4 simple ways to start saving money - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY MONEY

Endless opportunity in the face of enormous loss

Retired Army Sergeant, Alicia Hanf, served six years before transitioning to civilian life. Bridging the gap seemed easy. Hanf began her civilian career working for a marketing agency in Baltimore. Soon, she was at the top of her game. Then, one day, in an instant, her whole life trajectory changed.

She received a call from her brother. “Mom’s dead,” was all he said.

Hear Alicia’s full story on Victory Capital’s website

In that moment, numb to the world and short of breath, she could hear her drill sergeant’s voice.

“Do you know what your last known point is?”

Last known point is a component of situational awareness. It is the ability to re-orient yourself with your surroundings and find the last recognizable place in your environment. Finding your last known point helps you plot your way back from being lost.

According to Hanf, “From there, you find your way.” For her, last known point is the veteran’s edge in navigating the business world.

When Hanf was transitioning out of the military, she was mentored by a group of women. They helped her with her resume. They aided her in her job search. Their coaching helped her successfully cross over into civilian life.

Hanf says she could not have gotten as far as she is today were it not for the veterans and business organizations that helped create opportunities for her.

“When I think of opportunity, I think of all the things my mom gave up for us to have a good life. For me, opportunity is endless, it’s abundant. It’s always available to us,” Hanf says optimistically. She adds that such opportunities are available to all transitioning service members.

Whether it is help starting a new business, growing an existing one, or connecting with networking groups, Hanf advises veterans to seek out and take advantage of the many resources available to them.

For entrepreneurs feeling lost and looking for a last known point, there are numerous resources available.

Here are just a few to start that journey:

1) Resources available to all small business owners

  • The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) has over 100 centers providing training and counseling services in a variety of topics to help Americans start, build, and grow their businesses.
  • Small Business Development Centers (SBDC) provide free business consulting and low-cost training. Topics include business plan writing, capital formation, and marketing, among others.

2) Resources available to women business owners

  • The SBA’s Office of Women’s Business Ownership sponsors a Women-Owned Small Businesses Federal Contracting Program to provide access to federal contracting opportunities.
  • International Association of Women (IAW) provides networking events, professional development opportunities, career and business development services, and promotional opportunities for women in all stages of business.

3) Resources available to Veteran business owners

  • The SBA’s Veteran Business Outreach Centers provide business training, counseling and mentoring to veterans in their local communities.
  • Veteran Entrepreneur Portal is a part of the VA’s Office of Small and Disadvantaged Business Utilization. It provides business education, financing opportunities, information, and links to government programs created specifically for veterans.

For more information and useful financial tools visit Victory Capital.

This article originally appeared on Victory Capital. Follow @VCMtweets on Twitter.

MIGHTY MONEY

The similarity between physical and financial fitness

Mission-focused military life places a high priority on physical health. But for some, financial health may be an afterthought.

Navy veteran and fitness and lifestyle content creator, Austen Alexander, recognizes the benefits and challenges of both. When he went into the Navy, the military kept him fit. But during his first years of service, Alexander accumulated debts that impacted his financial wellbeing as well as his mental and physical health.

Alexander says he went “a little haywire” while at his first duty station. He admits there was a void he was trying to fill being away from home. He bought things he couldn’t afford…all on credit. The discipline he used in the gym didn’t translate to his finances.

“I was living the good life on money I didn’t really have,” says Alexander.

The military offered no training in finance to show him how to manage his money, how to open a savings account, or when to begin investing. At his low point, Alexander started to educate himself on financial fitness. He dove into books. He taught himself financial fitness and he decided to reduce his credit card debt.

He realized that many principles of physical fitness are similar to those of financial fitness. They both require patience, discipline and consistency to be successful.

By applying principles of physical fitness to his financial life, Alexander was able to pay down debt and start a business. Today, he is in the best shape of his life. The lessons Alexander learned along the way are an inspiration to others – both in and out of uniform.

