VA Home Loan Eligibility Am I Eligible for a $0 Down Payment Home Loan

If you are a veteran or surviving spouse, you may have already heard about the home loan program offered through the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs (VA), and it most likely sounds appealing to you. Obviously, the idea of a $0 down payment home loan is most certainly appealing, but it’s normal for most veterans also have a lot of questions surrounding the program.

What exactly in the VA program? How does it work, and who is eligible? How can you get started on finding your dream home, without the costly barrier of making a down payment? In our handy guide, we will answer all these questions, and help you get on the right track towards buying the perfect home for you and your family.

About the VA Home Loan Program

 VA home loans can be used to purchase, refinance, improve or even build homes. They are insured through the VA but offered through many mainstream lenders. This means that VA home loans are not available directly through the VA, as many people might assume. Instead, this program allows veterans to take advantage of the same private home loans as civilians, with a few distinctive perks.

Some of the strongest benefits about this program include:

  • It’s availability to veterans who have low credit scores
  • Lowinterest rates
  • Low closing costs
  • No mortgage insurance
  • Higher debt-to-income ratios are typically accepted
  • Over 90% of VA home loans require no down payments

The last benefit is undoubtedly one of the more well-known and discussed aspects of the program. Down payments can certainly be a barrier for certain homeowners, and with a VA home loan, you can begin building equity and owning your own property without months of saving and uncertainty.

What Happens if I Cannot Make Payments?

Having a $0 down payment home loan can help veterans and their families afford to own, build or improve their homes. However, this does not mean that it is impossible to run into financial difficulties, even with the added benefits of a VA home loan.

If, after receiving a home loan, you are struggling to make payments, the VA offers resources such as financial counseling to help you avoid foreclosure and design a repayment plan that works for you.

Ultimately, there are six ways you can work with your lender to prevent foreclosure:

  • Developing a repayment plan, which often involves adding an extra amount to future mortgage payments to make for missed payments
  • Special forbearance, a plan that grants homeowners an extended period to pay back missed payments
  • Being granted a period of time to arrange a private sale, thereby allowing homeowners to sell before the home is lost to foreclosure
  • Loan modification, which allows missed payments and related legal expenses to be added to your home loan, and then finding a new payment schedule that works with your needs
  • Deed in lieu of foreclosure, which involves signing your deed over to your lender
  • Short sale, which entails your lender accepting the total proceeds of a home sale as a full payment of all monies owed, even if it less than what you owe on your mortgage

With the assistance of a VA home loan technician, you can find an option that works best for you, and get assistance with self-advocacy, financial planning, and communications with your lender. To get in touch with a VA home loan technician today, you can call 1.877.827.3702.

Eligibility and Getting Started

Eligibility and Getting Started

Although not every veteran will qualify for a VA home loan, many will.

If you have been an active service member for a minimum of six months or have been in the reserves or National Guard for a minimum of six years, you have a very high chance of being approved. After being approved, you will receive a VA certificate of eligibility, which is a document you can show lenders to prove your status as an eligible veteran.

A basic overview of VA home loan requirements includes:

  • Serving for 90 consecutive days during wartime
  • Serving for 181 days during peacetime
  • Having more than six years in the Reserves or the National Guard
  • Service members with over 90 consecutive days of active service duty

In some circumstances, surviving spouses, even those who are not currently receiving Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (DIC), may also be eligible. As with many VA benefits, service members with dishonorable discharge will not be eligible for a VA home loan.

To get started on receiving your certificate of eligibility and your VA home loan, you can apply online using the VA eBenefits portal.

The documents you will need to receive your certificate of eligibility will vary depending on your applicant category. Commondocuments that are required include statements of service, annual retirement points statements, reports of service and records of separation, along with death certificates and marriage licenses for surviving spouses. It is best to gather the documents relevant to the category in which you are applying for before beginning the application process.

After you have received your certificate of eligibility, it is time for the next step: finding a lender. Many mainstream lenders, including major banks and credit unions, will offer VA home loans. The best way to ensure you find the right loan and lender for your needs is to do your due diligence.

It is okay to shop around and contact multiple lenders. One of the best and easiest places to find support is your current bank and credit union. If you are unsatisfied with their loan offers or are curious about other lenders, feel free to set up appointments. Come prepared with questions and concerns with you have and go over the terms and conditions of every loan before committing to anything.

Once you have finished your application process, found a lender that you wish to work with, the real fun part begins: finding your dream home!

The 2018 Ultimate Guide to Military Spouse Scholarships

Everyone can agree that our veterans and active service members deserve support for the sacrifices that they make to keep our country safe. However, veterans are rarely alone in their experience: military families, including spouses, children,and relatives, also deserve support, considering the emotional toll that they take on by supporting a service member.

Scholarships for military spouses are just one way for military families to receive the support that they need and deserve. Although these scholarships may not cover all the costs associated with post-secondary education, they can certainly help military spouses work towards their goals by alleviating some of the financial burdens of tuition costs and supplies.

If you are a military spouse interested in learning more about the scholarship options available to you, then check out our useful guide below on everything related to military spouse scholarships, from eligibility to application advice:

Eligibility Basics

Although it might be easier if there was just one single application and one funding program, the reality is that there are many different scholarship programs, each with their own unique criteria. Unfortunately, this means that an applicant will likely need to submit multiple applications to different programs. Fortunately, many programs have overlapping criteria, and request the same documents, allowing for an easier application process.

The scholarships available to you can depend on several factors, including the state you live in; what kind of education you are pursuing; and what military branch your spouse serves.

Common documents that are required for scholarship applications include valid identification, proof of enrollment in a post-secondary program, and proof of being married to a service member. It’s a good idea to get these documents together as quickly as possible, as you can then use them throughout your application process.

