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Military Connection: Lower Loan Rates for Troops: By Debbie Gregory

Lower mortgagesOn August 26, 2014, the Obama Administration announced a new initiative that will make it easier for active-duty service members to achieve the dream of home-ownership. For potential homeowners, the decision to buy a home is one of the largest financial decisions they will ever make.

The 2203 Service members Civil Relief Act (SCRA) already makes active duty military members eligible for home loan interest rates capped at 6%.  But the Government Accountability Office (GAO) found that many men and women in uniform don’t benefit from SCRA because they are unaware of the benefits, **or** are put-off by the red tape.

President Obama announced a plan to have five of the country’s largest mortgage lenders join the federal government to make the process easier and more accessible to service members. The companies have agreed to increase the frequency in which they check DOD databases to see whether their customers are entitled to unclaimed benefits, which would save the service members money.

According to White House officials, Bank of America, Quicken Loans, Citi Mortgage, Wells Fargo Bank, and Ocwen Loan Servicing are participating in the program.

“We’re announcing a new partnership in which some of America’s biggest banks and financial institutions will simplify the process, proactively notify service members who qualify for lower rates and make it easier to enroll,” Obama said at the American Legion National Convention. “In other words, we’re going to help more of our troops and military families own their own home without a crushing debt.”

It is expected that the partnership could help tens of thousands of military families save money on their mortgage rates.

Military Connection proudly serves those who serve in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, Guard and Reserve, Veterans and their Families. We are the go to site for Veteran Employment and information on Veteran education. Militaryconnection.com provides Veterans with and Directory of Employers, a Job Board, information on the Post-9/11 GI Bill, and a blog that offers Veterans boundless information. Be sure to visit Militaryconnection.com, the go to site.

Military Connection: Lower Loan Rates for Troops: By Debbie Gregory

Military Connection: New way to Help Wounded Vets by Joe Silva

hotgAs a Veteran, I feel fortunate to live in a time when the American public truly appreciates our military Veterans. Americans feel an even greater responsibility in providing for wounded Veterans, those whose lives will never be the same as a result of their service and sacrifice.

The average citizen who wants to do more for wounded Veterans and their families may not know where to donate *or* how to help. There are numerous organizations working to improve the lives of our military, once they have completed their service. One non-profit that I can highly recommend is Heels on the Ground (HOTG).

HOTG co-founder Allison Hughes is a former Army Blackhawk pilot, current MBA student, and mother of two rambunctious little boys. Allison is also the primary caregiver for her husband, Special Forces Officer Breg Hughes.  In May, 2012, MAJ Hughes was critically wounded, receiving 3rd degree burns to 50% of his body in an IED strike while serving in Afghanistan. Hughes spent four months in the hospital, including two months in the ICU.

Hughes partnered with former Army officer Katherine Malavenda, a Licensed Professional Counselor with extensive experience working with military families. This Veteran dynamic duo created HOTG with the mission to “improve and enrich the quality of life for caregivers of America’s wounded soldiers by providing local support networks, workshops and holistic retreats.”

The non-profit provides continual support for caregivers, often spouses and family members of wounded war Veterans. HOTG guides caregivers through the healing process, while empowering them to maintain their own well-being so that they can thrive in the face of their challenges. As the caregivers thrive, so will those around them.

Through personal experience and education,  Allison and Katherine have recognized that caregivers, like their charges, face enormous pressures and make tremendous sacrifices.  Yet there are few options and resources for caregivers. HOTG firmly believes that the benefits of peer support groups, education, personal goal setting, meditation, relaxation and physical wellness can greatly improve a caregiver’s ability to cope with stress.  HOTG’s holistic approach combines these methods to promote health and well-being within the caregiver community.

Heels on the Ground hopes to raise $50,000 to cover the cost of hosting 60 caregivers at their first retreat. The retreat will include wellness seminars and classes on stress management, yoga, and meditation. It will also give attendees the opportunity to establish support networks with those who share this common bond. The money will also help HOTG host webinars and establish local support chapters, live quarterly workshops and future retreats.