His plan helped him to transfer the balance of his highest card to a new card with a 15-month, 0 percent interest rate. This allowed his payments to go directly toward principal, not interest. He also created a multi-tiered approach to quickly pay off debt. Here are some highlights:

1)      Make an Attack Plan

Create a monthly budget to track expenses and designate amounts spent in various categories and channel extra income to start paying back what you owe.

2)      Set Goals

Set financial goals that are practical, measurable and have a deadline.

3)      Pay early

Automate your monthly payments to arrive a day (or even a week) early to help reduce the risk of late payments.

4)      Pay more

Make more than just the minimum monthly payment on credit cards.

5)      Pay with a plan

Use available resources to create a financial plan to pay down debt, establish investment accounts like the Thrift Savings Plan (TSP), and consult with the finance officer at your deployment location.

The path to military financial readiness is paved with steps to show you how to make interest work for – not against – you. For more information and useful financial tools visit Victory Capital.

This article originally appeared on Victory Capital. Follow Victory Capital on Twitter.

MIGHTY MONEY

5 important investments that every veteran should make

Returning to civilian life after active duty can be confusing and somewhat daunting. Whether you have been in the military for many years or if you have returned home after a grueling tour, adjusting to your previous life is definitely not an easy task. While there is a myriad of questions you need to answer and many issues you need to tackle during this adjustment period, one of the most pressing questions is how to achieve financial freedom for your family.

5 Investment Opportunities for Veterans

Achieving financial stability can seem like a huge task for a veteran, but you can achieve it by creating passive income and even returning to the workforce. Most importantly, to achieve financial stability and freedom down the road, you need to make the right investments in your professional and personal realms. 

These investments range from setting up a retirement plan to actively investing in real estate, but this can also include upskilling and getting certified to take on a completely new career path. Let’s put the best options into perspective and look at some important life investments every veteran should make. 

Investing in health and life insurance

First and foremost, you need to set up your health insurance, which is especially important for veterans requiring long-term medical treatment, professional counseling, and more. Unless you have been in the service for 20 years and have health insurance through Tricare, you will have to look into health coverage outside of the military. Keep in mind–if you have a medical condition that is a direct result of your time on active duty, you may be eligible for Veteran Affairs health care coverage.

If you’re not eligible for either of these, then private health insurance is the way to go. You can find a plan that works for you through the Affordable Care Act or a new employer. Take your time to learn the key terms like deductibles, copays, coinsurance, and out-of-pocket maximums and how different insurers use them in their policies. You can extend your military healthcare coverage for up to 36 months post-service through the Continued Health Care Benefit Program to buy more time and sort out your health insurance. 

Consider Investing in Real Estate

The next big move you should make is to invest in real estate as a retired veteran. Due to rapid urbanization across the US and the world–real estate continues to be a thriving sector with many opportunities for long-term professional growth. Becoming a real estate investor allows you to sell properties for a quick influx of cash or rent real estate to business leaders and tenants to create a steady income. Both commercial and residential real estate investing are good options–and you should strive to invest in both over time.

Now, starting in real estate investing is best done with an experienced professional at your side – and by educating yourself first. There are many online platforms where you can learn the ropes quickly. The most -important step is to do your research to find up-and-coming real estate markets and good deals on properties and new developments. Over time, you should diversify your investments into commercial and residential properties–with a focus on sales-oriented and rent-oriented real estate. 

Get Certified and Invest in a New Career Path

Another great way to build financial stability over the long term while actively working is to change career paths through upskilling and online certification. For example, if you were a corpsman or a medic in any military branch– you might want to pursue a career in medicine and continue helping others in the civic healthcare system.

Now that the COVID-19 pandemic has created a need for highly-trained medical professionals– investing in advanced medical certification online is a great way for veterans to transition quickly into the healthcare industry and find stable employment. As a medic, you are already familiar with emergency response techniques and practices–now all you have to do is get the right certifications to work in a hospital or private practice. 

