So, you’ve been told that you should use your VA Loan for your home purchase, but the question is: Why? In this post, we’ll talk about some of the benefits and advantages of using your VA Loan for your home purchase.
Benefits of the VA Loan
1. No Down Payment
The VA Loan does not require a down payment for an eligible property purchase. While a 20% down payment on a conventional loan would be difficult for most service members, the VA Loan enables borrowers to put down 0% to buy a home. As of January 2020, there is no cap to a first-tier VA Loan-making it even better! Remember, though – there are still closing costs involved – even if there’s no down payment, so make sure to budget those in when considering a home purchase!
2. No PMI
While other types of mortgages usually require Private Mortgage Insurance for a lower down payment, the VA loan does not require it. This means less money out of pocket for borrowers and is yet another benefit of using your VA loan.
3. Lower Interest Rates
VA Loans are continuously competitive in their mortgage interest rates. By using a VA Loan, you’re almost guaranteed to receive a better rate than other types of loans.
4. Refinance Opportunities
VA Loan borrowers have two types of refinance options. The VA IRRRL can reduce your interest rate and possibly lower your monthly payment. Then, there’s the VA Cash-Out option that can give you the opportunity to pull cash out based on how much equity is in the property. By doing this, you can use the cash for purchases like renovations or repairs, car purchases, or whatever you need!
If you happen to be facing foreclosure, the VA has a loan program that provides foreclosure avoidance counseling and advocacy. These counseling programs help find possible alternatives to foreclosure to save you from a low credit score and heartache.
6. Lower Closing Costs
The VA limits closing cost amounts from lenders who offer VA loan lending. Unlike other types of mortgages, you won’t have to worry about outrageous closing costs where you have to bring a large amount of cash to the closing table. To add to the benefit, the VA also allows up to 4% of the buyer’s closing costs to be covered by the seller – saving you even more money.
7. VA Loan Assumability
Loan assumability is a big benefit to a VA Loan. Because the loan is assumable or transferred to a new borrower, a new eligible buyer could take advantage of a lower interest rate than what is currently offered in the mortgage market. Having the ability to advertise your VA Loan as “assumable” may even help sell your home when the time comes!
8. No Prepayment Penalty
If you are required to PCS, sell the home, or decide to pay off the mortgage, there’s good news! There is no prepayment penalty on a VA Loan. That is yet another reason why using a VA Loan could save you money in the long run. The last thing you need to worry about is paying MORE money when you need to pay off your mortgage!
9. VA Loans are Government-Guaranteed
Another advantage of a VA Loan is that it is backed by a government agency. What does this mean? It means that the federal government guarantees to pay back 25% of every VA Loan regardless of the reason for default. Because this provides participating lenders with a less risky situation, lenders can offer better term agreements to borrowers.
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.
There is another Murph the military comes to know through the years, and he does not come with an Instagram worthy WOD. We’re talking Murphy’s law, the one that wreaks havoc on your government issued bank account.
Years of service and plenty of direct hits to the checking account later, a few of us have learned how to add a bit of financial padding to military life.
Here are 4 tips for disaster proofing your finances:
Quit going through cars like you go through (fill in the blank)
Car buying is a longstanding way to get screwed over as military personnel. Unlike the rest of the world, buying a vehicle for military life requires a whole new set of things to consider. Take this list into consideration before you go through cars like you go through…other things. Your savings account will thank you.
Always go for AWD or 4WD.
It needs to drive well in Alaska, Arizona or the Alps. If it can’t, you’ll be forced to buy again at almost every post.
Be prepared to ditch the second vehicle.
Shipping a second vehicle for OCONUS assignments means an average ,000 out of pocket each way. Is it worth it? Probably not.
Get to know the Military Lending Act
Every used car salesman will claim to be a retired First Sergeant, and every one of them cannot wait to strap you into an interest rate higher than your IQ score.
This is why we can’t have nice things
Government contracted movers are exactly why we can’t have nice things. Before you buy, ask yourself: Will this survive being thrown off a moving truck? If the answer is no, buy something cheaper. In military life, you need to know the household goods to save or splurge on.
