Senior executive with Navy Federal Credit Union says now is the time to buy - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY MONEY

Senior executive with Navy Federal Credit Union says now is the time to buy

In the midst of COVID-19, there is really good news for veteran and military home buyers: It is the perfect time to buy.

Kevin Parker is the Vice President of Field Mortgage Originations for Navy Federal Credit Union. Parker shared that now, more than ever, is the perfect time for veterans, service members and military families to buy. He explained that the market currently has great rates, no “junk” fees and experienced VA loan lenders ready to work for them.


Parker advises the new service member to do their research first though. “Talk to lenders early and become familiar with the company that funds them. Many who provide [originate] don’t service the loan. Navy Federal Credit Union services every one,” he said. Parker also shared that it is important to compare both the rates and the fees. He explained some lenders will even offer an estimate of fees before you apply, making it easier to understand the total costs associated with the home loan.

For many active duty military families, purchasing a home can be intimidating and even anxiety provoking. This can be attributed to the frequent moves associated with military life and the concern of being able to sell the home when it is time to PCS again. But Parker wants military families to be at ease when considering purchasing a home. “Historically, it is a good investment and can create investment power in terms of future income,” he explained.

He also suggested that military families work with Realty Plus through NFCU.

Realty plus is a program through NFCU that pairs you with a coordinator who then connects you to a real estate agent who is specifically trained to work with military families. This program also comes with a cash back offer if you close on your home with one of those agents.

Veterans or recently separated service members may have different ideas in mind for their home purchase. Many are looking at states which will be their retirement homestead. Parker suggests that they pay attention to the economy in general and seek areas with good value for their money.

Parker also said that finding an area with NFCU branches wouldn’t hurt either.

The NFCU website states that they aim to, “Be the most preferred and trusted financial institution serving the military and their families.” NFCU was Founded in 1933 and is the world’s largest credit union. When they opened their doors, they had seven members.

Now, they have over nine million members.

Membership is open to all Department of Defense, Coast Guard Active Duty, veterans, civilian and contractor personnel and their families. They pride themselves on their original charter being to the military community and for having over 40 years of experience in servicing loans. In fact, half of their loans are VA home loans.

Parker credits NFCU’s success to the company’s commitment to the culture of focusing on the families. The NFCU website also promises that, “Once a member, always a member. You can leave the military, change employers, move, retire, get married – yet always stay with Navy Federal. Your life is our mission.”

To learn more about Navy Federal Credit Union, click here. To see their current VA and Conventional Fixed Home Loan rates and decide if a mortgage with NFCU is right for you, click here.

MIGHTY MONEY

Congress approves 2.1 percent military pay raise

A soldier deposits funds into a safe in a finance office, Nov. 4, 2013, at Bagram Air Field, Parwan province, Afghanistan.


“You get a raise, and you get a raise, and you get a raise. You all get a raise!” That’s what Oprah Congress is telling its military and civilian Department of Defense counterparts this month, according to military.com.

The summary for the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2017 throws a bit of shade toward President Obama, stating:

Unlike the President’s request, the NDAA:

  • Provides the full 2.1% pay raise for our Troops, as required by law
  • Stops the drawdown and actually increases the end strength of our Armed Forces
  • Increases ground and aviation training to address shortfalls that have contributed to accidents across the Services
  • Provides Operation and Maintenance support for a larger force, including increased depot maintenance, facilities sustainment and modernization, and ship maintenance
  • Replenishes depleted munitions inventories
  • Begins a turnaround in ship procurement with advanced funding for submarines and amphibious ships.

Effective January 1, 2017, members of the military and Department of Defense employees will see a slightly more than 2 percent pay hike. Additionally, threats to bachelors allowance for housing, (or BAH, were thwarted and the current BAH rates will stay put.

The NDAA provides funding for Israel’s missile defenses, plans to “deter” Russian “aggression in Europe,” prevents women from being required to enroll in the selective service, orders the Pentagon to reform commissaries and healthcare, and requires changes to the Uniform Code of Military Justice.

