ‘price is too good to be true’ is when a victim sees a car they want to purchase online and it’s priced well below market value. Usually, it’s a classic or an exotic car — something to entice the victim to overlook a few details. The scam artist states that they’re out of the country with the vehicle (for one reason or another), but they’ll ship the car to you — but only after they receive your payment. The scam artist will make it seem like they’re the one at risk.

Once the scammer receives your money, they will cease speaking to you and disappear. Surprise!

The lesson here? Always make purchases in person and be wary of wire transfers and money orders. And, as always, if it sounds too good to be true, it is.

If you feel like you have fallen victim or see a scam targeting your brothers-in-arms, you can report the car-buying scam at Fraud.org

Articles

Navy investigators say Pendleton housing accusations ‘unfounded’

Navy investigators say they found no evidence to support allegations that a management company running military housing on a major California base overcharged residents on their energy bills.


Several military families who lived in base housing on Camp Pendleton in California — which is managed by the private company Lincoln Military Housing — told We Are The Mighty they were threatened with eviction notices over energy bills they didn’t owe.

The residents alleged they were being intimidated into not fighting the overages, and sources told WATM Navy investigators were looking into the issue.

But according to a Feb. 14 statement from Naval Criminal Investigative Service spokesman Ed Buice, Navy officials closed the inquiry into accusations of over billing “after it became evident the allegations being made were unfounded.”

“No criminal misconduct was discovered,” Buice added in the email statement to WATM.

Buice did not reply to a request for additional comment.

Residents of the San Onofre II neighborhood at Camp Pendleton say they were within the margins for monthly electricity use that would preclude an overage charge.

Military families there pay a lump sum rent that includes a certain amount of energy usage. When they consume less electricity than the allotted amount, they are refunded; when they go over, they receive bills, officials say.

Several residents told WATM that they had seen sudden sharp increases in their electric bills and were threatened with eviction if they didn’t pay up. Many claimed they were rebuffed when they approached base housing officials about the alleged billing problems.

Marine Corps Installations West spokeswoman 1st Lt. Abigail Peterson told WATM in a Feb. 16 email that “all of the official complaints received regarding this situation were addressed and resolved,” adding that Lincoln Military Housing had “implemented a new process to monitor requests to ensure all concerns are addressed in a timely manner.”

“We take feedback very seriously and want to ensure responsible measures are followed to alleviate any issues for our Marines, sailors and their families living here on base,” Peterson said.

Military family advocate Kristine Schellhaas — who originally brought the billing allegations to light — wasn’t satisfied Pendleton’s response, arguing base residents aren’t simply misreading their bills.

“There are systematic flaws with how this program has been implemented,” Schellhaas told WATM. “The facts are that this program needs to get audited.”

MIGHTY MONEY

How people hide money from their spouse during a divorce

An unraveling marriage is not unlike a sinking ship. Everyone is scrambling, trying to salvage whatever they can while, in the wheelhouse, everyone is pointing fingers and figuring out who’s to blame. And, just like on a sinking ship, there are always a few people who set aside their scruples in favor of saving their own skins. This usually means hiding money in hopes that, when the dust settles, they’ll have a little nest egg for themselves.

Ask any divorce lawyer and they’ll tell you that hiding money is never, ever, the right move. “It is always a bad idea to hide money or assets,” says Benjamin Valencia II, a partner and certified family law specialist at Meyer, Olson, Lowy and Meyers, who says that, in California, where his practice is located, ” if you are caught committing fraud in failing to disclose an asset, the court has the ability to award 100 percent of the asset to the other party as a sanction.”


Consequences aside, it’s also just a really shady thing to do. Nevertheless, people still try and keep their assets under wraps in all sorts of ways, ranging from the mundane to the totally outrageous.

Christina Previte, a divorce lawyer and the CEO of NJ Divorce Solutions has seen quite a lot of money-hiding schemes in her 15 years of experience. Some of the more pedestrian ones include making regular ATM withdrawals that aren’t large enough to draw attention but frequent enough that the cash is likely being pocketed rather than spent, or earning cash from a cash-heavy business and then neglecting to report or deposit the funds.