Tough boxes (splurge)
Investing in tough boxes is a smart way to keep things both organized and safer from moving-related damages. Use them to house everything from tools to your heirloom china dishes.
Everyday furniture (save)
Screws will get stripped, scuff marks will happen, and eventually, you will replace a fair bit of the goods you acquired. Save your investment pieces for things like mattresses or multifunctional pieces that can be utilized as a dresser or TV cabinet in the likely chance something won’t fit or something else won’t make it.
Quit buying houses like they are forever homes
Bold enough to buy a home while in the military? Spoiler alert, it’s nothing like buying on HGTV. Whatever you buy better have universal appeal because two years from now it will be someone else’s American dream.
The savvy military landlord knows to buy with these tips in mind:
Choose something with rental potential.
Your mortgage should be significantly lower than BAH and the potential rental income (think 0-0 cheaper).
Choose something that will be easy to sell.
Slap the twinkle right out of your eye when looking for homes to buy while serving. Your oddball taste or preference to live in a secluded cabin ten miles into the wilderness will quickly go from dream to nightmare once you’re paying two mortgages after your one of a kind place didn’t sell.
I’ve got the power…of attorney
Who knew a little document could do so much damage? Carefully and thoughtfully designating not just anyone as your power of attorney is a decision not to take lightly. Here’s some basic left and right limits for your money.
Do- Put your money in more than one bank.
Don’t- Give power of attorney to the stripper who is “a really good listener.”
Do- Name an alternate or limit power if you aren’t on good terms.
Don’t- Give it away to your brand new girlfriend or boyfriend as a trust exercise.
Since interest rates are down compared to last year — and likely to remain unchanged or fall even further in 2020 — it’s a good time to be strategic about where you save money.
A certificate of deposit (CD) can offer good earning potential without any of the risk of a stock market investment or the variable interest rates of a high-yield savings account.
When you open a CD, you agree to lock your money up for a specific period of time — usually anywhere from three months to five years — in exchange for a fixed annual percentage yield (APY). You typically can’t access your cash until the CD’s maturity date without incurring a penalty, which makes it a good place to safely grow money that you need at a certain date and not before then. It can also help curb impulse spending.
Currently, the best CDs are offering between 2% and 2.25% APY for varying minimum deposits and terms between 12 months and five years. Generally, the longer the term length, the higher the rate. Any term shorter than a year probably isn’t worth it right now, since the rates are comparable to the best high-yield savings accounts.
You can’t add money to a CD after the initial funding period (usually between 10 and 14 days), so it’s not the right type of account for actively saving money. But if you already have cash set aside for a future purchase, a CD is worth considering. Here are five times to open a CD for your savings:
1. You’re waiting to buy a house
Saving for a down payment can take years. But just because you finally reach your savings goal doesn’t mean you have to buy a house right away. Maybe mortgage rates aren’t where you’d like them to be or you just haven’t found a place you love yet. If you’ve decided to wait at least a year to buy a house, a CD can keep your down payment safe and earning a consistent return in the meantime.
2. You’re planning a home renovation
If there’s a home improvement project on your to-do list next year, but you already have the cash, consider opening a CD to earmark the savings. As long as the renovation isn’t something that needs attention right away (think: a big leak or a damaged roof), then you can lock in a high interest rate now to earn more on your money while you iron out the details of the project — and actually find the time to do it.
3. You spend a lot during the holidays
The end-of-year holidays seem to get more expensive every year. Make it easier for your future self by setting aside a cash reserve now that you can use next year for shopping, booking travel, and buying gifts. Once your CD matures, you can use the cash to put toward your holiday purchases if the timing is right or replenish the fund you pulled from.
4. You have big travel plans
If you’re actively saving for a travel fund, a high-yield savings account is the way to go. But, if you’ve already reached your goal, or even part of it, and want to make sure the money stays safe until you’re ready to jet off, try a CD. You won’t be able to dip into the account for impulse spending and you’ll wind up with even more money than you started with thanks to above average interest rates.