With the 2.1 percent increase in base pay, this is what your new pay will look like beginning January 1, 2017

MIGHTY MONEY

Budget proposal prioritizes pay increase, quality of life, modernization

With soldiers increasingly being asked to shoulder heavier workloads, the Army hopes to compensate them for their efforts with a 3.1 percent pay raise.

The Army’s $182.3 billion budget proposal for fiscal year 2020 includes the highest pay increase for soldiers in a decade. Additionally, the service plans to raise basic housing allowances by 3.2 percent and basic subsistence allowances by 2.4 percent.

After launching a new recruiting initiative this year, the Army is aiming for a modest end-strength target next year, hoping to have 480,000 active-duty soldiers, 336,000 National Guard members and 189,500 reservists by 2020.


While much of the Army’s fiscal year 2020 budget focus has centered on modernization efforts, Under Secretary of the Army Ryan D. McCarthy and Lt. Gen. Thomas Horlander, the military deputy for Financial Management and Comptroller, discussed the importance of readiness and quality of life during a budget briefing at the Pentagon March 12, 2019.

“Readiness will continue to be the number-one priority for the Army,” McCarthy said.

McCarthy said two-thirds of the Army’s brigade combat teams are at their “highest state of readiness.” Army leaders have asked for steady and consistent funding to supplement its readiness efforts, which helped support 32 combat training center rotations this year.

Under Secretary of the Army Ryan D. McCarthy.

“Because of the consistent funding that we’ve gotten at a higher level here over the last couple of years, [it] has really allowed us to make some readiness gains,” Horlander said.

To meet its readiness goals, the Army proposes to increase its operations and maintenance budget to .6 billion. The plan covers an increase to infantry one-station unit training from 14 to 22 weeks. It will also provide funding to train 58 brigade combat teams, six security force assistance brigades and 11 combat aviation brigades. The service additionally plans to increase spending for flight crew hours for both active-duty and National Guard members.

The operations budget funds multi-lateral exercises in the Pacific region and in Europe to help bolster partnerships with allies, a crucial element identified in the National Defense Strategy.

“There are a lot of efforts to strengthen the partnerships with our allies,” Horlander said.

The service has prioritized improving housing standards, as senior leaders have visited post housing at different installations in recent months. The Army is asking for an additional 0 million for the restoration and modernization of soldiers’ barracks and installation facilities. Some funding will go toward three new housing projects, Horlander said.

The Army is seeking billion for its research, development and acquisition funding that will go toward newer weapons systems.

Capt. Bryson McElyea fires the M16 rifle.

(U.S. Army photo by Visual Information Specialist Gertrud Zach)

The Army will cut funding from certain weapons platforms and legacy systems will be cut to funnel more funding toward the Army’s modernization efforts. McCarthy said that 93 programs were eliminated and an additional 93 will be reduced or delayed beginning in fiscal year 2020 to fiscal 2024.

“These choices were complex and difficult. At times people will focus in on … winners and losers,” McCarthy said. “But what we look at is the choices we had to make from a modernization standpoint to be the Army that we need by 2028.

While the Army will shift its focus from legacy programs, McCarthy said that some of the platforms will still be needed. Those programs will be gradually enhanced to bridge the gap between newer and older weapons systems.

The Army’s FY20 budget request now awaits approval from Congress.

This article originally appeared on United States Army. Follow @USArmy on Twitter.

Articles

A brief history of the Thrift Savings Plan, and why you need it

Airmen 1st Class Diego Rojas-Rodriguez, far left, and Rolando Rodriquez, center left, speak to members of the 341st Comptroller Squadron mobile finance team at Malmstrom Air Force Base.


Where did the thrift savings plan come from and why do you need it?

In the beginning there was work; and then people died. Back in the day, American civilians simply worked until they couldn’t work anymore, and then they either relied on family to care for them, or they passed away. In the mid 1800s, a couple of companies took a look at the military’s retirement system and decided to give it a try.

The Thrift Savings Plan as we know it came into effect long after the civilian version of retirement due to the Federal Employees’ Retirement System Act of 1986. The TSP is the public sector’s version of the 401(k) that was established under the Revenue Act of 1978.

But the TSP was not the military’s first pension plan. According to Pension Research Council, pensions for the military predate the Constitution, but the U.S. Navy and Army struggled to manage pension funds — so much in fact that the new government had to bail them out at least three separate times.