If you’re looking for a meaningful way to say, “Thanks you for your service,” you have the opportunity to help wounded Veterans by supporting those who love and take care of these heroes 365 days each year. You can also help by spreading the word about Heels on the Ground by posting it on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.

DONATE to HOTG here. You can also help by spreading the word about the Heels on the Ground campaign: Post about it on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.

Military Connection proudly serves those who serve in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, Guard and Reserve, Veterans and their Families. We are the go to site for Veteran Employment and information on Veteran education. Militaryconnection.com provides Veterans with and Directory of Employers, a Job Board, information on the Post-9/11 GI Bill, and a blog that offers Veterans boundless information. Be sure to visit Militaryconnection.com, the go to site.

Military Connection: New way to Help Wounded Vets! By Joe Silva

Military Connection: Veteran Homelessness Down: By Debbie Gregory

Veterans helping veteransThe U.S. Departments of Veterans Affairs (VA), Housing and Urban Development (HUD), as well as the U.S. Inter-agency Council on Homelessness (USICH) recently issued a new national estimate of Veteran homelessness. Using data collected during the annual Point-in-Time Count, conducted in January, 2014, revealed that there were 49,933 homeless Veterans in America. This year’s number shows a 33% decline since 2010, when there were 74,770 Veterans reportedly living on the streets.

The VA, HUD, and USICH, as well as other local partners, have used evidenced-based practices like Housing First and federal resources such as HUD-VASH (the HUD-Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing voucher program) to find stable housing for Homeless Veterans. Since 2008, the HUD-VASH program has assisted 74,019 homeless Veterans, and Veteran families who were in danger of becoming homeless.

The federal government has provided significant new resources to help communities pursue the goal of ending homelessness among Veterans. Strategically targeting these resources is resulting in communities making significant progress towards ending Veteran homelessness.

The federal government has created a goal to end Veteran homelessness by 2015. There are several policies and programs that are currently geared towards reaching the goal.

Using a Housing First approach and eliminating unnecessary prerequisites, the federal government has made progress in removing barriers and helping Veterans obtain permanent housing as quickly as possible. The government’s programs have found success through prioritizing the most vulnerable Veterans, especially Veterans experiencing chronic homelessness, for permanent supportive housing opportunities.

The utilization of rehousing interventions, including those made possible through the Department of Veterans Affairs’ Supportive Services for Veteran Families program, has aided Veterans who need short-term assistance to reintegrate back into our communities.

Government programs have also found success by increasing early detection efforts, and providing Veterans with greater access to preventive services. They have also been leveraging other housing resources that can help Veterans who are ineligible for some of the VA’s programs get into stable housing.

By closely monitoring their progress, and remaining committed to their goal, it is reasonable to believe that Veteran Homelessness could be eradicated in 2015. But it can only happen through continued government efforts and the support of the American people.

Military Connection proudly serves those who serve in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, Guard and Reserve, Veterans and their Families. We are the go to site for Veteran Employment and information on Veteran education. Militaryconnection.com provides Veterans with and Directory of Employers, a Job Board, information on the Post-9/11 GI Bill, and a blog that offers Veterans boundless information. Be sure to visit Militaryconnection.com, the go to site.

Military Connection: Veteran Homelessness Down: By Debbie Gregory

Military Connection: Better Way to Research GI Bill: By Debbie Gregory

GI Bill Comparison Tool upgradeOn Thursday August 28, 2014, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) announced the launch of an upgraded version of the GI Bill® Comparison Tool.

Since its initial release in February if this year, the GI Bill Comparison Tool has been making it easier for Veterans, service members, and military dependents to estimate their GI Bill education benefits and learn more about their prospective school. The tool has provided key information about the school and its tuition prices, as well as data on graduation&amp, borrowing rates for individual colleges and universities. The information provided by the GI Bill Comparison Tool helps Veterans choose the best education program to meet their needs and available benefit.

The VA estimates that over the past 6 months nearly 350,000 people have utilized the tool on VA’s GI Bill website.

