When the opening bell at the New York Stock Exchange rang out on Monday, July 23, 2018, it was Chris Isola, head of Veterans Affairs at UBS, ringing the bell. You may not know who Chris is, but you will be interested in what he’s bringing to the New York Stock Exchange: Veterans – and in a big way.
Isola represent UBS, an investment bank like many others on Wall Street, providing financial advice and other products to wealthy institutions, individuals, and corporate clients all over the world. The bank has indexed the price movements of certain companies’ stock — companies with policies, practices, and outcomes that support the employment of American veterans.
From that index, you can now buy into an Exchange Traded Fund that supports the best companies that meet UBS’ liquidity and stability standards while being the best example of military veteran employers. It’s all based on Viqtory’s Military Friendly employer rating.
In a world where both Main Street and Wall Street are increasingly removed from the wars and conflicts currently fought by the military, the economic powerhouse that drives America is working to create jobs and opportunities for the men and women who make the world’s largest economy possible: U.S. military veterans.
“We believe this is an innovative way for investors to express their support for the veteran community,” said Richard Cea, Executive Director of Exchange Traded Products at UBS. “This ETF provides investors with exposure to companies that recognize the value of our nation’s veterans to the workforce.”
ETFs are financial products that trade like common stock, complete with a ticker symbol, but is essentially a pool of different stocks owned by the fund. Investing in an ETF means you’re buying shares of the pool of companies owned by the fund. The overall value of the pool is divided into shares.
In this case, the ticker symbol HONR represents the InsightShares Patriotic Employer ETF and the fund owns stocks in businesses that value veteran employees, based on Viqtory’s Military Friendly employer reviews. The HONR fund also actively donates portions of its profits to veteran-related charities. Some of the stocks held by HONR include:
JPMorgan Chase Co.
General Mills, Inc.
So when you buy into the HONR fund, you’re buying into a fund that supports only corporations who proved their mettle in hiring America’s veterans, are genuinely good business investments, and will routinely give back to military-veteran oriented charities and nonprofits.
It’s a small way of giving a buck to veterans while doing something good for your retirement portfolio.
But since he’s a Fort Bragg soldier, there’s also a real chance he’ll spend his money this way:
1. Taxes will be taken out
30.75 percent, or $615,000 goes right back into government coffers. That leaves the enterprising soldier with $1,385,000.
2. Dip and jerky
The winner’s first stop will be base shoppette where he’ll pick up the proper amount of dip for millionaire soldiers, as well as a little jerky to much on.
3. New car
This is an obvious stop, but for some reason, the new millionaire will still take out loans of 20 percent or more. Over the next five years, that b-tchin’ Corvette will cost him as much as a Lambo would’ve if he’d paid cash.
4. Electronics store
Every new video game console, 10-20 games for each, a huge TV, and surround sound. A few movies will round out the purchase, about 500 of them. Most of the movies are about World War II paratroopers.
5. Adult “book” store
This is for other movies. We will not explain further.
Finally, the soldier will find a new place to live. Unfortunately, he’ll only realize after the fact that his surround system doesn’t properly fill the new entertainment room with sound. Since he threw away the receipts, he’ll buy a new one and give the old system to a groupie (he’ll have those now).
7. Energy drinks
This will take up more money than any non-soldiers would expect.
8. All the booze
There are roughly infinity liquor stores at the Fort Bragg perimeter, as well as a Class VI store on base. These will become empty.
9. Noise citations
Once the party starts, Fayettnam police officers will be visiting every 15 minutes or so and writing a ticket. By the end of the night, the lottery money will be almost played out.
By the second week, the former millionaire will be attending finance classes on base and applying for an Army Emergency Relief loan to make his payments for the Corvette.
Earlier this month, the Army’s top general in charge of supplying units with troops blamed a lack of readiness on limited time for training, adding that lack of funding isn’t the biggest challenge.
Head of Army Forces Command Gen. Robert Abrams said the lack of training stems from lawmakers making policy that commits the service to engagements around the world without an eye toward keeping the force healthy and trained up.
Abrams explained that soldiers were expected to deploy more and have less time home because of downsizing.
“Our goal has always been … one month gone, two months back,” Abrams said, adding that the Army is currently experiencing a ratio of “deploy-to-dwell” that trends closer to one month gone, one month back.