Despite early issues with managing pension funds, the Army and the Navy continued to offer them as a means to attract and retain men in the services.

Eventually corporate America got on board and started to adopt its own retirement system modeled after the public pension system offered by the American military.

The private pension system was designed to reward line workers (those who worked in factories or on production lines) for years of service to one company. This worked both to the advantage of the individual as many skills were not transferable outside of a specific industry, and to employers because it guaranteed most of their employees would be loyal to them.

There were two problems with the way the pension system was set up: companies had to figure out how much money every year to set aside based on the number of employees they had, and many companies mismanaged that money just as the military had a century prior.

Thus, the 401(k) Individual Retirement Account, or IRA, was born by an act of Congress in 1978. With this system, employers agreed to set a predetermined amount of money aside, and employees agreed to manage it themselves.

As a result of the remodeling of the private pension system, our modern day public pension (the Thrift Savings Plan) was designed nearly a decade after the private pension plan.

So why do you need a TSP? Regular military retirement pay was never intended to fully provide for normal retirement.

The TSP was designed to supplement retirement pay, and while it is optional for military members, it makes money sense to set aside funds throughout your career to supplement the retirement pay that was never intended to fully financially support you.

In short, the TSP makes sense, and you should have one.

For more information on the TSP, you can check out the Thrift Savings Plan website.

MIGHTY MONEY

Why NCOs should never let their troops buy a car alone

Buying a car in today’s world is a necessity. Even the troops who grew up in a city where they never needed anything more than a subway pass will find themselves needing a set of wheels to call their own. Military installations are way too big and timetables are way too tight for a young private to make it around comfortably on foot.

So, be prepared to fork over a bit of your enlistment bonus just to adhere to a standard. Meanwhile, it’s kind of ingrained into military culture to belittle and mock the unfortunate lower enlisted who thinks they’re getting a good deal on a sports car and ends up paying a 28% interest rate over five years.

Instead, shouldn’t we actually, you know, help the poor soul?


(U.S. Army photos by Cpl. Han, Jae Ho and Dean Herrera)

You can’t throw a rock outside of a military installation’s main gate without hitting a sketchy used-car lot that boasts that “E-1 and above” are automatically approved for a loan. Because so many young troops are told they must get a car and have no idea how to do so intelligently, they’ll usually shop at the first stop — often coming away with a car without even taking it for a test drive.

Yes, a young private has few bills to pay — they’re given a barracks room rent-free and their meal card deductions hit their LES instead of their bank account — but too many troops are crippling their credit report right out the gate. A simple bad decision will follow them for life.

This is where their first line supervisor or their non-commissioned officer can step in and spend a Saturday afternoon making sure their troops are taken care of.

“A new set of wheels and this baby will be good as new! But for you, my special friend, I’ll see if I can sweet talk one of the guys to throw in a few air-freshening trees for the rear view.”

(Department of Defense)

Leaders have been around for a while and generally have a good sense of the installation and its surrounding area. Given that an NCO likely has a vehicle, they could talk the rideless private past all of those sketchy spots and take them to a reputable dealership. Depending on your location, this might be an hour-long drive, but it’s still better letting someone fall prey to months of ridiculously high payments.

Next comes the choice of car. The young troop, fresh out of mama’s basement, might see all those numbers in their bank account and fail to piece together that 00 isn’t really all that much to grown adults. Feeling like Mr. Moneybags, the young troop may casually stroll up to the car of their dreams — and it’s kind of up to the NCO to be the reality check.

Hell, NCOs could even pop out a PMCS checklist right then and there. It’ll establish dominance over any crooked salesmen and show you mean business.

(U.S. Army photo by Spc. Wilmarys Roman Rivera)

That new muscle car seems nice, but it’s not the best fit for for someone who gets paid half of federal minimum wage. So, you’ll want to pinch pennies. You might think that used cars are the best option then, but that opens another can of worms if the NCO isn’t careful.