Because of the pandemic and many other socio-economic factors, the healthcare industry will be booming in the years to come, which is a great opportunity for you to thrive professionally. 

Set up a retirement plan

When you leave active duty, the first thing that can come to mind is how to ensure a healthy retirement. Naturally, you need money to do so, and you can do it by ensuring a steady cash flow from your real estate and other investments. However, you can also set up a retirement plan in other ways, mainly by saving up over the next few decades.

If you have 20 years of service, you are eligible for regular military retirement and a steady pension. If not, then you should start saving up now to meet your goals when you reach your retirement age. You can do this by opening up an individual retirement account (traditional or Roth), or you can contribute to a 401(k) plan. 

Invest in reducing your debt

Finally, make an investment plan to reduce your debt over the long term. It might not sound like an investment at first, but reducing and eliminating debt is one of the best ways to ensure a financially stable future. Make sure to set up a debt-repayment roadmap, and consider working with a financial advisor to minimize your losses and retain as much of your wealth as possible. 

Coming home from active duty can be tough–, and while you might want to deal with other immediate issues first, you should prioritize your finances and long-term stability. Consider making these investments now and over the next few years to build financial stability and freedom.

This article originally appeared on Active Duty Passive Income.

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

4 simple ways to start saving money
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

Tips for budgeting for the holidays

As the holidays get closer, many military families find themselves looking for ways to save money and budget appropriately for the upcoming gift-giving season. Random COVID-19 impulse buys, a downward spiraling economy, job loss, and purchases related to new homeschooling or virtual schooling curriculum are leaving many of us financially stressed in 2020. Check out these holiday budgeting tips that will help you start the new year off on the right financial footing.

Tips on budgeting for the holidays

So how do you try to save and budget for this holiday season when your finances may have taken unexpected hits because of the coronavirus pandemic? Financial expert and military spouse Lacey Langford from The Military Money Expert says there are three things you should evaluate when you start budgeting for the holidays: your current holiday savings, the total amount you want to spend for the holidays, and who is on your list. 

“Knowing how much you have to spend is the jumping-off point for your budget,” Langford said. “Then you can look at [ways to save] between now and Christmas.”

You will also want to examine how much you want to spend for the holidays. You can do this by looking at your current savings account balance. Subtract the amount you want to keep in savings as your emergency and investment amounts to find your total holiday shopping budget. Once you have that number, you can write down the people on your holiday shopping gift list, and assign each person an amount of money you would like to spend on them. “[When you] know who you’re buying for it makes it easy to firm up your spending budget,” says Langford. 

“Save money every month, starting in January. … Set up an automatic $100 transfer from your checking to your savings at the beginning of the month. By the time November rolls around, you’ll have $1,100 to holiday shop with,” Langford suggests. 

But don’t fret — if you aren’t that organized with your holiday budgeting this year, you can still do some things to help you save some cash for the next several weeks: 

  • Don’t procrastinate: Shop sales when you see them. You can even do this throughout the year.
  • Use apps like Qube Money that utilizes the popular envelope system or Tiller that helps you budget throughout the year.
  • Cancel your cable or streaming services.
  • Honey and Rakuten are two websites that offer cash back for purchases made on other sites — even Amazon, Wal-Mart, and Target participate

“Don’t forget to use your military benefits when shopping for the holidays,” Langford said. 

Shop My Exchange, ID.Me Shop, and GovX are all military-specific and provide discounts or lists of companies that give military discounts online. 

The military exchanges also offer a new layaway program as well. Layaway not only helps you pay for what you can manage in a certain timeframe but also allows you to stick to your monthly budget. There are several different options for layaway, from 30 days for clothing and handbags up to 120 days on fine jewelry. A deposit purchase of $25 and 15% of the item’s purchase price, plus service fees are required to put your items on layaway at any military exchange. You can find out more information by visiting the Exchange website

Even if your family is in a good place financially, you should start considering your holiday budget about 6-8 weeks using the funds you have saved away throughout the year. Budgeting is a great way to keep your family on track, make sure your nest eggs continue to thrive, and help your family prepare for the unexpected — like a worldwide pandemic. 