5. You’re preparing for a move
Between packing supplies, movers, and buying new stuff, moving can run up a lengthy tab. But setting up a moving fund? That’s something many of us plan to do, but never quite get around to.
If you know you’ll be moving in the future, whether to a new state or just a new neighborhood, consider setting aside some extra cash in a CD so you can be sure there’s no scrambling for money when the time comes. It doesn’t need to be a ton of cash — some of the best CDs require to open — but you’ll need to add something to start earning a return.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
The Air Force recently approved incentive pay for Airmen assigned to Turkey, just months after a military coup prompted defense officials to suspend accompanied deployments there. The Pentagon had ordered Air Force dependents out of the country in March.
According to the Air Force Times, unaccompanied tours to Turkey will be reduced from 15 months to 12 months. Airmen will be given the option to extend their tours from 12 to 24 months with an incentive pay of $300 per month.
Air Force Personnel Command says that Airmen must apply for Turkey Assignment Incentive Pay either prior to leaving their current duty station, within 30 days of arriving in Turkey, or “during their date eligible for return overseas forecast and initial vulnerable to move list windows.”
Airmen who have been in Turkey over 30 days may elect to extend their date eligible for return overseas, or DEROS, for 24 months past their current DEROS. Airmen who elect to accept Turkey Assignment Incentive Pay under these conditions will begin to collect the incentive pay on the first month of the 24 month extension, the service said.
All other Airmen who are eligible for Turkey Assignment Incentive Pay, and accept it, will serve 24 months in Turkey and will begin receiving the incentive pay upon arrival in country.
The Air Force Times reports that civilians previously assigned in Turkey will automatically have their tours reduced from 24 months to 12 months, unless an extension is approved by the U.S. Air Forces in Europe commander.
Turkey, a NATO ally, has seen civil unrest progress in recent years, with terror attacks and a failed coup in July. The country is host to a key airbase at Incirlik, which is critical to the coalition fight against Islamic State terrorists in Syria and Iraq.
The Air Force Times reports that Airmen who find that this recent change in tour requirements presents a hardship for them may request a “home-base or follow-on assignment” and that the Air Force will consider cancellation requests on a case-by-case basis.
The changes to Turkey assignments do not impact personnel assigned to the U.S. Embassy or Security Cooperation Organizations in Turkey.
Buying your first home on active duty may be intimidating and the jargon can be confusing, but the good news is that others have walked this path and made it through — and you will, too. Active duty service members and veterans have a secret weapon that civilians do not possess: the VA Guaranteed Loan. While the VA will not issue the loan itself, the guaranty provides the veteran with the means to obtain a loan without a down payment or mortgage insurance premiums.
First thing’s first; one must obtain a Certificate of Eligibility to prove their entitlement as per the VA fact sheet. The lender can obtain this on the veteran’s behalf, or the veteran may do it themselves through eBenefits to get started. The process may seem daunting at times, but these tips should help you along.
Estimate your monthly payment before you start looking at anything
A pre-approval letter determines your maximum loan amount, and is based on your credit and finances. This document may be requested from the loan officer or lender (bank) to calculate your monthly payments. You can estimate what your monthly payments will look like by using a mortgage calculator and the data contained in the pre-approval document.
Input your down payment (if any), maximum amount approved by the lender, and interest rate to have a realistic picture of what the payments are going to look like. Adjust the price of the home to determine an acceptable monthly mortgage for your situation.
Maintain some savings for unexpected expenses
As a new homeowner, we can guarantee that you’ll run into unexpected costs. To prepare for these, make sure you have some sort of savings cushion — even if you aren’t buying a house, you should have some savings tucked away, just in case.
When you take out a loan and buy a house, you’ll encounter all sorts of unexpected expenses, like paying a funding fee, paying for inspections, and covering closing costs. Sure, you can roll several of these fees into your loan, but that’s just going to add to debt that you’ll already spend decades paying off.
In general, you should save as much as you can, but you should have at least ,000 – ,000 in reserve. Worst case scenario? You don’t use it all and you’ve got some extra cash.