So, here’s a little trick for you: insist that both the troop and the NCO must take the car for a test drive. The troop should be busy deciding if the car is comfortable for them, while the NCO should be looking out for deficiencies. If the car lot is reputable, they’ll always allow you both to ride. If not, you found a solid reason to move on to the next place.

Nipping this in the butt early can also help prevent even more paperwork if that troop has to go through financial aid.

(U.S. Army photo by Sgt. John L. Carkeet IV, 143d ESC)

Finally, we arrive at haggling. A young, dumb idiot willing to throw cash around is a used car salesman’s wet dream. If the troop doesn’t know the actual cost of a car but is willing to sign the papers because “they threw in a free tank of gas,” then they’re about to get screwed. It’s up to the NCO to be the middleman. A well-placed knife hand and serious demeanor could mean the difference of hundreds — if not thousands — of dollars.

Once the troop has found a vehicle that is within their price range, from a dealership that isn’t trying to ripoff service-members, runs excellently, and makes the troop happy, you move on to the paperwork. Read every single line before the troop signs anything. Make sure they never take the “zero-down” offer and advise them to put at least id=”listicle-2607400034″,500 down — regardless of the vehicle. Just that bit can change a horrific 28% interest rate to a reasonable 8% for someone without an established line of credit.

However, what you cannot do is co-sign the lease with them. It doesn’t matter if you trust them to pay the lease of on time or you’re willing to take the hit for your guy. It’s strictly forbidden by the UCMJ to enter a financial agreement of any kind with a direct subordinate.

What you can do is cattle prod your troop into making the payment every month. Yeah, it won’t be pleasant for them to be reminded every month to do it, but their financial security is at stake. They’ll thank you once they realize that you helped them out immensely.

Articles

This military spouse grew her own business despite 2 PCS moves

Lakesha Cole was named the 2014 AFI Military Spouse of the Year in a ceremony in Washington, DC in May, 2014


In many ways, Lakesha Cole is the typical military spouse. A mother and wife, Cole has spent the last five years like many other military spouses: focused on a passion while juggling her family responsibilities.

But it’s the way she’s done it that sets her apart. Recently, Cole and her husband, Gunnery Sgt. Deonte Cole, and their children completed a Permanent Change of Station from Okinawa, Japan, to Camp Lejeune, North Carolina.

And along with their kids and personal effects, the Coles also took their successful business inside the Okinawa Exchange with them.

This was the second time Cole packed up her company, She Swank Too, and hauled it overseas. Two years after debuting their company aboard Camp Pendleton, California, the Cole’s took on a PCS to Okinawa, embarking on a mission to open the first brick and mortar She Swank Too there.

Cole spoke with We Are the Mighty about her experience just trying to get a meeting with the retail manager in Okinawa.

“He was reluctant to do business with me,” she recalled, after waiting for six months to secure a meeting with the manager. He argued that military spouses didn’t believe “the rules apply to them,” citing spouses who formerly ran businesses in the retail space with poor business practices.

Cole says she presented her business plan, complete with financial reports, customer data and testimonials, and samples, to the manager. They agreed to a 30 day trial run of a brick and mortar She Swank Too. Three years later, the store accompanied the Coles on their PCS.

When asked what steps an entrepreneur should take during a PCS, Cole was quick to answer, “Stay active and… communicate with your customers.” Customer interaction is one of the focal points of the company. “We tapped into the hearts and homes of our customers,” Cole said.

The motivation behind the company was simple. “We debuted our first children’s collection … to introduce entrepreneurship to our daughter,” Cole recalled.

Cole’s husband is equally involved in the business. “The least recognized role in a business is … that person’s spouse,” Cole said. Cole’s husband is not only an active participant in the company, but a financial investor as well.

Cole isn’t just a business owner. In addition to She Swank Too, Cole is a military spouse retail coach, the founder, CEO and owner of Milspousepreneur, and an active advocate for military affiliated entrepreneurship in hopes of reversing high milspouse unemployment.

“My focus remains in using this business as a vehicle to give back,” Cole said

Articles

Advocates rally to stop Senate plan to cut Basic Allowance for Housing

Military advocates are rallying to stop a proposal in the U.S. Senate to reduce military housing allowances.