“Our commitments worldwide across the globe in support of our combatant commanders remains at a very high level while we continue to simultaneously downsize the total force,” Abrams told an audience at the annual Association of the U.S. Army conference in Washington.
“Our number one constraint for training is time available.”
Recent budget cuts have forced the Army to reduce its total active duty soldiers to 450,000 while still meeting its obligations worldwide. As a result, the operational tempo for soldiers is higher and more demanding — ultimately requiring soldiers to train more, for longer periods of time, in addition to more and longer deployments, Army officials say.
“The impact of non-standard missions continues to have a degrading effect across our force in being able to sustain proficiency in combined arms maneuver,” Abrams said.
Because soldiers are experiencing a minimal deploy-to-dwell time, there isn’t enough time for soldiers to maintain the training the Army requires.
“We struggle today to maintain and meet Department of the Army standards in our critical combat fleets,” Abrams explained before highlighting unmet requirements within the Army’s aviation and ground fleets. He was quick to explain that in aviation in particular, the problems do not lie with the aviators. The problem stems, instead, with plans to restructure the way the Army finances those fleets, impacting training requirements, upkeep on aircraft, and overall readiness of aviators.
While Abrams was very careful not to blame funding shortfalls for the readiness issues facing the Army, he did not hesitate to blame the readiness of the National Guard in particular on lack of money.
“We’ve dug ourselves this hole because of funding,” Abrams said.
Despite the tough times, Abrams said the Army has made tremendous strides in the last year in terms of readiness and overall capabilities.
“Last year at this exact forum, one of underlying themes was that as an army in terms of our joint war-fighting capabilities, we were pretty rusty,” he said. “I’m happy to report today that we have made progress in our ability.”
Provisions allowing Guard members to transfer some or all of their Post- 9/11 GI Bill benefits to their spouse or children are set to change, limiting the timeframe soldiers and airmen can transfer those benefits.
“You have to have a minimum of six years [in service] in order to be eligible to transfer benefits, and after 16 years you’re no longer eligible,” said Don Sutton, GI Bill program manager with the Army National Guard, describing the changes set to go into effect July 12, 2019.
The six-years-of-service rule isn’t new, said Sutton.
“You’ve always had to have a minimum of six years of service in order to transfer your Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits,” he said, adding the big change is the cutoff at 16 years of service.
“You’ll have a 10-year-window in which to transfer benefits,” he said, stressing that Guard members won’t lose the benefits after 16 years of service, just the ability to transfer them to their spouse, children or other dependents.
Soldiers and airmen from the Arizona National Guard.
“The Post-9/11 GI Bill and the transfer of benefits are two entirely different and separate programs,” said Sutton. “Even though soldiers may be ineligible to transfer benefits, they still have the Post-9/11 for their own use.”
For those interested in transferring their benefits, an additional four-year service obligation is still required.
“The [transfer of benefits] is a retention incentive,” said Sutton. “It’s designed to keep people in the service.”
Being able to transfer benefits to a dependent may have been perceived by some service members as an entitlement, said Sutton, adding that was one of the reasons for the timeframe change.
“In law, transferring those benefits has always been designed as a retention incentive,” he said.
The exact number of Guard members who may be impacted by the change wasn’t available, said Sutton, adding that among those who could be affected are those who didn’t qualify for Post- 9/11 GI Bill benefits until later in their career.
“We do have a small population of soldiers who are over 16 years [of service] before they did their first deployment,” he said.
Some Guard members who may have earned the benefits early on, but didn’t have dependents until later in their careers, may also be affected.
“They joined at 18 and now they’re 15, 16 years in and they get married or have kids later on in life,” said Sutton, who urged Guard members who plan on transferring their benefits to do so as soon as they are eligible.
“If you wait, you’re potentially going to miss out,” he said.
Some Guard members may have been waiting to transfer the benefits until their children reach college age.
Spc. Sabrina Day, 132nd Military Police Company, South Carolina National Guard, with her three-year-old son, Blake.
(U.S. Army National Guard photo by Sgt. Brad Mincey)
“There sometimes are some misconceptions that they have to wait until their kids are college age or that they’re high school seniors in order to do the transfer,” said Sutton, adding there is no age requirement to transfer Post-9/ 11 benefits to dependent children.