Find a realtor and lender with VA experience
If you’re diligent, you will find a realtor who is prior service and has walked a mile in your shoes. A lender like USAA (or other military-oriented lenders) can also offer a huge amount of help.
To find leads that will unite you with a realtor who understands your needs, reach out to your local military support group on Facebook for recommendations. A friendly inquiry can result in a list of individuals who have been recommended by your peers.
Keep your options open
After the preliminary paperwork is complete, you’ll be able to place an offer on a potential home. There are a few scenarios that can unfold here: the seller may accept your offer right away, decide to wait for another offer but not deny your offer, or send a counteroffer. It is absolutely essential to know that you may place offers on several homes at once.
However, once you have an offer accepted by a seller, you are obligated by contract (as per the purchase agreement) to not place new offers on other homes.
A meditation company with an iTunes app is offering free downloads to veterans. Meditation Studios has developed 200 meditation tracks that can be downloaded through their app in the iTunes store.
Through a recent partnership with Give Back, the company created the Veterans Collection, a unique series of meditations that are designed to help veterans improve their focus, relieve stress, and encourage better sleep.
In a statement to We Are the Mighty, Meditation Studios said:
Please enjoy these complimentary meditations from Meditation Studio App. For more from this collection, download the app. The guided meditations in the Veterans collection will help to improve focus, relieve stress, encourage better sleep and generally bring more peace of mind. The mind can be a great source of distress when it’s out of control. When we can relax, pause or slow the mind down, it becomes a source of consolation and peace.
As we learn to meditate, we learn to recognize emotions, thoughts and sensations without reacting to them. It helps us to respond more thoughtfully, without impulse or overreaction. This can be very comforting, giving veterans more control over the thoughts and emotions that accompany a return from deployment.
The downloads are available through the app, or through SoundCloud. The app, which is $3.99 and has high ratings, features unlimited access to all of the company’s meditations and courses; population and situation specific mediations; step-by-step “courses” with instruction on proper meditation; meditations in various lengths to fit into busy schedules; a section for tracking progress, scheduling meditations, and an in-app calendar.
An uncontrolled study published in Military Medicine in June, 2011 found that meditation among Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom combat veterans with moderately severe post traumatic stress “may have helped to alleviate symptoms of PTSD and improve quality of life in veterans of OEF/OIF with combat-related PTSD.”
A similar study by the Army in 2013 determined that meditation could have a positive impact on PTSD, and noted that more research was needed.
The VA notes that meditation, when combined with other treatments, may “improve outcomes” of treatment.
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.
In a report released earlier this summer, the Department of Defense Inspector General has determined that the Army’s finances are a world-class mess. Reportedly, the service made $2.8 trillion in adjustments to make their books balance just in one quarter of 2015 in spite of the fact that the entire defense budget for that fiscal year was $585 billion.
According to Reuters, the Army’s books are so jumbled that they may be impossible to audit – and the Army is facing a September 30, 2017 deadline to be ready for one. The harsh IG report concluded the Army “materially misstated” its financial statements for 2015.
Making the task of squaring the Army’s books harder is the fact that over 16,000 documents have vanished from the Army’s computer system. The Defense Finance and Accounting Services (DFAS), the Pentagon’s primary agency responsible for accounting services, routinely changed numbers without justification at the end of the year, something employees of that agency referred to as the “grand plug.”
“Where is the money going? Nobody knows,” DOD critic and retired analyst Franklin Spinney told Reuters.
The Army has taken issue with the IG report, claiming that the total discrepancies total just under $62.5 billion. An Army spokesman said, “Though there is a high number of adjustments, we believe the financial statement information is more accurate than implied in this report,” that and that the Army “remains committed to asserting audit readiness” and that steps are being taken to root out the problems.
A specialized VA lender, a military-friendly real estate agent and a national homebuilder joined forces to help a disabled veteran use his VA loan benefits with a government grant to build the home he’d dreamed of for almost 2 decades.
John Swanson comes from a long line of military members. He was born at Southern California’s Fort MacArthur. His grandfather was in WWII and retired as a full bird Colonel. His father was an Army Sergeant in the Korean War, and his Uncle was an Army Captain. John was determined to carry on the family tradition. The Vietnam War was in full swing in 1971, and while he was more than ready to join, he was too young. Just before his seventeenth birthday, John enlisted in the U.S. Army Delayed Entry Program (DEP) to ensure an active duty slot when he came of age.