The Senate Armed Services Committee’s version of the 2017 National Defense Authorization Act, which sets policy and spending targets for the fiscal year beginning Oct. 1, would curb the military’s Basic Allowance for Housing, or BAH, for new entrants beginning in 2018 by only covering what they actually pay in rent. It would also reduce the combined value of the benefit received by military couples or roommates.

“We’re not in favor of the language in there,” Michael Barron, deputy director of government relations at the Military Officers Association of America, an advocacy group based in Arlington, Virginia, told Military.com. “We’ve got some major concerns with it.”

The Senate panel led by Sen. John McCain, a Republican from Arizona, wants the monthly BAH — which varies by paygrade, dependent status and region in the U.S. — to be more like the Overseas Housing Allowance — which covers only housing expenses.

Section 604 of the Bill S.2943 is titled, “Reform of Basic Allowance for Housing.”

Beginning Jan. 1, 2018, the legislation would set the allowance for new entrants at “the actual monthly cost of housing” or an amount “based on the costs of adequate housing” for each military housing area, according to a copy of the legislation. It also states two or more service members occupying the same housing would split the allowance.

Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., Ranking Member Sen. Jack Reed, D-R.I., and Sen. Jim Inhofe, R-Okla., listen as retired Gen. David Petraeus testifies at a hearing in Washington, Sept. 22, 2015.

It’s unclear whether the full chamber will approve the language when it votes on the defense authorization bill at a later date. Republican Sens. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Susan Collins of Maine have already introduced amendments to strike the provision. The House didn’t include similar language in its version of the bill and the Defense Department hasn’t requested the change.

In addition, Congress is already supporting a Pentagon plan to slow the growth of Basic Allowance for Housing over five years so service members on average pay 2 percent of their housing costs this year, 3 percent in 2017, 4 percent in 2018 and 5 percent in 2019 and thereafter. Troops won’t see a modification in the allowance until they change duty stations.

Senators argue the housing allowance has become “bloated and ripe for abuse” and note the change could save an estimated $200 million, according to an article by Leo Shane III, a reporter for the Military Times newspapers who first reported the proposal.

Barron said the allowance is part of regular military compensation designed to retain and recruit talented people into the military. He also noted in the 1990s troops paid roughly 15 percent of their housing allowance out of pocket and that lawmakers in Congress had “done a lot of work” over the past decade to reduce that expense.

“We really don’t think they should be trying to make these reductions for new entrants coming in. We just don’t think it’s the right thing to do,” he said.

“You’re already asking a service member to pay more for retirement savings,” he added, referring to the recent overhaul of the military retirement system that incorporated a 401(k)-style plan. “You’re asking them also now to pay more for housing.”

Humor

24 people to marry with better benefits than a US service member

Recently, the military healthcare system Tricare posted a photo on its Facebook page that had its fans in a frenzy.


People got pissed; they complained; they shared the post with harsh words; some even used “caps lock” in their comments. It was terrible.

What was so offensive about the post, you ask? If you hadn’t already seen it, it was a wedding photo with the comment “You had me at #TRICARE.” See below.

Tricare recently posted what was supposed to be a humorous post to its Facebook page. Instead, it got a lot of backlash!

As someone who works online almost exclusively, I had to laugh at the post. In fact, I laughed a lot. I could understand why some people were upset (hello, pushing a negative stereotype on female military spouses), but mostly I couldn’t understand how the marketing department at Tricare saw the post and said “Oh hey, THIS post is an EXCELLENT idea!”

My first reaction when I saw it, honestly, was “I wonder how long whomever approved this post will have a job?” I post all kinds of crazy things on my own personal Facebook page, but I’ve been called into more than one come-to-Jesus meeting with a boss over a poorly planned social media post.

When that’s your job, you have to be aware of your audience.

And who is the audience for most of Tricare’s social media pages? Probably spouses who want to keep up with changes in Tricare benefits. So it’s no small wonder that a whole bunch of them were butthurt.

So I did what any responsible journalist in my position would do: I shared the flub on my personal Facebook page and asked for hilarious feedback. My friends did not disappoint.

The idea? If we were to marry someone for his benefits, couldn’t we have chosen someone with better perks?