Some scholarships might have other criteria including personal essays, records of academic performance, and proof of financial need. It is best to do your research before beginning your applications so that you can address any concerns before, rather than after, your application is submitted.

Finding a Scholarship Program

For many military spouses, this can be the most challenging aspect of the application process. If you already have documents handy or you are a pro at writing personal essays, the application itself may not intimidate you. However, finding the opportunities available to you can be a challenge. Here are some good places to start:

Finding a Scholarship Program

MyCAA: military spouses may be eligible for up to $4,000 of financial support through The Military Spouses Career Advancement Account Scholarship. Candidates are eligible for money towards most associate degree programs, as well as other career-related training programs. To find out if your school is eligible, and how you can apply through your school, contact your financial aid directly. You can also contact a Spouse Education and Career Opportunities (SECO) Consultant at 1.800.342.9647.

National Military Family Association: this amazing non-profit organization offers a full range of funding opportunities. Unlike some other scholarship programs, you do not need to be enrolled at a university to be eligible for funding. The NMFA also has programs to assist with licenses, certifications, vocational training as well as offering scholarships.

Your School’s Financial Aid Department: A simple Google search of your school’s name with “financial aid” next to it can do wonders. Virtually every school, both public and private, has a financial aid department. Among other things, this department can help you find funding opportunities both related and unrelated to your status as a military spouse, prepare a stellar application and keep track of deadlines.

Local spouses’ clubs: More often than not, military spouses’ clubs are smaller, more selective groups focused on one specific base or area. The bad news here is that the small size often leads to smaller amounts of funding. The good news is that many scholarships associated with spouses’ clubs are less competitive, and it is perfectly plausible that you may be one of just a few applicants for certain awards and grants.

The Gold Star Scholarship Program- provided by the Navy-Marine Corps Relief Society, this scholarship program offers up to $2500 per academic year for the children and spouses of Navy or Marine Corps veterans who have died in the line of duty. Applicants must also prove their financial need, as well as receive a 2.0 GPA or higher on a 4.0 scale.

The Veterans Benefits Association- the VA has a program that supports the spouses and dependents of certain veterans, including disabled and service members who died in the line of duty. The VA website offers helpful information on different funding opportunities, as well as a convenient online application.

Advice for Applicants

First and foremost, it is important to begin researching scholarships opportunities as early as possible. Doing so will allow you to get the necessary documents in order, and help you avoid feeling overwhelmed by quickly approaching deadlines.

If you have any questions or concerns, do not be afraid to contact your school’s financial aid department, or the scholarship provider directly. Often, you will find knowledgeable people who are more than happy to help.

Another important thing to remember is that, far too often, scholarship funding goes unclaimed because no eligible students applied. In fact,some experts predict that an astonishing amount of over $130 million in scholarship funding goes unclaimed in America every year.

Whether you are applying for an award funded by a spouse club that feels particularly close-knit and selective or looking at a major scholarship where you feel there will be many competing applications, it is still important to go for the opportunity. Remember, the worst-case scenario of applying to a scholarship is the same as the only scenario in not applying for it.

Ultimately, finding the right scholarship opportunity will take time, as will preparing a winning application. However, once you find yourself with the ability to work towards your academic goals without a financial burden, you will be grateful for every second of time you put into the process.

Marine Reserves Pay How Much Do You Make Being a Reserve Marine in 2018

Are you thinking about joining the Marine Forces Reserve (MFR), or considering transitioning from active duty to the reserve? If so, you are probably wondering how much marine reservists earn and whether they receive any reimbursements for travel or living expenses.

Fortunately for you, our experts have all the answers. Since we have worked closely with MFR personnel for years, we have close insight into the Marine Reserve pay structure. To find out how much Marine reservists are paid annually, according to rank and seniority, read on.

Reservist Pay 101

If a marine reservist is not called to serve full duty, then they receive drill pay. Drill pay is a monthly direct deposit that consists of one’s base pay, adjusted by rank and seniority, for every 4-hour training period completed.

Most reservists are scheduled for no more than 48 drill periods annually unless specialized training is required. Drills are training sessions that take place on weekends or during full-time training events. Those enlisted in the National Guard or MRF undergo at least one-weekend drill per month.

Aside from drill pay, reservists can also receive active duty training and two weeks of additional active duty for training benefits that are paid at the rate of one day’s pay plus allowances. In the MFR, authorized travel expenses are also reimbursed as an allowance issued per mile traveled.

Pay Range: Enlisted Personnel (<6 Years’ Service)

The minimum rate for Marine reservists is $218, which is the “E-1” pay grade for those with less than two years of service. For those with less than two years of service at the E-7 pay grade, enlisted military personnel earns $391 for their monthly drills.

Regardless of experience level, all personnel at the E-2 pay grade will earn $244 monthly in drill pay. For those with less than two years of experience at the E-3 pay grade will earn $257 monthly. However, E-3 personnel with over two years of experience will earn $273 and those with more than three years of service will take home $289 monthly.

The maximum amount that an enlisted reservist can earn with six years of experience or less is $482 for drill pay at the E-7 pay grade. At E-6, reservists with over six years of experience earn $422, a difference of $60.

Any enlisted personnel with less than four months of experience will earn $201 per month for their drill pay. After graduating from this phase, all personnel at the E-1 pay grade will earn $218 monthly.

Pay Range: Enlisted Personnel (8-16 Years’ Service)

Pay Range Enlisted Personnel (8-16 Years’ Service)

All personnel at the E-1 pay grade between eight and 16 years of service earn the standard $218 drill pay per month, $244 at the E-2 level, $289 at the E-3 level, and $351 at E-4.

At the E-5 level and above, enlisted personnel start to earn varying amounts based on their experience level. For instance, those with over 16 years of experience at the E-6 level earn $517 monthly while those with only eight or nine years earn $459. At the highest pay grade, E-9, enlisted personnel with over 16 years of service earn $746 in drill pay.