During an infantry training exercise, John fell 50 feet repelling from a helicopter. The medics found nothing broken, so John was ordered to keep training under advisement. He was ordered on a 10-mile compass run in shower shoes, during which John’s ankles collapsed underneath him. This time, the doctors determined he could not continue training. He was released under the discharge category “undesirable conditions. ”
“My whole purpose was to serve my country, but it wasn’t meant to be,” John shares. The Vietnam Era veteran had to fight for his honorable discharge, which he eventually received. Meanwhile, he had darting pain and decreased mobility in his arms and legs. Upon further medical examination, he was diagnosed with a chronic neurological syndrome called Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy (RSD). Now confined to a wheelchair, John was upgraded from 60 percent to 100 percent disability.
“It was hard not to notice the wheelchair,” says John’s finance Terry Kaut, whom he met at a singles club 13 years ago. “But John was so full of life and joy. Later I found out how much pain he was in, which made his outlook even more amazing,” she added. After 10 years of dating, John and Terry decided to live together in a two-bedroom apartment near Sacramento. The only room suited for John’s disability was the bathroom.
“I’ve bruised my knee caps and broken several toes,” shares John, referring to the narrow halls and doorways in typical rentals. “I chased the American Dream for a long time, but accessible homes just don’t come up that often,” John explains. “So I lived in what was available.”
John’s housing frustrations turned to hope when he heard of a grant administered under the VA Loan Guaranty Division. Specially Adapted Housing (SAH) grants help veterans with certain service-connected disabilities build or modify homes to best suit their needs. He applied for the grant in 2012 and searched for a VA-approved mortgage lender to help him use his VA benefits.
John applied for a loan with iFreedom Direct®, a nationwide lender that specializes in home loans for veterans. Later John was connected to Sherry Dolan, a Sacramento-based Keller Williams® real estate agent familiar with the VA loan process. Sherry says, “I’ve sold a lot of homes to a lot of veterans, but this was the most challenging and most rewarding.”
The first issue was the grant. It had been months and John still hadn’t heard back from the VA. Debbie had a connection at the Department of Veterans Affairs that reported the paperwork had either been lost or never received. Together, Sherry and Debbie helped John reapply. Sherry enlisted the help of Sacramento Congresswoman Doris Matsui’s office to expedite the second application to make up for lost time. Within just a few months, John was awarded the fully-allotted $67,555.
Meanwhile, Sherry set out with the couple to look for a house. She saw John struggling. “Terry and I lugged a heavy ramp around just so he could get up the front steps,” she explained. “He couldn’t access back rooms or step-down garages.” Sherry also saw that sunken living rooms, common in California, were a problem.
Then another issue surfaced regarding renovation. John’s respiratory problems required that they live in their apartment until any construction dust settled. With John’s fixed disability income and Terri ‘s modest income as a middle school registrar, they could afford rent or a mortgage payment. Not both.
Sherry thought to seek help from a builder. She approached several, but only one took an active interest in helping John. Lennar Homes had a new subdivision in Rancho Cordova with six model homes. The company agreed to adapt a single-story floor plan under SAH guidelines to suit John’s disability. Lennar® also financed the construction phase so John and Terri could keep renting until the home was finished.
The original blueprint was modified with John and Terry in mind. The specially-adapted model resulted in a 1,794 square-foot, three-bedroom home with 42-inch doorways, wheelchair-friendly flooring, an accessible master bathroom with roll-in shower, a ramped garage, flat front and back entrances, left-handed light switches, and many more customized details.
“The home represents a unique situation for us, but the project has definitely increased our awareness and the need for adaptable homes,” says Division President Gordon Jones. “We were honored to be able to serve a veteran in this way.”
Given the venture’s success, the builder welcomes the opportunity to serve other veterans. According to Lennar®, John’s house was the first-ever specially adapted home built by the Northern California division with money from an SAH grant.