“As soon as a child is born and registered in DEERS [Defense Enrollment Eligibility Reporting System], you can transfer,” he said.
After that transfer has been completed, Guard members can still make changes to how those benefits are divided between dependents or which dependent receives those benefits.
“Once the transfer is executed, and you’ve agreed to that service obligation, you can add dependents in, and you can move months around between dependents,” said Sutton. “It’s just that initial transfer has to be done before you hit 16 years of service.”
However, there is one group of Guard members who will not be affected by any of the changes: those who have received the Purple Heart since Sept. 11, 2001.
“The only rule around transferring benefits that applies [to those individuals] is you have to still be in the service to transfer them.”
Regardless of status, Sutton reiterated that Guard members are better off transferring those benefits sooner rather than later.
“Transfer as soon as you’re eligible,” he said. “Don’t miss the boat because you’ve been eligible for 10 years and you just didn’t do it.”
Today there are over 40,000 nonprofits that focus on military and veteran issues, according to Charity Watch.
Most of those registered as nonprofits are chapters of larger organizations, but some of them are single chapter projects that focus on specific needs within the veteran community.
Here at We Are the Mighty, we wanted to explore some of those advocacy groups you might not have heard of in a bit more depth.
The Military Health Project & Foundation is based in San Francisco and is run by Jacob Angel. Founded in April 2013, the nonprofit was originally designed to address mental health issues through pushing national legislation.
Angel tells us it took the nonprofit eight months to realize where it was failing.
“We were making the same mistake that the Department of Veterans Affairs and Department of Defense were making,” he says. “We were treating mental and physical health care as two separate areas of care.”
The nonprofit re-aligned itself to better connect mental health and physical health, and in March 2014 it went to work garnering support for the Excellence in Mental Health Act, a bill that Angel says eventually became law after a long battle.
“Thus far, the program is going very well,” Angel says. The law, according to Angel, makes counseling and other mental health service available to everyone “regardless of socioeconomic status or insurance coverage.”
In March 2015, The Military Health Project & Foundation announced the creation of the Military Support Fund, a dedicated financial resource to address coverage gaps for military and veteran families.
Angel tells that since its creation, the Military Support Fund has assisted 40 families in securing funding for specialized medical services and equipment.
Chief Petty Officer Carla Burkholder’s son was the recipient of a $2,500 grant for specialized medical equipment from The Military Health Project & Foundation.
“It feels like a great weight has been lifted off my shoulders,” she wrote.
The organization is focused on addressing both physical and mental health needs through direct assistance and legislation.
“We are now a hybrid organization,” Angel says.
The Military Health Project is the advocacy wing where the nonprofit helps to create policy that addresses the ever-changing needs of the military and veteran community through legislation.
The Military Health Foundation works to provide for military and veteran families in the interim.
“They should not have to wait for treatments that they require and frankly deserve.”
As a service member or veteran, the importance of fitness is ingrained into every fiber of your being. From the beginning of your military career during your basic training, to later spending years locating your PT belt before early morning sessions, you know that fitness and gains are everything.
What about your financial fitness?
How often do you check in with your income, expenditures, savings, retirement, and investments? No one’s testing you on them, no one’s leading you in weekly training sessions, and there is no chance of “busting tape.” So, what sort of battle buddy do you have for accountability when it comes to your money? Who’s staying on top of you to make sure that you’re staying financially fit?
Military Saves Keeps You On Track
We’re not drill sergeants, but we are a small team of veterans and military spouses who apply behavioral economics to motivate the military community to save money, reduce debt, and build wealth. One of our team members is even an Accredited Financial Counselor (AFC®) and the other two have proudly learned from experience (a.k.a. The School of Hard Knocks), so we’ve all been there!
Military Saves is a participant in the Department of Defense Financial Readiness Network. Our research-based program is coordinated by the nonprofit organization, Consumer Federation of America.
We won’t have you sign on the dotted line, (once was enough), but we do encourage you to take the Military Saves Pledge. Once you make a promise to yourself to embark on your financial fitness journey, you’ll join a community of #MilitarySavers, and can look to Military Saves for accountability. We’ll keep you on track with emails, text reminders, free resources, and tips to help you realize your financial goals.