Pay Range: Enlisted Personnel (18-30 Years’ Service)

With more seniority comes higher pay. Although the bottom-ranking pay grades (i.e., E-1 to E-6) are standard across all experience levels in this category, there is a sliding pay scale near the top of the pay grades. Reservists who have reached the rank of E-7 earn $703 monthly with over 26 years of experience with those with only 18 earn $615 per month.

At the absolute highest tier, those at the E-9 pay grade with over 38 years of experience can earn a total of $1,068 in monthly drill pay. At E-8, those with the same experience level earn $803 monthly.

Pay Range: Reserve Officer (<6 Years’ Service)

With greater responsibilities and credentials, Reserve-Guard Officers earn more than their enlisted personnel counterparts. The lowest drill pay amount is issued at the O-1 pay grade, which is $413 for those with less than two years of experience. At the same pay grade, those with over six years of experience earn $520 monthly.

At the upper end of the spectrum, those at the O-7 pay grade net $1,164 monthly with less than two years of experience. For those with an additional four years of seniority, drill payments of $1,299 are issued monthly.

Pay Range: Reserve Officer (8-16 Years’ Service)

Higher-ranking Reserve Officers earn significantly more for their weekend drills than lower-level officers. At the O-7 pay grade, those with over 16 years of experience earn $1,587 monthly while those with the same level of experience at the 0-4 level earn $1,035. With only eight years of experience, middling O-4 ranked officers earn $878.

The lower pay brackets for Reserve Officers sit at $520 and $659 for O-1 and O-2 Officers, respectively. At the O-3 level, Officers earn between $809 and $896 depending on seniority.

Pay Range: Warrant Officers

Warrant Officers are officers in the MRF who are designated as such by warrant and not commission. Warrant Officers are compensated for drill pay according to a sliding pay scale at the W-1, W-2, W3, and W-4 levels.

The starting pay for a Warrant Officer at the W-1 level is $404. However, their compensation quickly climbs to $630 after they reach three years of experience and reach the W-4 level. Senior Warrant Officers with over 10 years of experience at the W-2 level earn $625,and those at the W-4 level earn $736.

Those occupying the highest end of the pay scale for Warrant Officers are W-5 officers with over 26 years of service, who earn $1,144 monthly or $1,040 at the W-4 level.

Notes on Pay Information

The above information about Marine Forces Reserve drill pay is denoted in US dollars and is rounded up to the nearest dollar. The figures quoted above include the adjusted rates after the 2018 budget increase (2.1%).

How to Get Disabled Veteran Spouse Benefits in 2018

Every marriage comes with its own unique challenges and requires commitment, growth and a lot of hard work to survive. However, these challenges can be even more difficult to cope with when a military-related disability is added to the mix.

If you are the spouse of a disabled service member, you already know the emotional, physical and financial toll that is faced not only by your partner but also yourself and your family. It can be a frustrating experience, especially when your spouse leaving the military due to their disability leaves you ineligible for certain benefits, such as various scholarship opportunities and the Military Spouse Preference in Employment program.

Nothing can eliminate the difficulties that you face completely, but support is available to you through several programs. Some of these programs will be automatically granted if your spouse is registered for veteran benefits, whereas others will require an application.

If you are looking for services and support, we have a helpful guide that offers a quick look at various benefits available to spouses of vets with disabilities, as well as their eligibility requirements.

Extra Disability Compensation

Most veterans struggling with “service-connected” disabilities Fdri will be eligible for financial aid through the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). Of course, sometimes these payments are insufficient when considering the huge cost associated with disabilities, especially when the disabled service member was the primary source of income for a family.

That is why in certain cases, veterans with disabilities can receive higher payments if they have a spouse. When applying for VA benefits, a veteran will be given a predicted “level” of disability, ranging from 10% to 100%. If a veteran is deemed over 30% disabled, they will automatically receive additional payment depending on whether they have a spouse and children. The best part of this program is that, although VA benefits require an application, the added payments for spouses are automatic.

Education

In many cases, a service-connected disability means spouses must take on the responsibility of caring for their family financially, even if they have never been in this role before. For many military spouses, it is a challenge to gain the educational requirements needed to be a competitive candidate in the modern job market.

Fortunately, there is support available to help spouses pursue education, training,and certifications that can help them establish rewarding careers.

Offered through the Survivors and Dependents Education Assistance Program, spouses of disabled veterans can receive funding towards a wide range of academic endeavors, from degrees and diplomas to on-site training and apprenticeships.

As a spouse registering after August 2018, you will have a period of 36 months to use your education benefits. You must be the daughter, son or spouse of a veteran whose death or disability is linked to their service; who died while a permanent, service-connected disability was in existence; or is captured or missing in action.

To learn more and begin your application, you can start here.

Healthcare

permanent disability will often require extensive medical care

Of course, a permanent disability will often require extensive medical care, but family members need to be able to care for their health and wellbeing as well. The Civilian Health and Medical Program of the Department of Veterans Affairs (or, simply CHAMPVA) is a program designed to provide certain civilian dependents with comprehensive, quality health care coverage.

Through CHAMPVA, spouses of disabled veterans can receive reimbursement for both physical and psychological care that is deemed medically necessary. CHAMPVA recipients are also eligible for the VA Dental Insurance Program, also known as VADIP, which offers reduced-cost dental plans.

If you are a Medicare recipient, you likely do not have to worry about losing Medicare coverage when enrolling with CHAMPVA. As a matter of fact, CHAMPVA serves as a secondary payer to Medicare. If you are also eligible for Medicare, you must be enrolled in Medicare Part A and Part B to keep CHAMPVA benefits, unless you were 65 or older before June 2001.

The steep cost of medical care can be a huge burden for any family, and it is only harder when there is a permanent disability in the family. CHAMPVA is a great way to include dependents of disabled vets and allow them to enjoy the same quality care.