“Thanks to this dedicated team of professionals who worked together, Mr. Swanson was finally able to get into a home,” shares iFreedom Direct’s Customer Experience Director Tim Lewis, a Retired U.S. Army Major.
John may have never gotten the opportunity to serve on foreign soil, but, as fiancé Terry relays, he has served for years from his wheelchair. “He counseled GIs and other individuals with RSD and answered a hot line for years,” says Terry. “And, now because of John, the way is paved for other disabled veterans to build a Lennar® home to fit their needs.”
A housewarming party took place shortly after John and Terry moved into their new home. The entire team came together to celebrate, along with many of the couple’s new neighbors and some local veterans. To honor the special occasion, iFreedom Direct had installed a 20′ flagpole in the front yard and Tim Lewis presented John with an American flag during an emotional dedication ceremony.
(Left to Right: In front of the specially-adapted Lennar home after flag raising ceremony are iFreedom Direct loan officer Debbie Losser, Keller Williams real estate agent Sherry Dolan, homeowner John Swanson and fiancé Terry Haut and Dolan’s real estate partner Belinda Mills)
When asked what this house meant to him, John fought his emotions to get these words out, “It means the world. It’s hard holding back the tears when I think how everybody came together to make it happen for us.”
Veterans with permanent and total service-connected disabilities may be eligible for SAH grants. To apply, submit VA form 26-4555 to your VA Regional Loan Center. For information about VA loans, contact iFreedom Direct®.
iFreedom Direct®, a top VA-approved lender, has served America’s brave men and women by providing quality VA loans since 1996. These zero-to-low down payment mortgages, backed in part by the Department of Veteran Affairs, help eligible borrowers purchase and refinance homes at competitive interest rates. Pre-qualify at www.ifreedomdirect.com or 800-230-2986.
During election week, four states legalized medicinal marijuana use, joining a list of 40 states and the District of Columbia in saying “Mary Jane is a friend of mine — in some form or another.”
The federal government, however, is saying “not if you value your 2nd amendment rights.”
Currently, marijuana is legal for recreational use in Alaska, California, Colorado, Massachusetts, Nevada, Oregon, Washington, and Washington D.C.
Arkansas, Florida, Montana and North Dakota all voted last week to allow medical marijuana use, joining 17 other states who acknowledge the medicinal value of cannabis.
Outside of those 29 states, limited medical marijuana use (which generally refers to cannabis extracts) is legal in 15 other states.
The states that don’t allow any type of marijuana use are Idaho, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, Indiana, and West Virginia.
While the Veterans Administration admits that it hasn’t conducted any studies to determine if medical marijuana can successfully treat PTSD, they do admit that there seems to be anecdotal evidence to support that claim.
Use of “oral CBD [cannabidiol] has been shown to decrease anxiety in those with and without clinical anxiety” the VA notes.
The VA goes on to explain that an ongoing trial of THC, one of the compounds in cannabis, shows the compound to be “safe and well tolerated” among participants with PTSD, and that it results in “decreased hyperarousal symptoms.”
According to an investigation by PBS’s “Frontline,” marijuana’s “danger” label came about predominantly as a result of a smear campaign against immigrants between 1900 and the 1930s.
The network acknowledges a report from the New York Academy of Medicine that states that, despite popular opinion, marijuana does not “induce violence, insanity or sex crimes, or lead to addiction or other drug use.” That report has not been refuted by scientific research to date.
In 1972, President Nixon ordered the Shafer Commission to look at decriminalizing marijuana use, and the commission determined that the personal use of it should, in fact be decriminalized.
President Nixon, according to PBS, rejected that recommendation.
To this day, marijuana use and possession is a federal crime, despite being overwhelmingly accepted by nearly all of the country in some form or another.
So why does this matter to the military and veteran community?
It all comes down to federal law. While a majority of the country recognizes the benefits and harmlessness of cannabis, the federal government does not.
In fact, the feds say marijuana users immediately forfeit their Second Amendment rights by consuming cannabis.