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(Photo by CafeCredit)

Previte also said that she’s encountered those who’ve planned out their cash-stashing well in advance and taken withdrawals from various assets either holding them as cash or putting the withdrawals in someone else’s name. This way, when the discovery process begins, she explains, the withdrawals don’t show up as being recent transactions.

“One egregious but very clever one I heard from an accountant once,” she says, “was overpaying on the credit card accounts so that the bank issues a refund in the form of a check, which the spouse then cashes and pockets.”

Another shocker Previte also recalled was one partner forming a limited liability corporation and then funneling all of her earnings through the LLC. “That was particularly egregious and required a tremendous amount of trust in the other party holding the LLC,” she says.

Then there are the really crazy stories, the ones that sound like they were penned by a script writer.

“The craziest one I’ve had was an opposing party who hid diamonds in his father’s prosthetic leg,” says Valencia. “He then sent his father to Israel to sell them so wife could not track them. His father was detained at the airport when the diamonds were detected and we found out.” The wife, Valencia says, was awarded all of the diamonds as a sanction against the husband for his fraudulent conduct.

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(Photo by www.tradingacademy.com)

Valencia also recounted a story in which a husband hid a $350,000 recreational vehicle in a hangar in Arizona.

“We only knew it was in Arizona because we saw an invoice for a gas purchase in Arizona accidentally produced in discovery,” he says. “At trial he was ordered to disclose where the RV was hidden and refused. The judge charged him with 150 percent of the value (there was money owed on it) as a sanction against his interest in the family residence.”

Previte, too, has seen more than her share of oddball schemes. One guy, she says, siphoned off millions of dollars over a five-year period from various assets. “He gave them to his foreign escort who was apparently part of a drug cartel and absconded with the money.”

As long as there is divorce, there are going to be people thinking that they can put one over on either the spouse, the courts or both. However, both Valencia and Previte advise strongly against it. “I hope you are not planning on using these in your own divorce,” Previte cautions. For one, it’s a morally objectionable — and illegal practice. For another, she says, you’ll almost never get away with them.

“These are almost all discoverable in some way if you have a clever attorney.”

This article originally appeared on Fatherly. Follow @FatherlyHQ on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

USAA says, be safe—cyber threats never end

If you received an email advertising a new vaccine for the coronavirus, would you open it? If a doctor called you requesting payment to treat your family member for COVID-19, would you share your information?

While the world is focused on the coronavirus (COVID-19), criminals are taking advantage of the situation.

“We are seeing coronavirus-related phishing attacks and we are seeing them at USAA,” warns Michael Stewart, assistant vice president of information security at USAA. “We are seeing emails advertising alleged coronavirus-related benefits and others from a healthcare perspective.”


Other potential scams include fraudsters pretending to be members of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention or World Health Organization to obtain personal information or selling fake coronavirus test kits and vaccines that do not exist.

“Fraudsters like to take advantage of these situations,” explains Stewart. “They will leverage the coronavirus and urgency around it to get people to click on things or give up information that they might not otherwise disclose.”

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Hunter’s Den

media.defense.gov

Some additional scams during this pandemic period to be aware of include:

  1. Charity scams: Stay alert of scammers contacting you to donate to fake charities. Research the organization you desire to sponsor to ensure your information is protected.
  2. Product or services scams: Items like hand sanitizers, disinfectants and household cleaning supplies are often offered by scammers who will keep your money. Scammers also offer cures, coronavirus test kits and vaccines that do not exist. Services can range from house cleaning to doctor visits.
  3. Employment scams: Scammers create job ads to lure unemployed consumers to fake jobs. The scammers will wire money or send a fake check to you, asking to send a portion back or use the funds to purchase goods, which are directed back to the scammer

Tips to protect your information include:

  1. Secure your accounts: use multifactor authentication everywhere, especially with banks, phone and email providers. This extra layer of security helps keep you safe.
  2. Stay vigilant: scammers will contact you by phone, email or text offering products, services or humanitarian opportunities. They often pose as credible companies “phishing” for login or personal information Pause to confirm it’s a credible company before proceeding.
  3. Monitor your accounts: stay close to your personal bank accounts, report suspicious behavior and respond to alerts.
  4. Use trusted Wi-Fi networks: as more people transition to work from home, ensuring your Wi-Fi network is password protected is critical to safeguard your information.
  5. Be informed: visit the FTC’s Consumer Information site for more information at https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/features/coronavirus-scams-what-ftc-doing

More information is available at www.usaa.com/coronavirus.

MIGHTY MONEY

The feds crack down on fake veteran charities

You may have seen them standing outside convenience stores, those guys dressed in camo that vaguely resembles a uniform. They have signs saying claiming they are charities that help veterans. Are they legit?

Well, not all of them are.


The Federal Trade Commission, along with law enforcement officials and regulators from offices in every state, DC, American Samoa, Guam and Puerto Rico, announced more than 100 actions and a consumer education initiative in “Operation Donate with Honor”.

The action was a crackdown on fraudulent charities that con consumers by falsely promising their donations will help veterans and service members.

“Americans are grateful for the sacrifices made by those who serve in the U.S. armed forces,” said FTC Chairman Joe Simons. “Sadly, some con artists prey on that gratitude, using lies and deception to line their own pockets. In the process, they harm not only well-meaning donors, but also the many legitimate charities that actually do great work on behalf of veterans and service members.”

Two charities face federal charges

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(Flickr photo by Keith Cooper)

Help the Vets

Neil G. “Paul” Paulson, Sr. and Help the Vets, Inc., (HTV) will be banned from soliciting charitable contributions under settlements with the FTC and the states of Florida, California, Maryland, Minnesota, Ohio and Oregon, for falsely promising donors their contributions would help wounded and disabled veterans.

The defendants were charged with violating federal and state laws related to their actions. According to the FTC’s complaint, HTV did not help disabled veterans, and 95 percent of every donation was spent on fundraising, administrative expenses, and Paulson’s salary and benefits.

Operating under names such as American Disabled Veterans Foundation, Military Families of America, Veterans Emergency Blood Bank, Vets Fighting Breast Cancer, and Veterans Fighting Breast Cancer, HTV falsely claimed to fund medical care, a suicide prevention program, retreats for veterans recuperating from stress, and veterans fighting breast cancer.

In addition to the ban on soliciting charitable contributions, the proposed settlement order bans Paulson from charity management and oversight of charitable assets. To ensure that donors to HTV are not victimized again, HTV and Paulson must destroy all donor lists and notify their fundraisers to do so.

The order imposes a judgment of .4 million, which represents consumers’ donations from 2014 through 2017, when HTV stopped operating. The judgment will be partially suspended when the defendants have paid a charitable contribution to one or more legitimate veterans charities recommended by the states and approved by the court. Paulson must pay id=”listicle-2591219370″.75 million – more than double what he was paid by HTV – and HTV must pay all of its remaining funds, ,000.

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(Photo by Steven L. Shepard)

Veterans of America

The FTC charged Travis Deloy Peterson with using fake veterans’ charities and illegal robocalls to get people to donate cars, boats and other things of value, which he then sold for his own benefit.

The scheme used various names, including Veterans of America, Vehicles for Veterans LLC, Saving Our Soldiers, Donate Your Car, Donate That Car LLC, Act of Valor, and Medal of Honor. Peterson allegedly made millions of robocalls asking people to donate automobiles, watercraft, real estate, and timeshares, falsely claiming that donations would go to veterans charities and were tax deductible.

In fact, none of the names used in the robocalls is a real charity with tax exempt status. Peterson is charged with violating the FTC Act and the FTC’s Telemarketing Sales Rule.

At the FTC’s request, a federal court issued a temporary restraining order prohibiting Peterson from making unlawful robocalls or engaging in misrepresentations about charitable donations while the FTC’s enforcement action is proceeding.