In general, children and spouses of disabled veterans will be eligible for coverage, although there are many technicalities involving matters such as stepchildren, adult children, and divorce. For example, children of veterans will lose coverage after turning eighteen unless they remain enrolled in school, and stepchildren who no longer live with the veteran will also lose their benefits.

Here is a full list of eligibility requirements, as well as situations in which CHAMPVA benefits can end.

Burial Benefits

Even in the most tragic circumstances, finances can present a significant toll for spouses. With the assistance of burial allowances, military spouses can focus on their grief and healing without focusing on money. Many but not all veterans are eligible for burial allowances, including veterans with disabilities, and those receiving PA pensions.

In cases where the death is not connected to service, recipients have up to two years following the burial or cremation to apply for a burial allowance. However, there is no similar time restraint for veterans who have passed away in connection with their service.

Burial allowances can be used for funeral costs, plots, and transportation to national cemeteries. Recipients must prove that they are the spouse, child or parent of the veteran, or administrator of their estate. They must also provide military papers, death certificates, and documents to prove the cost of transporting remains to a national cemetery. You can apply for a burial allowance here.

Other Benefits

This list, while including some of the primary and popular benefits available to military spouses, is not complete. There are many benefits and programs available to military families, although eligibility may vary.

To learn more about the benefits available, and which programs you do and do not qualify for, visit the VA page on spouses, dependents,and survivors.

Gifts For Veterans Top 5 Gifts Veterans Will Actually Love in 2018

Whether it is an upcoming birthday or just looking ahead to the holiday season, shopping for gifts is usually a real challenge.

It can seem nearly possible to find a present that a person will actually love to use, especially one that fits with your budget. Sometimes, when it comes to veterans and active service members in your life, the shop for the perfect gift can feel even more challenging.

After all, there is also the one pressing question: should you buy something that honors their sacrifice, or something that does not make them feel “othered” or singled out on a special day?

The answer to that question will differ with every veteran. That said, there are plenty of gifts available that are valuable and useful, while also acknowledging and honoring a veteran’s service.

There is no reason why you should be greeted by confused stares or fake gratitude the next time you present a loved one with a gift that you bought. Instead, you can leave them completely impressed by a gift that is as respectful to their service as it is useful and practical. Check our handy guide of five affordable, quality presents for any veteran in your life:

Rags of Honor

There is no better way to respect a veteran than to buy them a gift from a company that is owned and operated by other veterans. By supporting entrepreneurial veterans, you are sending the message that veterans everywhere can pursue their dreams and accomplishing anything after transitioning to civilian life.

Rags of Honor is a print-screening company that is committed to employing veterans and helping solve the tragic issue of veteran homelessness and poverty through grassroots relief operations.

Not only does Rags of Honor offer well-paying jobs for veterans in need, but they also provide educational support and other resources to help vets have a smooth transition into civilian life. At Rags of Honor, you can find comfortable, fashionable apparel including sweatshirts, casual tees, and even an athletic line. You can also make custom orders if you know the exact print that would be perfect for your loved one.

The only downside? Rags of Honor is becoming so popular that they are receiving a very high volume of orders, so your order may be delayed in its arrival. For this reason, it is best to order gifts early, rather than treat Rags of Honor as a last-minute fix.

Price range: In general, tee shirts cost around $25, whereas sweatshirts will sell for about $40

Where to shop: You can buy Rags of Honor apparel directly through their online store.

Go for something classy and classic, like bronze military medals 

Go for something classy and classic, like bronze military medals 

The U.S. Mint is a great one-stop shop for all kinds of gifts, from holiday celebrations to honoring a veteran gearing up to leave the military.

The mint sells a wide range of medals that commemorate different conflicts and military branches. Made in beautiful bronze, various medals are sold at three inches or 1.5. Produced right in the U.S. Mint in Philadelphia, this timeless gift represents patriotism, pride, and respect for our military.

Price range: Depending on size, medals range from seven to fifty dollars.

Where to shop: If you are fortunate enough to be in Philly, you can always drop by and shop in person. Other online and in-person retailers may have medals for sale, but to ensure you can find the exact medal that you need, you can shop online at the Mint’s website.

Be fun, buy a bullet bottle opener

Yes, it’s a bottle opener—but it is also a .50 Caliber brass bullet.

With a distinctive look and a price that’s friendly with most budgets, you cannot go wrong with gifting a friend this handy bottle opener.

What’s even better is the fact that the company that produces it, Bullets 2 Bandages, donates 15% of net profits to veteran charities.

Every bottle opener is made from a military bullet that has been fired, making it a fun and memorable memento. However, this also means that there are some drawbacks: it is not recommended that you bring any products made from bullets to airports or across borders, as authorities may see it as a weapon.

Price range: There are bottle openers available for as low as $20, although most sell for around $30

Where to buy: You can order Bullets 2 Bandages gifts directly online here.

Support veterans with Sword & Plough bags

Another organization with a mission, Sword & Plough is an American, veteran-owned company that donates ten percent of its net profits to veteran-related charities.

Created by two sisters who were born into a military family, Sword & Plough makes stylish, high-quality bags. From casual tote bags to handbags and clutches that could put high-fashion designers to shame, this company sells bags for absolutely anyone. Even the least fashion-conscious veteran will love their durable travel bags and backpacks.

Not only does Sword & Plough employ veterans, but they are also an eco-friendly company that reduces waste by using recycled military surplus materials to produce their bags and packaging.

Price range: Certain products, like small travel kits, sell for around $50, whereas most bags sell from $100-$250

Where to shop: You can visit their online store here.

Immortalize a family memory with Fracture

If you are looking for a stylish, sentimental gift, then Fracture might be a company worth looking into.