Pump Up Your Money – Military Saves Month
If your money habits could use a boot camp, or your account balances could get stronger, and you’ve decided it’s time for your money to start working for you, then you’re in luck!
April is the annual Military Saves Month, a free, virtual event where hundreds of organizations come together to encourage the military community to do a financial wellness check in.
Over the course of a month, we’ll cover money-related topics from a relatable, down-to-earth, positive perspective. Savers end the month with tools, resources, and clarity on their current financial situation, new savings goals, and a realistic plan to achieve them.
In addition to this wealth of information, participants have the chance to win $500 during our #ImSavingFor Sweepstakes! It’s like pre-workout for your bank account and is a great way to propel you toward your financial fitness goals!
We also invite our Savers to submit their story of how they turned their finances around, paid off debt, bought a home, saved up six figures, or even retired early. Not only can you get featured on our blog, but we’ll send you $50 if your story is selected!
The truth is, accountability works, and we have the research to back it up. As they say, a goal without a plan is just a wish.
We look forward to having you join us for Military Saves Month in April, and cultivating a savings account that reflects your physical and mental discipline. Visit us at militarysaves.org for more information.
Are you ready to start the business you’ve always wanted? Do you have a million dollar idea but are not sure what to do first, second and third? Are you excited to leave military service behind and earn a living through your own entrepreneurial drive? Military service is a wonderful background for business ownership.
But there’s a difference between military service and startup business management.
A key factor that affects startup viability is how fast entrepreneurs adapt to their new job description as a business owner.
Many entrepreneurs say they started their companies for the opportunity to pursue their heart’s desire. New bakery owners like to bake. Fitness coaches like to train clients. Contractors like to build. But successful entrepreneurship is not defined just by how well you bake or coach, but how well you manage your overall business.
You can direct a brilliant film, but if you don’t make money at it, you may not get a second chance to make another film. Besides your specific passion, other skills are required to succeed.
Being the boss of a prosperous business involves focus and careful decision-making.
New business owners who assume that entrepreneurship is all about the freedom to do “whatever I want, whenever I want,” are also at high risk of business failure. Too much managerial spontaneity and freewheeling fun cost more than a young company can typically handle.
Here are three strategies to help you make the mental shift to money-making self-employment with precision.
1. Pay attention to cash.
Businesses close when they run out of cash. It’s that simple. As the boss of your startup enterprise your top priority is to make sure your company always has enough cash to operate. This means that you have to embrace numbers and money issues; take full ownership of financial projections and understand what kinds of business decisions can drain cash faster than others.
You don’t need an MBA to manage cash well, just a desire to do it. Check out some accounting books or take an accounting class to boost your money management skills.
2. Plan to achieve
It’s not enough to hope to succeed; you have to plan to succeed. Hoping for customers, won’t get them to your website. Hoping to raise money from investors won’t get you in front of top check writers. Hoping the check is really in the mail is not the best way to collect past due invoices. Successful startup entrepreneurs set specific goals and then lay out practical day-by-day strategies to secure their first paying customers and profits.
3. Get help
Just because you are the boss of your new enterprise doesn’t mean you will always have all the right answers. You will across a lot of issues and decisions that you never encountered before in your military career. It’s only natural that beginner’s mistakes will be made, sometimes costly ones.
When you face business unexpected problems in product development, product packaging, sales, marketing, customer service, or finance, don’t guess the answer. Find someone who has already “been there and done that” and ask for help. Remember, every mistake you make now comes out of your pocket.
Here’s one last tip. It’s not enough to just get by in business; your managerial objective is to get ahead in business by using your head. You have a background of excellence in your military career; now just apply it to your new business.
You can do it!
Susan Schreter is a devoted Yellow Ribbon Reintegration Program workshop presenter and founder of Start on Purpose, a service organization that empowers business owners anywhere in America to find and manage business funding with confidence. Connect with her at Susan@StartonPurpose.
The Department of Defense has approved the Navy’s request for an extension to hardship duty pay for deployed sailors. Though the Navy requested the extra money for two years, the current funding expires in September, 2017, and does not include new money for Marines.