Want more money tips? Download our free 2020 Military Money Guide

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

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Veterans clap back at those demanding Starbucks hire 10,000 vets

Starbucks Armed Forces Network, a private group within the company of Starbucks, released a statement yesterday asking that those calling for Starbucks to hire 10,000 veterans instead of refugees check their facts.


Recently, Starbucks came under fire for announcing that they would hire 10,000 refugees. The general reaction was anger and calls for boycotts of Starbucks until they vowed to also hire 10,000 veterans.

4 simple ways to start saving money
Devin Craig (second from right), a district manager for Starbucks Coffee Company, Wash., and his team talk to Soldiers and Veterans during the Boots 2 Work Military Career Fair at Cheney Stadium, Tacoma, Wash., Aug. 27. The career fair gave Soldiers the opportunity to meet with local businesses and learn job hunting skills. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Cody Quinn, 28th Public Affairs Detachment/Released)

The problem with that? Starbucks vowed to hire 10,000 veterans in 5 years way back in 2013. And they’re ahead of schedule.

One of the many internal groups at the coffee giant, Starbucks Armed Forces Network, penned a note to their customers to explain why the anger at the refugee program was misdirected.

The note, simply signed by The Men and Women of Starbucks Armed Forces Network (AFN), began, “We write to you today as representatives of the thousands of veterans and spouses who currently work for Starbucks Coffee Company.”

The writers went on to express their gratitude to their customers and then they moved right into addressing the refugee and veteran initiatives.

“The false and inaccurate statements [about the veteran hiring initiative were] deeply troubling to those of us who’ve served,” the group wrote.

The statement described how the CEO and his wife, Howard and Sheri Schultz, had visited military installations around the country to learn more about how they could advocate better for veterans and military spouses after announcing the veteran hiring initiative in November 2013. The couple invested their own personal funds into “plans for transitioning service members,” according to the group.

“We respect honest debate and freedom of expression,” the statement read. “But to those who would suggest Starbucks is not committed to hiring veterans, we are here to say: check your facts. Starbucks is already there.”

The 5 year initiative has only used about 60 percent of its time, but has met 88 percent of its goal. This means that, if they continue at this rate, Starbucks will surpass their initial goal of hiring 10,000 veterans by 2018 by 4,600 veterans.

Starbucks operates 32 Military Family Stores near several major installations. Owned by veterans, military spouses, or family members, the stores participate in “Military Mondays.” Weekly, Starbucks partners with local Veteran Service Organizations to provide space for the organizations to offer pro-bono legal support and other services to the military community.

The company also offers Military Service Pay to employees who have to report for National Guard or Reserve assignments. Eligible partners can receive up to 80 hours of paid time to fulfill their reserve service obligations yearly.

Starbucks provides a Military Allowance to eligible employees that are called to active duty, as well.

Starbucks has made a name for themselves as a veteran friendly company, even being awarded Gold status by G.I. Jobs in this year’s annual “Military Friendly” list.

MIGHTY MONEY

This scam is the number one financial fraud facing Americans

When young service members graduate from basic training or earn their commission, the biggest threat to their financial security isn’t that brand new muscle car for $0 down and a 15 percent interest rate. In fact, the biggest threat is one that targets service members across all ranks and Americans from all walks of life.

In 2019, Americans lost $1.9 billion to phishing and fraud. That year, the Federal Trade Commission received 647,000 complaints about imposter scams which topped $667 million in total losses, making them the number one type of fraud reported to the FTC Consumer Sentinel Network.


4 simple ways to start saving money

*You may be asked to verify confidential information if you call your bank, but rarely the other way around (American Bankers Association)

Imposter fraud most commonly takes the form of a criminal posing as a financial institution in order to scam information from a consumer in order to access their accounts. Every day, thousands of Americans receive calls, texts, and emails from these scammers pretending to be a bank. Depending on how much information the scammers have been able to find about the consumer, they may even pose as the consumer’s actual bank. In order to gain access to your accounts, the scammers need to ascertain certain information from you. Luckily, this information is standardized across the financial industry as information that banks do not ask for.