Through Fracture, you can take a beloved memory and immortalize it on a sleek, glass print. The process is easy. You simply upload a photograph, and Fracture will produce a sturdy, 3/32-inch glass print, ready for hanging. The beautiful glass designs can make a gorgeous addition to any room and can turn your memories into unforgettable art.

Price range: Small prints start at $25, with extra-large designs selling at $135.

Where to shop: To get started on your Fracture gift, you can visit their website.

Dental Insurance for Veterans What Dental Benefits are Available for Veterans

As a veteran, it can be difficult to keep track of which benefits, resources, and programs are available to you. With different programs offering different eligibility requirements, it is not always easy to know what is and is not available to you and your family. Don’t wait until an emergency strikes before figuring out your options for seeking fast and reliable care.

The United States Department of Veteran Affairs (VA) offers a number of programs that help veterans access affordable and quality healthcare. One of these programs is the VA Dental Insurance Program.

Program Overview

Of course, health insurance in America can be expensive and challenging to obtain for those unable to work or between jobs. For dental insurance, the situation can be even worse.

If you are struggling to find an affordable plan that offers yourself and your family coverage for vital dental care services, the VA Dental Insurance Program (VADIP) might be right for you.

VADIP is designed to offer comprehensive coverage at a reduced cost and is only available to veterans and their beneficiaries. VADIP began as a three-year pilot program designed to see whether the program would be effective and affordable in the long-term, and the result was over 155,000 veterans and beneficiaries receiving coverage.

Through VADIP, veterans can purchase reduced-cost health insurance from two major companies: MetLife and Delta Dental of California. Just like any other civilian, veterans can shop around for a plan that is right for their needs and budget, rather than merely live with a one-size-fits-all plan.

What Services are Covered by VADIP?

Through VADIP, veterans and their families can access a full range of comprehensive health services. Services covered often include diagnostic, surgical, preventative, endodontic, restorative and emergency services.

Some of the specific services covered by VADIP plans may include X-Rays, cleanings and checkups, cavity fillings and orthodontic care, such as braces and retainers. Certainplans will only cover a percentage of certain services, along with having lifetime or annual caps on coverage. Additionally, certain services, such as orthodontic care, may be covered only for certain groups, such as enrollees under the age of 19.

Through MetLife and Delta Dental, you can choose between basic and comprehensive plans, which each offer different services, deductibles,and rates. To find a plan that is flexible with your budget and meets your needs, you can shop directly on MetLife and Delta Dental websites.

Both MetLife and Delta Dental offer a comprehensive network of medical professionals who can accept payment from your insurance company directly, as well as offer reduced out-of-pocket costs to make your medical care even more affordable. Using online directories, both companies can help you find an in-network dentist near you, even if you live in a rural area.

Of course, while veterans can enjoy a reduced cost through VADIP, they are responsible for the costs of premiums, deductibles and any services not covered by insurance, so it is important to choose a plan within budget.

Eligibility

Civilian Health and Medical Program

If you are a veteran interested in VADIP, it is encouraged that you first register with the VA health care system.

It is important to note that all beneficiaries must be enrolled in the VA’s Civilian Health and Medical Program (CHAMPVA) to qualify for VADIP. In general, CHAMPVA recipients must be the spouse or child of a veteran who has died in connection to their service or was rendered permanently and totally disabled due to their service.

You can find out more information about CHAMPVA eligibility, as well as the similar TRICARE program offered to veteran dependents here. Although those not eligible for CHAMPVA will be unable to be covered under VADIP, it is possible that VADIP providers may offer separate coverage plans for dependents.

Getting Covered

One of VADIP strongest benefits is the fact that it is not an “open season” program. This means that no enrollment period must be adhered to and interested veterans can enroll at any time. After the obvious popularity and success of VADIP’s three-year pilot program, the program has been extended, with enrollment open until December 2021.

To begin your process of getting covered, you should first do some research and find a plan that is right for you. If you have already confirmed your VA eligibility, you can begin the enrollment process online or by phone with the insurance company you have chosen. Otherwise, you can begin your online application process. You can learn more about the process here.

It is important to understand the terms, conditions,and costs associated with your individual plan. Some plans might have a “lock-in” period, usually around 12 months. During this period, some companies will allow you to upgrade your coverage, but not downgrade, and you will not be allowed to switch companies or stop coverage. In other plans, you may not be able to make any alterations to your coverage during this period.

Tips for Choosing a Plan

Health care plans of any sort are often personal, and not one-size-fits-all. When selecting a plan, consider what your needs are. How many of your dependents are eligible under CHAMPVA, and what services will they require?

It is essential first and foremost to consider cost, as well as coverage. More expensive plans might seem like a more cost-prohibitive option but consider what benefits they offer that basic plans do not. If the difference is coverage of orthodontic or restorative care or covering 100% rather than 60% of certain medical services, then you may save money in the long run by paying the higher premiums.

It is also important to consider any pre-existing conditions that may require certain dental services in the future. Ultimately, it is important to remember that, after a “lock-in” period, it is possible to change plans in the future.

Dental care is ultimately a vital aspect of health and well being, and with the support VADIP, getting the best coverage at an affordable price can be easier than ever before.

Best Jobs for Veterans A Guide to Careers For Vets & Getting Civilian Employment

If you are preparing to leave the military and are worried about the next chapter in your life and career, you are far from alone.

With the number of veterans leaving the military every year predicted to be around 250,000, plenty of veterans and even active service members are worried about finding fulfilling, well-compensated civilian employment.

Fortunately, there are lots of options available to veterans from all educational backgrounds. Here is a list of some of the most rewarding careers available to veterans, as well as vital information regarding availability, requirements,and compensation:

Teacher

 If you like helping others—especially young people—then education might be the right field for you.

Salaries for teachers can depend on a lot of factors including your state, education level, and the grades you are planning on teaching. However, if you are looking for a general average, the National Education Association predicted an average salary of $58,353 for K-12 teachers.