The military benefits are great, don’t get me wrong. But what about if you married:

1. A mob boss

All the Italian food your heart desires and the destruction of your mortal enemies. (this is obviously my first choice)

2. Prince Harry

Crowns and gowns, you’d never have to work! (wait. maybe this is my first choice)

3. United State Senator or Representative

The best health care your tax dollars can buy. Plus no one’s allowed to hurt your feelings. (gag me now)

4. A doctor

All you can eat hospital food! (food? queue the fat dependa jokes, because I AM IN)

5. A dog breeder

Picks of the litter! (meh, I’m not really a puppy person. Don’t shoot me, I prefer a full-grown rescue)

6. Donald Trump

If you ever go bald or are in desperate need of a tanning bed, you’re already in the right place! (If you can stomach this, its an option for those of you under 25!)

7. Any president

Free food, vacations all over the world; top private schools for kids; secret service body guards; couple cabins in the woods; free airfare!! (Woah woah woah…. someone sign my husband up!)

8. A Masseuse

Happy massages for days. (Okay I’m really torn between this one and Prince Harry. Can we choose two?)

9. Bill Gates

When one door closes the windows are always open!! (I’m a Mac girl, so…)

10. A handyman

All the crap around the house might actually get done! (Except my daddy raised me to be able to DO all the crap around the house, so this isn’t an issue here.)

11. Cesar Milan (the dog whisperer)

Maybe he can make the kids behave! (Wait, I have to choose between behaving kids and Prince Harry? Adulting is hard.)

12. A plastic surgeon

Think this speaks for itself. (Meh, not really my cup of tea)

13. A Starbucks barista

I think this also speaks for itself. (Okay, so do you think Harry could make coffee AND be a mob boss AND be a masseuse? Someone with connections find this out for me?)

14. An airline Pilot

Get to travel for free or for little out-of-pocket when there are seats available. (I’m married to a pilot. I see how he drives, I DO NOT want to fly with him.)

15. A personal trainer and chef

Never have to cook again and always fit into your skinny jeans! (I already fit into my skinny jeans. I just buy them bigger now.)

16. A hotel manager

Free room and board with complimentary continental breakfast! (I do enjoy food…)

17. A mechanic

(Free oil changes?)

18. Matt Damon

He’s my fantasy celebrity boyfriend and I’m waiting for his proposal. (Obviously this wasn’t my suggestion. If it’s not obvious, I super like Prince Harry. Just saying.)

19. A farmer

Cheap help from laborers, tractors and back hoes to dig as many holes as I need to bury the bodies. Then, when the old man ain’t worth it anymore I just take him out to pasture on the back 40! (So maybe not husband material, but maybe as a side piece while I’m married to the mob boss? Questions need to be asked here.)

20. A coffee importer

I would always have the best coffee. Ooh or someone who owns a bookstore too! Unlimited coffee and books for life it can’t get any better than that. (Just out of curiosity, does anyone know if Prince Harry has a library? Asking for a friend.)

21. The owner of a winery

(Also need to find out how Harry feels about wine)

22. A civilian so you never have to sleep alone

…Or worry. (I know, too serious)

23. A Costco employee

I used to work at Aetna. Let me tell you — those folks get great insurance. Or they used to. Free glasses once a year for all members of the family. (It IS time for me to get new glasses.)

24. The heir to a million dollar business with really nice in laws

No wait.. better! Heir to an awesome chocolate company. (Note to self, find out how Prince Harry feels about wine and chocolate and masseuse school and libraries and…)

I just realized that Prince Harry is in the military as well, so maybe I just really appreciate a man in uniform and the benefits aren’t really even the icing on the cake.

MIGHTY MONEY

Gary Johnson speaks out on California Guard repayment scandal

Maj. Gen. William H. Wade, the adjutant general for the California National Guard administers the oath of enlistment to Soldiers of Bravo Battery, 1st Battalion, 143rd Field Artillery during a recent visit Victory Base Complex, Iraq in 2007.


Libertarian presidential candidate Gary Johnson had strong words for the National Guard and the Pentagon after allegations emerged that the DoD is forcing California Guard troops to reimburse the government for enlistment bonuses it paid in error.