The other most common types of fraud scams are romance and employment scams. Romance scams will have a scammer posing as a romantic interest online who eventually asks to be sent a sum of money. Employment scams can be more complex and range in form from paid job applications to startup business ventures requiring immediate payment. These types of scams have also become more common due to the fact that many people are now working from home.

4 simple ways to start saving money

The easiest way to protect yourself from fraud scams is to recognize the signs. If you receive a call, text, or email that you believe to be fraudulent, contact your financial institution immediately. “If you even have an inkling that something doesn’t seem right, just call,” said Stacey Nash, USAA’s SVP of Fraud. “We can address the fraud before it becomes a problem.” USAA is a leader in the financial industry at detecting and combating fraud. As a digital institution, the bank has been forced to stay ahead of fraud threats in order to protect its members. “When we are alerted to fraud, USAA engages law enforcement with as much information as possible,” Nash said. “We’re committed to upholding justice.”

USAA’s 24/7 fraud prevention teams flag unusual activity and reach out to members to ensure that there is no possibility of fraud. In cases where a member is buying into a scam, USAA representatives will educate the member on the signs and dangers of fraud to help prevent them from becoming a victim.

Seventy nine percent of adults surveyed in 2019 say they were targeted by fraud over the phone. In total, it is estimated that nearly 50 percent of adults have been the target of an imposter scam at some point in their life. Aside from recognizing the signs of fraud yourself, the best way to combat the threat is to share the information. Among military ranks, it is of the utmost importance for leaders to educate their subordinates on how to protect themselves from scams like these. Though junior service members are not exclusively targeted, they can be a more vulnerable population. “Be vigilant,” Nash said. “At the end of the day, if it sounds too good to be true, it usually is.”


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Are there any military spouse retirement benefits?

4 simple ways to start saving money
Mrs. Hyun Crites, wife of Chief Master Sgt. James Crites, 9th Operations Group superintendent (right), is presented the Military Spouse Medal during her husband’s retirement ceremony. | U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Bobby Cummings


Military retirement often marks the end of a long road.

As a military spouse, you’ve put in months of waiting on your service member to come home from long trainings or deployment, all while holding down your home and taking care of your family. You’ve battled career challenges for yourself, planning disasters, cross-country moves and everything Murphy’s Law could throw at you.

But other than the long-sought break from the challenges of military life, what’s in military retirement for you? Although your service member is who put on the uniform every day, military retirement isn’t without perks for military spouses or ways that you can still benefit from the community.

And while all of the benefits available to you are by virtue of your spouse’s service, it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t take full advantage of them.

Military spouse retirement benefits

Health and dental care. After military retirement, you are eligible to continue using Tricare, the military’s health care system. If you are near a base, you may even still be able to be seen in the military treatment facility or hospital if that is your wish. You can also sign-up for a dental plan for military retirees.

Commissary and shopping privileges. Now that you’re not a part of the active-duty military anymore, you might find that your living expenses go up. But as the spouse of a military retiree, you still have access to the military commissary and exchange systems. Although just how much you save at those stores over civilian markets is an often-debated topic, everyone agrees there is some benefit to shopping at them.

Military lodging and recreation. As a military retiree, you still have access to the military lodging and recreation systems. Although there are some rules restricting who can stay in military lodges overseas, most allow military retirees. Maybe now is the time to take that girls’ or guys’ vacation you’ve been dreaming about for the last 10 years.

GI Bill and education benefits. If your service member transferred the Post-9/11 GI Bill to you while he or she was still on active duty, you can use it to go back to school. Through it, you will receive a monthly housing allowance, an annual books stipend and, depending on where you are going to school, all of your tuition costs and fees covered. The GI Bill must be transferred while the service member is on active duty for this to be available.