State enforcement actions

States also identified and charged several charities and fundraisers who sought donations online and via telemarketing, direct mail, door-to-door contacts, and at retail stores. These groups falsely promised to help homeless and disabled veterans, to provide veterans with employment counseling, mental health counseling or other assistance, and to send care packages to deployed service members.

Some actions charged veterans charities with using deceptive prize promotion solicitations. Others targeted non-charities that falsely claimed that donations would be tax deductible. Some cases focused on veterans charities engaged in flagrant self-dealing to benefit individuals running the charity, and some alleged that fundraisers made misrepresentations on behalf of veterans charities or stole money solicited for a veterans charity.

Nationwide education campaign

As a result of these actions, the FTC and its state partners are launching an education campaign to help consumers avoid charity scams and donate wisely.

The FTC has new educational materials, including a video on how to research charities, and two new infographics. Donors and business owners can find information to help them donate wisely and make their donations count at FTC.gov/Charity.

This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.

MIGHTY MONEY

FEMA says counties near military bases eligible for disaster assistance

Widespread devastation from Hurricane Matthew has prompted the Federal Emergency Management Agency to designate residents from a total of 55 counties as eligible for individual disaster assistance. States like Florida; South Carolina; Georgia; and North Carolina were hit hard by the storm — both in coastal communities and further inland past Fort Bragg.


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Specialist Jerimyha Pectol, 689th Rapid Port Opening Element, stages humanitarian aid intended for victims of Hurricane Matthew at Port-Au-Prince, Haiti, October 17th.

As the damage is assessed, FEMA has added counties from all four states where individual residents may apply for disaster relief funding.

Hurricane Matthew made its first landfall by slamming into Haiti on Oct. 4, resulting in over 800 casualties in that island nation. Matthew tore over Cuba and the Bahamas, before impacting the southern Atlantic states. By the time Matthew made its way back out to sea, the death toll had reached nearly 1,400.

The United States Southern Command released a statement Oct. 18 that the command had deployed more than 2,000 personnel and 11 helicopters aboard the USS Iwo Jima to deliver over 223 metric tons of aid and supplies to Haiti. SOUTHCOM expects that the military involvement will recede once “more experienced experts arrive” on the ground in Haiti.

President Obama declared a state of emergency in the four states Oct. 7, opening up federal financial aid. Each of the states’ governors declared states of emergency, and the National Guard was activated to several locations.

According to Newsy, Moody’s Analytics reported that the financial damage from Hurricane Matthew could surpass the $70 billion price tag of Superstorm Sandy.

As a direct result of the damage and the expected cost, FEMA has been quick to update its systems to open up aid to individuals in the stricken areas. There are several ways to request disaster relief funding. Individuals may visit the FEMA website, or call FEMA directly at 800-621-3362.

FEMA also recommends that those affected by the storm call their insurance company to make claims, document the damage with photographs, and complete a proof of loss. Insurance companies can help individuals with this process.

Currently, the list of counties that FEMA has approved for individual disaster relief includes:

  • Flagler County, Putnam County, St. Johns County, and Volusia County in Florida
  • Bryan County; Bulloch County; Chatham County; Effingham County; Glynn County; McIntosh County; and Wayne County in Georgia
  • Beaufort County; Bertie County; Bladen County; Columbus County; Craven County; Cumberland County; Dare County; Duplin County; Edgecombe County; Gates County; Greene County; Harnett County, Hoke County; Hyde County; Johnston County; Jones County; Lenoir County; Martin County; Nash County; Pender County; Pitt County; Robeson County; Sampson County; Tyrrell County; Washington County; Wayne County and Wilson County in North Carolina
  • Allendale County; Bamberg County; Barnwell County; Beaufort County; Colleton County; Darlington County; Dillon County; Dorchester County; Florence County; Georgetown County; Hampton County; Jasper County; Lee County; Marion County; Orangeburg County; Sumter County and Williamsburg County in South Carolina