If education sounds like the right field for you, but you are concerned about finding employment, there are resources available to help: Troops to Teachers is an organization committed to helping vets transition to civilian life and provides support in meeting the education and licensing requirements for a career in education. 

Nurse

Especially with an aging baby boomer population, healthcare is a field with an increasingly high demand for workers.

There are nearly three million nursing jobs currently in America, and this number is sure to increase in coming years. Another benefit of nursing is that there are positions available for licensed practical nurses (LPNs), licensed vocational nurses (LVNs), and registered nurses (RNs). LPNs and LVNs can be certified in a one-year program; whereas as RNs require university degrees, meaning that there are jobs available regardless of the time you want to invest in education before entering the workforce.

The average salary of a nurse in America is $43,000 for an LPN and $67,000 for RNs.

Commercial Airline Pilot 

Becoming a pilot for a commercial airline company can be a promising career, but some veterans may be dissuaded from pursuing aviation if they are not already licensed pilots.

The good news is that it is completely possible to fulfill all the requirements of becoming a pilot, even if you were not a pilot in the military. Forces to Flyers, a program led by the U.S. Department of Transportation is providing veterans with the opportunity to meet the requirements of being a certified pilot training.

The 2018 median salary for an airline pilot is around $130,000 with the lowest paid ten percent making around $98,000, making it a high-paying opportunity that can offer veterans the chance to travel the world.

Law Enforcement

Law Enforcement

After leaving the military, some veterans will be looking for a complete change of pace. Others, however, will find a career in law enforcement to be a natural and obvious fit.

There are some obvious advantages to entering a career in law enforcement. For starters, veterans often already have some relevant training and are often comfortable with dealing with weapons and dangerous circumstances, which many civilians may struggle with. It can also be a challenge for veterans to convey to potential employers how the skills they have gained in the military can translate into civilian careers.

When it comes to policing, the connections are often quite clear. Police officers can also make a median salary of $59,000 and can be an ideal career for vets looking to make a positive impact in their community.

However, this field might be a challenge for some veterans. Certain veterans might dislike the idea of being typecast or stereotyped or might want to avoid dangerous, high-risk situations for their second careers. Also, there may be concerns that veterans struggling with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and other emotional issues may not be the best fit for the position. 

Landscape Designer 

For many veterans, the idea of working in closed-off, indoors spaces after leaving the military is very unappealing. If being able to work in open spaces is a huge benefit for you, you might want to consider getting into landscape design.

Landscape designers can make an average of $47,726 a year. Many landscape designers own their own businesses or work on a freelance basis, allowing you to work on your own schedule, set your own rates, and be selective with the projects you are passionate about pursuing. It is also a low-entry barrier career: although there are vocational and community college programs available, some landscape designers can establish themselves without any specific education.

Veterinary Technician 

Many veterans find it beneficial to work with animals, especially those veterans struggling with PTSD. If you are a lifelong animal lover, then becoming a veterinary technician might be a rewarding career.

Vet technicians are among the lowest paid employees on this list, with a median salary of just $32,000. However, the highest-paid in the field make around $48,000. Most people can become a vet technician through a community college diploma program, which is often much faster and more affordable than a university degree.

If you want a fulfilling career that allows you to bond with animals and does not require a long-term investment in a university degree, then a vet technician may be what is just right for you.

Federal Employees 

There are countless opportunities to find work as a federal employee. Whether you have a knack for administration, are looking for a lucrative career in information technology or love the idea of Human Resources, there are federal positions available for you.

To learn more about the opportunities available to you, and how Veteran’s Preference can help you find a rewarding career, visit Feds Hire Vets. They can help you prepare for the hiring process, and search through currently available positions.

If you are still one of the thousands of veterans looking for civilian work, there is no need to panic. With the right resources, proper training and a field you are passionate about, you can be well on your way to finding the perfect post-military career.

100 VA Disability and Working Can I Work with a 100% Military Disability Rating

Believe it or not, it is still possible to receive Veterans Affairs (VA) disability and continue working. Even with a 100% military disability rating, there are still opportunities available to work and earn a personal income.

In the real world, you rarely find a veteran lounging on the couch all day for seven days a week after being assigned a disability rating of 100%. Despite their rating, many still consider themselves able to contribute and decide to land a part-time or full-time gig.

For others, working is an important part of who they are, and they simply must pitch in to have something to do with their time. In other cases, veterans are sadly forced to continue working because even a 100% VA disability rating falls short of covering all their living expenses.

Not All Ratings are the Same 

If you want to find out whether you can work with a 100% VA disability rating, you need to first find out what rating you have been given. Although many assume that there is simply “one rating,” the truth is that there are two rating types that can be given, and they have different implications.

The first rating type is called the Total Disability Individual Unemployability (TDIU) rating and is issued in a percentage form. If on this scale the VA assigns you a rating of 100%, then you are prohibited from having “substantial gainful employment” based on your disability. The TDIU regulations are outlined in the Code of Federal Regulations.

However, there is no strict definition of what “substantial gainful employment” refers to. Consequently, it is fine for veterans to seek “marginal employment” which the VA defines as “not exceeding...the poverty threshold for one person”. In other words, those with a 100% TDIU rating are able to work legally but shall not generate any income over the poverty line.

Scheduler Ratings vs. TDIU 

Before receiving a TDIU, veterans will receive a percentage scale known as the “schedule of rating,” or a “scheduler rating” for short. This scale determines the severity of one’s disability, with the higher the percentage corresponding to a lesser likelihood they would be able to hold a job.

From there, the TDIU determines the veteran’s legal restrictions for working based on their scheduler rating. Even if you receive a scheduler rating of only 40 or 50 percent, if the condition is severe enough as to bar you from operating functionally in the workplace, then you may still be assigned a 100% TDIU rating.