If you don’t have the GI Bill and your service member has died, you might be eligible for Survivor and Dependents Educational Assistance.

Survivor Benefit Plan. If your service member chooses to set up the Survivor Benefit Plan, an insurance policy, at the time of his retirement, you will have access to that money after he or she dies. That plan can be complicated and confusing, so go here for the full explanation.

VA benefits after your service member’s death. Although a service member’s pension checks end with his or her death, you may have access to Dependency and Indemnity Compensation, and the Veteran’s Death Pension.

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

These are the 2020 military pay dates

One of the greatest perks of military life is having a reliable, consistent paycheck. Military pay is issued once mid-month and once at the end of month. We have a chart for you to see exactly which dates are 2020 military pay days and when those funds are available through Navy Federal Credit Union* and United Services Auto Association. *NFCU funds availability is only shown for the active duty checking account, not their other programs.

Building a budget and living within your family’s means are both much easier when you know 2020 military pay dates and the USAA pay dates and NFCU pay dates.

4 simple ways to start saving money
MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

Recent changes with the 2020 NDAA and how they impact you

The National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) is an annual piece of legislation which gives authority and funding to the United States Military. While it is a detailed body of work that doesn’t make for light reading, it should be read. This legislation is filled with items that impact the military family directly.


It addresses military pay

The 2020 NDAA provided a 3.1% pay raise to military service members. This pay raise was the biggest one to be received in the last decade and was reflected in the first paycheck received by service members of 2020. The bill also extended specific bonuses and special pay. One of the big take-aways of this bill is the focus on supporting not just the member, but the military family as a whole.

Military spouse education and employment

Within the bill there are increases in support of professional licensure for spouses. With the new 2020 bill, spouses are currently eligible for up to 00 in reimbursement for licensure costs accumulated when moving. This is twice the amount that was authorized in last year’s bill. It also addresses license portability by giving authorization to the Council on State Governments to research ways to create reciprocity across state lines.

The bill also extended opportunities for spouses for education. The My Career Advancement Account program is an example of this, as it is a valuable resource for military spouses. It offers up to 00 in assistance for licensure, certification, or an associate’s degree in a field that is portable. The eligibility for this is limited to E-1 through E5, W-1 through W-2, and O-1 spouses. The initial pilot program had it available to all spouses but rising costs and enrollment forces restrictions in who can utilize this benefit. In this bill language, Coast Guard spouses were also included even though they fall under the Department of Homeland Security.

Military housing reforms

One of the key elements of this bill is that it addresses the issues within military privatized housing. The bill created new accountability for these companies by enforcing quality assurance measures. It also increased the number of required inspections. This bill provides an additional 1.8 million dollars to make sure that each housing office has the vital personnel it needs to ensure military families are taken care of.

One of the tools that will be utilized going forward is a way to assess and evaluate for risks within military housing. This includes things like mold and lead. It also allows for the BAH to be withheld from the private housing entity until issues or disputes are solved. Another key piece is that it forces transparency by requiring these entities to disclose repairs or issues prior to lease signing. There will also now be a required Tenant Bill of Rights and minimal livable standards established.

Military family needs

The NDAA also authorized million for the STARE BASE program, which is a DOD youth program. It is an American military educational program for grades K-12 that teaches science and math in hands on ways. It was created to tackle the low rates of readiness in these subjects by implementing a program that makes math and science fun and interactive. To learn more about this program and to see if it’s located in your area, click here.

One of the chief concerns outlined in the 2018 Blue Star Families survey was that 72% of military families cannot find reliable childcare. An amendment was included in the NDAA for 2020 that creates more coordinator positions on bases to assist with childcare and extends childcare hours for families.

Another key piece to this legislation is that it created the ability of military service members to sue under administrative claims for medical malpractice by a military provider. Although there was existing legislation for under the Federal Tor Claims Act, the United States itself was immune. After countless hearings within congress over a decade, this amendment passed within the NDAA. If a service member sustains injury or death they can file a claim and receive up to 0,000 as long as they file it within two years.