On September 7th the Washington Post reported that the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit ruled that federal law “prohibits gun purchases by an ‘unlawful user and/or addict of any controlled substance.’ ”
The court claims that marijuana users “experience altered or impaired mental states that affect their judgement” and that this impaired judgement leads to “irrational” behavior, despite the findings by both the New York Academy of Medicine and the Shafer Commission to the contrary.
Background checks for firearms purchases require buyers to acknowledge whether they are a “habitual user” of marijuana and other illegal drugs. If they truthfully answer “yes,” they are barred from buying a gun. That means gun buyers in states that legalized marijuana use had better not indulge in the new right.
Will this change any time soon?
To answer that question, one needs to look at how legalization has impacted the finances in the states that have made pot kosher. After-all, money makes the world go ’round.
According to CheatSheet, Oregon banked $3.5 million in its first month of recreational marijuana sales. Washington State hit the jackpot with $70 million its first year, and Colorado rolled a fat one with $135 million in 2015 alone.
That was enough for the U.S. Congress to pause and say “let’s think about this.” Currently sitting in the Senate right now is S.683 , or the Compassionate Access, Research Expansion, and Respect States Act (CARES).
Introduced by Democrat New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker in March 2015, the act moves to transfer marijuana from a schedule I to a schedule II drug, protect marijuana dispensaries from being penalized for selling marijuana, and directs the VA to authorize medical providers to “provide veterans with recommendations and opinions regarding participation in state marijuana programs”, among other things.
To give an idea of what a schedule II drug is, the U.S. Department of Justice lists ADHD medication as a schedule II drug.
So when will marijuana use be decriminalized on a federal level? It’s too soon to tell.
Until then, veterans will have to choose between our pot and our guns.
Military leaders want families who are thinking through the choice to be armed with as much information as possible, said Lt. Col. Steven Hanson, who heads the Army‘s compensation and entitlements office.
He discussed three military retirement myths at a recent Association of the United States Army conference.
Myth 1: You’ll be forced into the new military retirement system.
That’s false, Hanson said.
Everyone who joins the military after Jan. 1, 2018, will be a part of the new system whether they like it or not. But those who are currently serving at that time will have to make a choice: Keep the old system or opt into the new one.
“One of the big misconceptions about this is that people will be forced into the new system and that is simply not the case,” he said. “Nobody will be moved into the blended system unless they actively choose to do so.”‘
The current retirement program is based on a pension system. Under that plan, if a military member serves 20 years, is medically retired or is forced out and qualifies for early retirement, he’ll be able to walk away with a pension based off his rank at retirement.
But most troops don’t retire out of the military — they simply leave the service. And thanks to the way the current system is set up, that means they walk away empty-handed.
That’s a problem the new “blended” retirement system is designed to fix. Instead of retirement or nothing, it gives service members a savings that is closer to what’s used by employers in the civilian sector.
Under it, troops can contribute money to their Thrift Savings Plans (TSP), and the Defense Department will match it up to a certain percent, much like a 401(k) plan. Even if a service member opts to put nothing in his TSP, the DoD will still contribute an amount equal to one percent of his base pay to the account each month.
And service members who stay in long enough to become retirees will still get a version of the pension system in the new military retirement plan as well, although payments will be based on a lower amount than they are today.
Myth 2: It’s easy to tell which plan you should use.
False. While it would be nice to know if the new system is the right choice for you simply based on how many years you’ve been in, that’s not the case. Whether the new system is right for any given service member is going to be based on a whole slew of information specific to that person and his or her family, Hanson said.
“There’s no cookie-cutter answer. Every service member is going to have different circumstances,” he said. “Everyone should do what’s best for their personal circumstances.”
Myth 3: You’re going to have to figure out which plan is best for you on your own.
Mostly false. While the final choice ultimately will be up to each individual service member, the law that required the retirement plan change also requires the Defense Department to provide a lot of education about what the change means — and how service members can pick which plan is right for them.
“We need to make sure that they have the tools, the skills and the knowledge to make an informed decision,” Hanson said. “We are putting together a training and education plan to make sure service members understand the old system versus the new system so they can make an informed choice.”
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.