Plain and Simple 

Although it may sound complicated at first, whether you can work with a 100% VA-rated disability is more straightforward than you might think. If you receive a “schedule of ratings” disability percentage up to 100%, you can still seek “substantial gainful employment” and work to your heart’s content.

However, regardless of your scheduler rating, if you receive Total Disability Individual Unemployability (TDIU) compensation, then you are not legally permitted to work above the poverty line. In other words, you can work with a 100% VA-rated disability and TDIU only up to the amount the US Census Bureau determines to be the poverty threshold.

The US Poverty Threshold

The US Poverty Threshold

What constitutes “poverty” changes every year and varies depending on family size and one’s cost of living. In 2017, the US Census Bureau released their most recent US poverty threshold data. For one person under 65 living alone, the weighted average poverty threshold was $12,488 in annual income.

With more children or financial dependents in the family, the amount of money needed to cross the poverty threshold increases dramatically. For instance, a family of five with three dependent children has a poverty threshold of $29,986, while a family with four children has a poverty threshold of $32,753.

Unfortunately, single-parent households are held to a lower poverty line than two-parent households. For example, a family of four with two parents and two children has a poverty line of $24,858. However, with only one parent and two children, the poverty line currently sits at $19,749.

Sheltered Employment 

If you are unable to continue working past the poverty line after receiving TDIU, you can still earn a side income via “sheltered employment.” There are two criteria for income to be considered “sheltered,” and they are:

  • Family business-related income
  • Sheltered workshop (supervised workplaces for those with handicaps)

Unfortunately, not all family businesses count as sheltered income. Instead, the family workplace must be classified as a “protected environment” by federal regulations. Although this sounds complicated, it is common that a family business will reduce its tax burden by employing a veteran family member under these special accommodations.

Ask your local family business if they are a protected work environment. If they are classified as such, you will be able to earn an income above the poverty line while still collecting TDIU benefits. However, the employer will be required to provide special accommodations under the Americans With Disabilities Act.

Sheltered Employment and the Law

You must be very careful in sheltered workplace environments. In fact, even many who work for the VA are not fully aware of the Sheltered Employment Rules and can sometimes erroneously penalize someone for earning an income in such a situation.

In the worst of cases, veterans can be charged with criminal fraud if they are found to be working above the poverty line at an established that is not a VA-designated sheltered employer while also collecting TDIU benefits. To keep the risks as low as possible, make sure that you speak to a VA-accredited attorney about whether an establishment is truly “sheltered.”

In Summary 

Yes, you can earn an income with a 100% VA-rated disability. However, if you receive TDIU benefits after being given a schedule of ratings, then there are strict limitations on the amount of income you can earn from working. In 2017, the maximum amount you can earn in a single-person household is $12,488 annually while collecting TDIU benefits.

The only way around this regulation is to work in a “sheltered environment,” which are specially accommodated workplaces that are meant to employ family members who are veterans. However, you should always speak to an attorney because considering working in a sheltered environment.

Army Medical Retirement vs. VA Benefits

If you were forced to retire from the Armed Forces due to a disability you incurred during your time serving, you are eligible to all rights and privileges of a military retiree. Some of the benefits available to you include a military pension, survivor benefit plan participation, and even disability pay from Veteran Affairs. You might also be eligible to receive both your military medical retirement pay and disability pair concurrently.

But what is the difference between your army medical retirement pay and your disability pay? Is one better than the other? How do you know which one you qualify for?

In this article, we’re going to try to answer all of the questions you might have regarding your army medical retirement pay vs.VA benefits.

Permanent Medical Retirement Pay

Were you placed on permanent medical retirement? If you were, then this means that your disability was either rated at a 30 percent or more, or you served 20 or more years in service. Permanent medical retirement happens if you experienced a medical condition that was severe enough to interfere with the proper performance of your military duties.

Keep in mind that this is a significant distinction because it affects the computation of your medical retirement pay. The amount of money you receive due to permanent medical retirement is calculated using the percentage or years of active service –whichever number is more beneficial to you. They will then take that number and multiply it by your retired pay base to figure out your pay.

You must also keep in mind that the reason that you were medically retired also impacts whether or not you receive concurrent VA benefits.

Taxation on your Medical Retirement Pay

If you are eligible to receive permanent medical pay, you’re probably curious if there is taxation on it. The answer to that question is no; your military retirement pay is 100% nontaxable – as long as you meet two conditions.

1. Your disability must have come from a combat-related injury, or;

2. You must have been drafted or enlisted into the military on September 24, 1975.

However, if you don’t meet these two conditions – meaning that your disability isn’t from a combat-related injury or you weren’t actively in the military for the Vietnam War or before – then your medical retirement pay is taxable.

VA Benefits

If you served for at least four years or have a disability of 10 percent or higher due to injuries incurred in active duty or training, you can receive service-connected disability compensation and benefits from Veteran Affairs (VA). Many benefits are offered to veterans and the family of veterans. For a full list of VA benefits available to you, visit the Veteran Affairs website to gain a better understanding of what is offered.

VA benefits are designed to give you a monetary award for the amount of time that you were in service or for the decreased ability to perform work after you leave the military due to a disability. VA disability benefits are available for both physical and mental disabilities due to service in the Armed Forces.

Taxation on your Medical Retirement Pay

Any compensation that you receive from VA benefits is 100 percent nontaxable – there are no conditions to this; anyone who receives VA disability benefits does not have to pay taxes on it. This means that you have a dollar for dollar advantage over permanent medical retirement pay because you don’t have to give up any of that money to pay taxes on it and, therefore, gives you more spending power.

Are you Eligible to Receive VA Benefits & Medical Retirement Pay?

Are you Eligible to Receive VA Benefits & Medical Retirement Pay

Since 2004, veterans can receive both VA benefits and permanent medical retirement pay – but only if they meet certain conditions.