According to the Navy, an “extended deployment” consists of 221 consecutive days in an “operational environment” (aka: deployment), and the sailor assigned to those areas will earn $16.50 per day, “not to exceed $495 per month.” That amount is not dependent on rank or time in service. (Photo from U.S. Navy)
“The Navy is in high demand and is present where and when it matters,” said Vice Adm. Robert Burke, Chief of Naval Personnel. “Hardship Duty Pay – Tempo is designed to compensate sailors for the important roles they continue to play in keeping our nation safe during extended deployments around the globe.”
A Marine Corps financial office source said the reason the authorization was only approved for a year has more to do with politics than logistics.
During an election year, it is difficult to get additional funding for programs, he said.
“There are going to be budget cuts across the whole of the federal government in order for any progress on the national debt to be made,” the Marine financial office source said. “The next administration’s defense and fiscal policies will ultimately determine the fate of [Hardship Duty Pay- Tempo].”
A Navy spokesman said the service has paid out nearly $16 million over two years to about 24,000 sailors from 1,129 commands or units.
“This is something that the Navy wants for our sailors as we believe it positively affects sailors’ morale,” said Lt. Cmdr. Nathan Christensen, spokesman for the Chief of Naval Personnel. “It’s one small way to help them during long and difficult deployments away from home.”
(Photo from U.S. Navy)
The Marine officer, however, was hopeful that “since it was reauthorized after its first go or ‘trial run,’ I think we can conclude that it was determined to be a success by our legislators in Congress and by the Department of the Navy’s upper echelon decision makers. Thus, I’m optimistic that it will continue in the future.”
Right now the reauthorization only applies to the Navy and does not include the Marine Corps. The same financial officer noted that though the extension of Hardship Duty Pay- Tempo does not apply to Leathernecks, he is hopeful that the Corps will issue its own extension.
The Marine finance officer didn’t believe that the lack of guidance for Hardship Duty Pay for the Corps would be a morale hit.
“If it turns out that Marines are not given HDP-T, I’m sure there will be a small level of frustration at first,” he said. “But Marines have always and will continue to put the needs of their country first, and are honored to do so. I have no doubt that what little frustration does occur will dissipate quickly.”
Teaching kids about money can be a daunting task. Here are five ways to teach your military kid about money and give your child a good financial foundation.
Start with financial literacy
From understanding coin values to the finer points of investing, ensuring your kids are financially literate is a good starting point. Make discussions about money part of your routine, even with small children, and add children’s books about money into your bedtime reading to teach five concepts: earning, spending, saving, investing and generosity.
Personal finance guru Dave Ramsey offers practical tips to teach kids of every age, from putting young kids’ savings in a glass jar so they can watch it grow, to helping teens set a budget and open a bank account. For older children, the Council for Economic Education’s offers lesson plans that can be done at home. Generation Wealthy breaks down more complex topics for teenagers with videos and free resources for budgeting, bill paying and tracking spending.
Making choices with money
Ramsey advocates teaching ‘opportunity cost’ starting in elementary school – the idea that you have a finite amount of money, and you must make choices about how to spend it.
With our young kids, we frame choices in ways they’ll understand. If we buy candy at the store now, it takes money away from a toy they’re hoping for later.
Having the discussion each time a choice comes up lets kids be part of money decisions, sometimes in unexpected ways. Our six-year-old son reminded us we had groceries at home one night my husband and I were exhausted and planned to order takeout, and we ended up making a pizza we had in our freezer instead of ordering a delivery.
Set family savings goals
Once kids understand opportunity cost, set goals as a family for what you’d like to save toward, and include your kids in the planning and payoff. Each PCS is an opportunity for a fresh start to teach your military kid about money.
During our time stationed in Japan, many families with older kids worked together to save toward trips through Asia. Their kids handled budgeting, comparing prices on plane tickets and hotels to find deals, and came up with creative ways to earn and save to meet their goal. For our family’s next move to coastal Norfolk, Va., we’re saving as a team toward a paddleboard.
Make sure spending aligns with your values
After your kids understand the basics of how money works, teach them to make wise choices with it.
If you donate to charity, make donation decisions as a family. As you change duty stations, find local ways to give so they can visit personally and see the difference their time and money can make.