Surviving spouses receive relief

Finally, one of the biggest parts of the 2020 NDAA is the elimination of what is known as the “widows’ tax” in phases. For multiple decades surviving families have not received their full benefits as they deserve, even though they paid into the benefit programs. This is a piece of legislation that has been debated and fought over for almost twenty years. Finally, change is coming and it will be finalized by 2023.

If you’d like to look through the 2020 NDAA, you can find it here. Fair warning, it is 1119 pages long. However, a pro tip is to utilize the search ability within the document to enter terms that you want to specifically read about. This will bring you exactly where you need to go. Happy reading!

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

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National Guard chief says ‘tie goes to the soldier’ in California re-enlistment bonus scandal

The head of the National Guard said Oct. 26 that the Pentagon will continue to investigate re-enlistment bonuses paid to thousands of California National Guard soldiers a decade ago and will force those who wrongfully accepted them to pay the money back.


Chief of the U.S. National Guard Bureau Air Force Gen. Joseph Lengyel said his office is looking into more than 13,600 cases that could be fraudulent, but he admitted investigators have to prove that the soldier knew they were accepting upwards of $15,000 they didn’t qualify for.

4 simple ways to start saving money
Sgt. Jeffrey Nelan, a Infantryman with the 184th Security Force Assistance Team, California National Guard, plays with Afghan children during a leadership engagement at the Afghan Uniformed Police headquarters in Uruzgan Province, Afghanistan, Sept. 25, 2013. | U.S. Army photo by Cpl. Harold Flynn

“The tie goes to the soldier,” Lengyel said at a breakfast meeting with defense reporters in Washington. “If their hands are clean where this soldier is doing their duty and doing their job, it is not our intent to try to enforce this hardship on them 10 years later.”

A nationwide furor erupted after a Los Angeles Times story revealed the California National Guard was demanding repayment with interest for some bonuses it doled out to its Guard troops as an incentive to re-enlist during the height of the Iraq war. The former head of the  state’s Guard incentive program was later convicted of filing over $15 million in false claims and the bureau began looking into the scope of the problem in 2012.

Some soldiers, the Times story alleges, have been forced to pay pack tens of thousands of dollars to the government after nearly a decade — some who sustained severe injuries during their subsequent deployments and have been financially ruined by the errors.

President Obama weighed in on the scandal Oct. 25 and reportedly ordered the Pentagon to speed up the audits, but he stopped short of asking for a blanket amnesty, the Times said.

Pentagon chief Ash Carter said in a statement the next day that he’s ordered a suspension of the paybacks and has asked his office to establish a more streamlined process to investigate fraud claims and allow Guard soldiers a speedier appeal.

“This process has dragged on too long, for too many service members,” Carter said. “Too many cases have languished without action. That’s unfair to service members and to taxpayers.”

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Guard officials claim over 13,600 questionable bonuses were paid out to California soldiers in the mid-2000s — some for re-enlistment incentives, others for education reimbursement. About 1,100 bonuses were given to soldiers who officials allege were not entitled to them, about 4,000 were error free and about 5,300 had paperwork errors. There are still about 3,200 that Guard officials are still trying to track down.

So far about 2,000 soldiers have been asked to pay back all or part of their bonus cash, Guard officials say.

Lengyel explained some of the more egregious cases included officers who took the cash to re-up when the money was intended to help fill the enlisted ranks, some who took bonuses to stay in certain jobs even though they were already in the process of changing their roles in the Army Guard and others who took re-enlisted bonuses despite being on track to take a slot at officer candidate’s school.

“Was there an intent to trick the system, to take advantage of the fact that apparently there’s some new sheriff in town who’s handing out bonuses?” Lengyel wondered. “Unfortunately with all of this was mixed in some proven intent to defraud the government, in some cases. There was some intent to take money knowingly that you weren’t entitled to by some people.”