To determine if you can receive both, you must take a look at your disability rating. If your combined rating is 50% or higher, you should be eligible to receive Concurrent Retirement Disability Pay (CRDP). This means that you would be eligible to receive your full permanent medical retirement pay along with receiving full VA benefits. Meaning, that you won’t have to deduct your VA benefits from your retirement pay.

If you don’t meet this condition, you could still be eligible to receive the Combat-Related Special Compensation (CRSC). We will not touch on this in this article, but if you would like to learn more, you can find a lot of helpful information in an article written by The Military Wallet.

Finally, if you have a combined disability rating that is 40% or lower and you do not have a combat-related disability, then your retirement pay will be offset, deducted, by the amount of VA disability benefits/compensation that you receive.

There is a benefit to this, especially if you receive more VA benefits than retirement pay. This is because your VA benefits will all be tax-free, whereas you will still have to pay taxes on your retirement pay (unless you met the conditions listed above).

Final Thoughts

Army medical retirement and VA benefits are very different forms of compensation for veterans. The most significant difference between these two options is if you have a disability because of your active service in the Armed Forces or not. As we’ve learned in this article, if you do have a disability that has completely rendered you unable from being able to perform your service duties you can receive permanent medical retirement pay. However, if you don’t have a disability or your disability isn’t completely debilitating you can still receive VA benefits.

You also need to consider that VA benefits are entirely tax-free, which means that you have a lot more spending power overall than if you were to receive medical retirement pay. This can mean a difference of thousands of dollars between these two different compensation types. However, that doesn’t mean that one is better than the other – in fact, they could both help you depending on your situation.

Understanding the VA Claim Process

Have you filed a claim for disability compensation or pension benefits? If so, you might have received or will receive, a letter or phone call requesting you to go through a claim exam.

A claim exam also goes by the term Compensation and Pension (C&P) Exam. This is a normal part of any VA claim process and helps the VA gather enough information to accurately make a decision on the claim you submitted. It is usually completed by a VA examiner or a partner of the VA.

These exams aren’t designed to make you feel insecure about your disability. Instead, they are designed to ensure that the decision of your claim is based on a completely accurate account of your disability. Without a claim exam, the VA would have only your medical evidence and not your personal account of your pain and symptoms related to the disability.

While the claim exam might feel daunting, it shouldn’t be too bad. However, there are a few tips that will help you feel more comfortable and prepared for your claim exam day.

In this article, we’re going to go over 5 of the best tips that you can use to get ready for your claim exam and help you feel relaxed for the big day.

1. Attend your VA Claim Exam

It may sound like an unspoken rule, but you should try your hardest to attend your VA claim exam when it’s scheduled. If it comes down to it and you do need to reschedule your claim exam, you should make sure that you do it immediately once you realize it needs to be done. You should also try to only reschedule the exam if it’s an emergency – otherwise, make it work.

By missing or rescheduling your VA claim exam time, you delay the decision of your claim,or VA can mark your claim “as-is,” which means that they will only evaluate your claim solely on the information already in your file.

2. Submit all your Medical Evidence Prior to your Exam Time

To ensure that your VA claim goes along smoothly and quickly, make sure that you submit all of the necessary medical evidence before you have your VA claim exam. This makes it so that the records will make it so that the examiner will have a complete picture of your disability before starting the exam.

While it’s okay for you to submit information during your exam, the examiner can’t submit the new information into your claim file on your behalf – which makes it untouchable during the whole exam. So, to make sure that there aren’t any issues with getting your claim finished with little issues, try to get all of the medical evidence required for your claim before the exam happens.

3. Have Multiple Disabilities to Claim? Prepare for Multiple Exams

While it doesn’t always happen, VA may request more than one claim exam if your VA claim contains more than one disability. If they end up wanting to deal with each of your disabilities separately, they will try their hardest to schedule all claim exams on the same day to limit the amount of time that you have to spend talking with an examiner. This might sound incredibly annoying, but it helps ensure that all of your claims will be taken care of properly and with little issues.

4. Be Truthful & Honest

Be Truthful & Honest

The examiner is going to be asking you a lot of questions regarding your disability during the claim exam. Make sure that you are completely truthful and honest when answering the questions; don’t exaggerate your symptoms and pain, but don’t downplay them either. The examiner isn’t going to judge you for any of your answers or invalidate how you’re feeling – they are only there to gather information regarding the disabilities you’re claiming.

By being completely honest and truthful about your symptoms and pain in terms of your disability, the examiner will gather all the information they need to get you the most accurate rating possible for your claim.

5. Don’t Ask About your Claim Status During the Exam

The examiner that is doing your exam isn’t there to give you a result. They are there just to conduct the exam and gather as much information as possible so that the VA claims processor can give you the most accurate rating. They don’t give your claim a rating and, more often than not, they don’t know the full claim process to even qualify them to give your claim a rating. After the claim exam, you can contact the VA or your accredited representative to check the status of your claim.

You should also note that the length of time that it takes for the claim exam to happen does not reflect what the decision of your claim will be. A claim exam can take anywhere from 15 minutes to an hour or more depending on how many claims you have submitted and your disability.

Again, the examiner doesn’t decide the rating of your claim. The amount of time the exam takes is dependent upon how many questions they need to gather as much information as possible to understand your disability.

Final Thoughts

These 5 tips are a great way to help you start thinking about and preparing for your VA claim exam.

While these are 5 of the best tips about your claim exam, these aren’t all the tips that will help you. If you’re wanting to read over all the tips and tricks that the VA recommends, take a look at their Helpful Tips link to give you a better understanding of what your claim exam is going to consist of and how to prepare it.

If you have any more questions regarding your claim exam, make sure to reach out to your VA accredited representative – no matter what questions you might have, they will be able to help you out or direct you to someone else who can.

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