Give kids a chance to learn
From tried-and-true businesses like lemonade stands and summer lawn-care services, running a small business gives kids first-hand experience in the value of dollars and the hard work it takes to earn them.
Deployments are a great opportunity for teenagers to step up with babysitting and ‘parent helper’ services that keep younger kids occupied during the dreaded witching hours. If you live on base, check the rules about private businesses, and let your kids follow their interests – crafty kids might find great satisfaction in selling their handiwork on Etsy and talented bakers might earn extra cash from a birthday cake business.
Female post-9/11 veterans are the fastest growing demographic within the veteran population, but they’re also the greatest risk of experiencing homelessness after their service ends. Just like their male counterparts, they experience all the financial trappings that come with leaving the military. As of this writing, the national unemployment rate stands at 3.9 percent and is falling. But for female post-9/11 vets, unemployment is a solid 5.5 percent.
Female vets are a valuable, knowledgeable part of the workforce. More than half of transitioning women have a college education and are twice as likely as men to have a background in science, technology, engineering, or math career fields. Despite this, many women have difficulty transitioning to civilian life and navigating their benefits, taking up to three months longer than male counterparts to find a job once they leave the service.
With this in mind, Syracuse University’s Institute for Veterans and Military Families launched its premiere entrepreneurship training conference, Veteran Women Igniting the Spirit of Entrepreneurship (V-WISE), with the help of the U.S. Small Business Association. It helps female veterans and military spouses find their passions and teaches them the skills they need to turn passion into a profitable business venture in just three phases.
65 percent of these women will start businesses after the V-WISE conference and 93 percent of those will still be in business five years later.
(Institute for Veterans and Military Families)
Phase I of the V-WISE program is a 15-day online learning experience designed to teach participants the “language of business,” how to understand opportunity recognition as it relates to growing a sustainable venture, and present actionable strategies related to new venture creation.
The conference phase of the V-WISE experience is a three-day training offered to cohorts of 200 women at locations across the country. Participants must complete Phase I before attending Phase II.
The conference includes more than 20 distinct modules of training (representing over 40 hours of coursework) designed for both new business owners and to support the needs of existing ventures. Topics addressed include business concepts, financing, guerrilla marketing, human resources, legal challenges, profit models, and more.
Phase III, V-WISE Biz Support, provides program graduates with technical assistance to start and grow their business. Graduates will have access to incorporation services, financing services, mentorship, and opportunities for further education and skill-building with the IVMF and its partners, often at a reduced or waived cost. These services are available through a password-protected website.
And the system works. The V-WISE program is only six years old and has many of the three-phase programs under its belt but can boast more than 3,000 entrepreneurs — 93 percent of whom are still in business to this day. On Sept. 14, 2018, the Institute for Veterans and Military Families will host its 20th event in San Diego, Calif., where the slate of speakers will include:
Remi Adeleke, Transformers actor and former Navy SEAL
Larry Broughton, Co-Founder and CEO of BROUGHTONadvisory and Founder and CEO of broughtonHOTELS
Neale Godfrey, founder and CEO of Children’s Financial Network
The V-WISE class in Phoenix, Ariz. in 2017.
(Institute for Veterans and Military Families)
The V-WISE conferences are open to all women veterans, active duty female service members, and female partners/spouses of active service members and veterans who share the goal of launching and growing a sustainable business venture. It is just one of a slate of eight national entrepreneurship programs and three resources offered by the Institute for Veterans and Military Families — a slate the IVMF calls, “The Arsenal.”
Syracuse University’s Institute for Veterans and Military Families is the first interdisciplinary national institute in higher education focused on the social, economic, education and policy issues impacting veterans and their families post-service. Its dedication to veteran-facing programming, research and policy, employment and employer support, and community engagement allows IVMF to provide in-depth analysis of the challenges facing the veteran community.This one-of-a-kind dedication to the military-veteran community creates real, sustainable changes in the lives of military veterans, as showcased by the successful women who have graduated from the V-WISE program.
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:
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.
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?
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.”
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.”
When you’ve made the decision to start shopping for a home loan, it is important to make sure you find a lender who will be your partner in the home buying process. It is encouraged to shop around; you won’t be penalized because the credit bureaus expect it. This is a lot of money you’re about to invest! The most frequently asked question from home loan shoppers is, “What is your interest rate?” but it is absolutely essential to understand that there is so much more to a home loan than just a rate.