The upgraded version of the GI Bill Comparison Tool provides the same wealth of information, but with added data. Along with the information already provided by the original tool, the new version is equipped with a more comprehensive benefits calculator.

The new GI Bill Comparison Tool now offers Veterans the ability to click on an option that says, “How much am I going to get?” after typing in their eligibility information and the name of their school of interest. This new option offers a complete breakdown of cost. It shows how much your education benefit will pay you per month (specific to the school’s zip code), how much book stipend a student can expect to receive, and the total of what is “paid to you” for the year.

The new option goes even further by calculating the school’s tuition &amp, fees cost and comparing the cost against your benefit, ultimately providing Veterans with the “out of pocket cost” that they would have to pay, if they attended the school with their benefit.

The Post-9/11 GI Bill will pay the entire tuition cost of a state school’s in-state tuition, *or* up to $20,235. Once that tuition cost is exceeded at a private college *or* out-of-state school, the rest of the tuition comes out of the Veteran student’s pocket. Knowing the information that the upgraded GI Bill Comparison Tool provides could save individual Veteran college students thousands of dollars each year.

Military Connection proudly serves those who serve in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, Guard and Reserve, Veterans and their Families. We are the go to site for Veteran Employment and information on Veteran education. Militaryconnection.com provides Veterans with and Directory of Employers, a Job Board, information on the Post-9/11 GI Bill, and a blog that offers Veterans boundless information. Be sure to visit Militaryconnection.com, the go to site.

Military Connection: Better Way to Research GI Bill: By Debbie Gregory

Military Connection: More Vets Getting Private Care: By Debbie Gregory

VA healthcareThe U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has been significantly increasing Veterans referrals to private doctors, following the scandal over unacceptable patient wait times at numerous VA facilities and the allegations of falsified appointment records.

The VA’s reputation has been damaged by claims that multiple Veterans had died while waiting for treatment from the VA healthcare system. Some VA employees have been accused of covering up scheduling blunders. The scandal ultimately led to the resignation of formerVA Secretary Eric Shinseki and the eventual appointment of Robert McDonald.

Since the scandal broke, the VA has made nearly 840,000 referrals for Veterans to receive care from private doctors. This is an increase of over 166,000 referrals from the same period last year.

A $16.3 billion VA overhaul was recently signed into law by President Barack Obama.  Approximately $10 billion is being allotted to pay private healthcare providers to treat Veterans who can’t get timely appointments at their local VA facility. The law also includes $5 billion to hire more doctors and other medical and mental health professionals.

At the National American Veterans (AMVETS) convention, McDonald told a group of Veterans that 1,000 new doctors, nurses and clerks were needed at the Phoenix VA hospital alone. And another 500 new doctors, nurses and clerks were needed at the VA facility in North Las Vegas.

“Until we get systems up to capacity, we’re expanding our use of private care and other non-VA health care to improve access for Veterans experiencing excessive wait times,” McDonald told the Veterans at the convention. “And we’re monitoring non-VA care to ensure Veterans receive the best that they deserve.”

The VA spent about $4.8 billion last year on medical care at non-VA healthcare providers. This factored to be about 10% of the health care costs for the Veterans Health Administration, the agency’s healthcare arm.

McDonald’s appearance at the AMVETS convention was part of a tour that has included stops at the Phoenix VA hospital, a disabled veterans’ convention in Las Vegas, and the VA’s Memphis medical complex.

With adequate funding from the government, vigilant attention from the new VA secretary, and the support of the American public, Veterans can look forward to significant improvement to the VA healthcare system and their privatized care through the VA.

Military Connection proudly serves those who serve in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, Guard and Reserve, Veterans and their Families. We are the go to site for Veteran Employment and information on Veteran education. Militaryconnection.com provides Veterans with and Directory of Employers, a Job Board, information on the Post-9/11 GI Bill, and a blog that offers Veterans boundless information. Be sure to visit Militaryconnection.com, the go to site.

Military Connection: More Vets Getting Private Care: By Debbie Gregory

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