“It is beyond the bounds of decency to go after our veterans and their families a decade later,” he said in a statement obtained by We Are the Mighty. “These are rounding errors to the Pentagon, but these demands for repayment are ruining lives and causing severe hardships for service members whose sacrifices for the nation can frankly never be adequately be repaid.”

Johnson was referring to a Los Angeles Times story that alleges the National Guard is forcing nearly 10,000 guardsmen from California to repay reenlistment bonuses they were awarded 10 years ago.

According to the paper, more than 14,000 California Guardsmen were awarded the reenlistment bonuses as a result of the Army’s incentive program to retain soldiers during the height of the Iraq war.

The U.S. government investigated the California Guard reenlistment bonuses and found a majority of the requests had been approved despite the soldiers’ not qualifying for the bonus. There has been no suggestion that any of the Guardsmen who received the reenlistment bonuses were aware that they did not qualify for them.

The Los Angeles Times reports that Army Master Sgt. Toni Jaffe was the California Guard’s incentive manager at the time, and that after the Pentagon discovered the overpayments 6 years ago, Jaffe pleaded guilty to fraud. She was sentenced to 30 months in federal prison. Three other officers associated with the fraud also pled guilty, receiving probation after being forced to pay restitution.

Major Gen. Matthew Beevers, the deputy commander of the California Guard, accused the nearly 10,000 soldiers of owing a debt to the Army.

In his statement to The Los Angeles Times, Beevers claimed that the soldiers were at fault and that the Guard couldn’t forgive them. “We just can’t do it. We’d be breaking the law,” he said, not addressing whether the Guard was breaking the law by reneging on the contracts.

Several of the Guardsmen went on to deploy to Iraq and Afghanistan, many of whom sustained injuries as a result.

Military Times reports that the Pentagon is searching for ways to overcome the issue. “This has the attention of our leadership, and we are looking at this to see what we can do to assist,” Pentagon spokesman Captain Jeff Davis said Monday.

A host of lawmakers have stepped forward to condemn the Pentagon for harassing the Guardsmen who received the reenlistment bonuses, calling for congressional investigations into the matter. Though as of publication, no presidential candidate other than Johnson had addressed it.

Calling on President Obama and Congress to act immediately on the impacted Guardsmen, Johnson said, “The Pentagon needs a good dose of common sense far more than it needs these dollars, and making our service members pay for the government’s incompetence is beyond the pale.”

In a statement obtained by We Are the Mighty, Governor Johnson called for immediate action to be taken to keep the faith with California National Guardsmen.

Articles

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.

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!

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.

Articles

Feds allege business scammed $100 million in TRICARE drug fraud case

An airman in the pharmacy at Ramstein Air Base in Germany mixes a compound drug. No military pharmacies were named in the fraud indictment.


More than a dozen civilians are accused of scamming over $100 million dollars from TRICARE by writing prescriptions that weren’t medically necessary and then overcharging for them.

Earlier this month the Department of Justice and the U.S. Attorney’s Office announced that they had added 10 people to an indictment originally handed down in February.

Named in the updated indictment are two businessmen, three marketing specialists, two doctors, and five pharmacy owners.

Also Read: TRICARE beneficiaries have one month to transfer prescriptions

The 36 page indictment outlines a massive scheme to defraud the government through a series of kickbacks, money laundering, and medical malpractice.

The feds allege the conspiracy began in 2014 when Richard Cesario and John Cooper founded CCMGRX, LLC (later renamed CMGRX). The premise of the company was to market compounded prescriptions to service members, retirees, and their dependents, documents show.

Compound prescriptions are drugs which are mixed in an effort to provide a unique prescription that meets the specific needs of the patient. They are not approved by the FDA, but may be prescribed when a patient is unable to have a specific ingredient in a drug, or the drug is not available in a specific form, such as prescriptions for children who can’t swallow a pill and must have a liquid version of the medication.

Cesario and Cooper enlisted the help of three marketers, Joe Straw, Luis Rios, and Michael Kiselak, to recruit pharmacies and patients, the indictment shows.