Dealmakers and breakers beyond the stated interest rate:
You want to make an apples-to-apples comparison, and that goes far beyond rate. Take a look in “Section A” of the lender estimate to look out for things such as origination fees, processing fees, underwriting fees, and points. All of these fees impact your bottom line, and even if the interest rate is better, it could still be the worse deal for you. Mortgage math can be complicated; you want a lender that will not charge these fees and break down your estimate line by line. Your lender should empower you to make an informed decision, rather than boxing you in a loan product that wasn’t necessarily the “right choice” for you.
Is your lender accessible?
When you’re out shopping for a home on your evening and weekend time, you want someone who is available to answer financing questions on the particular property. A good lender will work real-time with your Realtor to send over updated approval letters specific to the home, to include accurate property tax information (which is important because I’ve seen many cases where a lower-priced house costs more monthly because of taxes or HOA). You want a lender who will answer your frantic calls on the weekend when you have a burning question that just can’t wait. You want a lender who will answer a text when you have something pop up. You want a partner in the process that values you as a person, not just another file.
Can you close on time?
Look at your lender’s track record of closing turn time. Some lenders will advertise interest rates with a lock period of 45+ days. That is an indicator of how long it is going to take them to get the job done. Most mortgages need to close within 30 days or less, and the last thing you want is to jeopardize the contract on your home or the sweet rate you’ve locked in.
Does your lender educate you?
You want a trusted guide that takes the time to answer all of the questions you ask, and the ones you didn’t. A mortgage loan is full of information you don’t know that you don’t know. You want someone who takes the time to explain #allofthethings and makes you feel well informed and empowered throughout the entire process, start to finish.
Bottom line is you want to feel like you’re working with a lender that is your advocate and partner throughout the entire home purchase experience. It is important to have a relationship you can trust with the most important of all investments – your home.
SAN ANTONIO – USAA, the country’s fifth largest property-casualty insurer, will be returning $520 million to its members. This payment is a result of data showing members are driving less due to stay-at-home and shelter-in-place guidance across the country. Every member with an auto insurance policy in effect as of March 31, 2020, will receive a 20% credit on two months of premiums in the coming weeks.
As a member-owned association, USAA historically returns a portion of profits to members. In 2019, we returned $2.4 billion in dividends, distributions and bank rebates and rewards. This brings the total amount returned to members since January 2019 to nearly $3 billion.
“We understand the impact this pandemic is having on our country, and especially our military community and their families, many of whom also are working on the front lines of the crisis. Returning premiums provides timely help for our members,” said USAA President and CEO Wayne Peacock. “USAA has been facilitating the financial security of military members for nearly 100 years, and this is another way we can serve them well.”
Early data trends show USAA members are heeding the calls to suspend nonessential travel, leading to fewer miles driven and fewer accidents.
How it works
Members will automatically receive a credit applied to their bill. They do not need to call, and no additional action is required.
Ways USAA is providing financial relief for members
This is just one of several steps USAA has taken to provide financial assistance to members, including:
Special payment arrangements are available to assist members experiencing financial difficulties. USAA will not cancel members’ auto or property insurance policies or charge fees due to late payments on USAA auto and property insurance coverage through June 17, 2020.
Expanded auto insurance coverage for members who use their personal vehicles to deliver food, medicine and other goods for commercial purposes.
USAA Bank is offering special payment assistance programs for eligible members including a 90-day credit card payment deferral, a 60-day payment extension on consumer loans, and special mortgage and home equity line of credit payment assistance.
USAA Life Insurance Company is offering special payment arrangements on life and health insurance policies, including a 60-day extension to the 30-day grace period.
USAA Life Insurance Company is waiving and reimbursing deductibles and co-payments for coronavirus-related testing received on or after Feb. 4, 2020, for members who have USAA Medicare Supplement plan.
USAA Investment Management Company is reducing managed portfolio fees 50% (effective April 1 through May 20‚ 2020).
Additionally, USAA has taken steps to help ensure its employees stay safe and able to serve members by enabling nearly all 35,000 employees to work from home and committed .4 million to help military-focused and other nonprofits respond to this pandemic.