But he added that likely the vast majority of soldiers who took the bonuses didn’t have any intent to illegally work the system.

“We think there are a lot of people out there who were 22-year-old soldiers who were given information that they thought by all means they were entitled to the money,” Lengyel said. “They were told they could take this money, they were told that they were entitled to this money, they took the money, the re-enlisted and they went about whatever they were doing and they were given bad data.”

Guard officials say there are more cases of alleged fraud in the re-enlistment bonuses for National Guard troops in other states, but that they pale in comparison to the California errors. Lengyel said in all about $50 million in questionable bonuses were paid out in California during the period, and the Guard is investigating each one individually.

The National Guard is granting exceptions, he added, particularly for those who were paid bonuses without submitting records that they were actually eligible. Lengyel said, for example, a bonus paid out to a soldier that didn’t forward a copy of a high school diploma will likely be given a pass since he couldn’t have joined the Guard without it in the first place.

“That’s a technicality by which this member shouldn’t be levied a fine,” Lengyel said. “The blanket rule is to do the right thing.”

Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle have been outraged by the story, with some already calling for an investigation into the issue and forwarding language to an upcoming defense bill that would give some bonus recipients amnesty. National Guard officials say they did notify Congress of the potential for bonus fraud but nothing was done.

Vet groups have been quick to side with California guardsmen, arguing it’s unfair to put so many soldiers in financial peril due to a former military official’s malfeasance.

“If any of these people were misled about their own eligibility for the bonus with the intent to keep them on, they shouldn’t be held responsible for that,” said John Hoellwarth, National Communications Director for AMVETS. “We think the benefit of the doubt has to be with the soldiers,”

Lengyel said his office is sending investigators to California to help speed up the process of determining whether a bonus or incentive was paid in error in hopes of helping affected soldiers get on with their lives.

“We’re focused on helping those service members who were doing the right thing and served their country and thought they were entitled to a bonus to get this out of their past and out of their way,” Lengyel said. “And we want to help California do that, and help the service members do that as quickly as we possibly can.”

Articles

This Marine just saved the government $15 million

The Marine Corps was paying $60,000 more than it was supposed to for a type of radio cable since 2007, according to Stars and Stripes.


The cable was discovered to be overpriced in October 2016, when Marine Cpl. Riki Clement had to fix a radio. After being told that the needed parts would take six to eight months to arrive, he decided to reverse engineer a replacement using old parts and found out its true cost was actually closer to $4,000.

Later that month, the Marine Corps said the corporal had saved the government $15 million.

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The cable that the Marine Corps was overpaying by $60,000. (U.S. Marine Corps photo)

The defense contractor that makes the cable, Astronics, had been charging $64,000 for each cable. Astronics did not immediately respond to request for comment.

“There may be a good reason for the price, but based on us taking apart the cable and researching the individual parts, we’ve found no reason for this part to cost as much as it does,” Clement told Stars and Stripes in December 2016.
The overpriced cable was one of six in the same parts catalog, Barb Hamby of Marine Corps Systems Command told Stripes.

“The catalogued mistakes were made nearly seven years ago,” Tony Reinhardt, the command’s team lead for automatic test systems, told Stripes. “We went through every [item] in the kit to confirm the prices and fix the errors.”

Reinhardt said the cable costs $4,000 because of the material that goes into it, as well as the process of designing, developing and manufacturing it. He added that there’s no record of the Marine Corps ever purchasing individual replacement cables. The originals were part of kits, and Marines had been using parts from other kits for repairs.

The cost of each kit was $21,466, Capt. Frank Allan, a project officer at Marine Corps Logistics Command, told Stripes.

This isn’t the first time the military has been caught overspending.

In December 2016, it was discovered that the Pentagon had buried a study from late 2015 exposing $125 billion in administrative waste. President Donald Trump has also attacked defense contractors for overpriced weapons, despite recently calling for a $54 billion boost in defense spending.

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