The patients allegedly were oblivious to the scam, instead being told that they were taking part in a medical study being done by an independent non-profit organization, the Freedom From Pain Foundation. The company was operated by Cesario and Cooper, who used the company to launder the money they received from TRICARE, Justice says.

Money was allegedly paid to five different pharmacy owners and two doctors.

After paying beneficiaries for participating in the study, kickbacks were allegedly sent in the form of checks to the doctors, pharmacy owners, and marketers. The rest was pocketed by Cesario and Cooper, the feds say.

More than 30 separate counts were filed against the men, including conspiracy to commit healthcare fraud.

The indictment also outlines some of the punishment the men will face should they be found guilty, beginning with a list of properties in Texas, Florida, and Costa Rica that the men will have to turn over to the government.

Additionally, 32 vehicles, including Ferraris; Maseratis; Aston Martins, Corvettes; Mercedes-Benz; Jaguars; Porsches; Hummers; Cadillacs; BMWs and several trucks and SUVs will be seized by the government upon conviction of any single offense.

The indictment goes on to list multiple boats and recreational vehicles, bank accounts in the names of the men and family members, cash, investment accounts, firearms, jewelry, other property, and “working interest” in several oil companies, as well as a “money judgement” that could all be seized by the government in an effort to recoup the over $100 million scammed by the group.

According to the press release regarding the indictment, Cesario and Cooper, who were placed in custody earlier this year, are being held until trial. The other 10 men all made bail until their trial.

Each of the charges against the men is punishable by between 5 and 10 years, and a $250,000 fine.

The FBI and the Defense Criminal Investigative Service helped investigate and breaking up the alleged conspiracy ring.

MIGHTY CULTURE

How and when to tell a job you might be PCSing

Are you PCSing soon? Or is a PCS in the works? While it can be hard to tell exactly when you might be leaving before hard orders are issued, in the military world, it’s pretty much a given that you will be leaving. If not anytime soon, then soon after that.


It’s just a part of the lifestyle.

Why it’s a Potential Setback

As a military spouse who works as a civilian (but tied to military schedules and locations in “normal” careers), PCSing can throw a wrench right into your plans. Before you can promote, before you can achieve seniority … or just as you get settled, it’s time to move. That means finding another job, and wondering if you’ll have your frequent moves held against you.

But how do you tell your current job you’re PCSing? And when?

Look at Your Work Relationship

This is a tricky situation; there are horror stories of spouses suddenly being laid off once orders arrived. Don’t fall victim to this scheme. Consider the type of relationship you have with your current company and let it guide you. Do you get along well? Is there a hostile corporate environment where the competition is high?

Technically, you do not owe anymore more than two weeks of notice before you leave. But in most scenarios, it’s courteous to let your employer know when you’ll be leaving town 1) so they can start looking for a replacement and 2) you can be a part of the training process. OR secret option 3) you can start working with them on a remote position setup.

If you have a good relationship with work and get orders well in advance, tell them. Talk about possibilities for staying on, and what the change might look like. However, if you’re genuinely worried about getting the boot, keep mum. Your work is not owed any personal information, especially when you fear that sharing will hurt your income.

Staying on Remote

A growing option among military spouses is the ability to work for a single company remotely. With easier online access and accountability, telecommuting is not only viable as a long term career, it’s cost effective.

Bring up this move to your boss; go in with a plan so they aren’t worried about logistics. Talk about your hours, your workload, and how you’d love to stay on with them well into the future. Help your chances by including stats on remote work, platforms that can help keep everyone on track, and even savings that are in it for the company but not paying for an additional office seat.

Of course, the biggest perk to working as a remote employee is that your company gets to keep you. They don’t have to train a new worker or start over with brand nuances or expertise. Play up your specialties for a solid sell.

How To Drop the News

There doesn’t need to be anything formal about sharing military orders. A simple, “Hey we’re moving to Texas!” Or “Colorado will be seeing us soon.” Remember to drop in all the hard details, as well as the ones you don’t yet have. For instance, when you’re moving, how long you’ll be there, what it means for your availability, and any specific report times.

There can be light at the end of the tunnel by letting your current job know you’re moving, and when. Consider current working relationships and how that can plan into future moves for all involved, including the possibility of remote work.

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.

(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).

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.