Life after the military: A Soldier’s Story About Her Pursuit for a Degree

One thing I always preached to Soldiers when I was an academic instructor in the military was to enhance the marketable skills obtained from the military with a degree. In today’s economy, employment is scarce and is very competitive.Post 9-11 GI Bill

In the early 90s, for the first four years of my military career, I was a military personnel finance and administrative assistant. My supervisor at the time stressed that I should attend a reputable college to enhance my military job training skills. I decided to take up business administration at Brookdale Community College located in a small suburban town of New Jersey.

Due to the fact I had orders overseas I was not able to complete my degree. Instead, I would take one class, two to three months at a time. However, it was still one of my long-term goals to obtain an associate degree.

After serving in the Army for nine years, I was awarded the opportunity to change my military occupational skill to become a military analyst. An analyst’s job entails a lot of critical thinking and putting pieces together to solve problems. Despite the fact that the occupation was stressful and very fast paced, I learned to get used to the demands of the job because I realized it would save lives.

US Army PentathleteWhile I was working as an analyst, I enrolled in a local community college program to further my studies in Military-Homeland Security Operations. Some of the courses I took under my previous business administration program were transferrable military credits and I earned an associate degree in the summer of 2009.

The military tuition assistance program paid for the entire program because I was still on active duty. Therefore, I did not have to use any of my GI Bill benefits. When I left the military, I wanted to pursue a career in criminal justice to work as a crime analyst, criminalist, police officer, investigator, or perhaps even work as a federal law enforcement agent.

Since I was undecided, the first step I made was to enroll at a four year University to begin pursuing a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice. The Montgomery GI Bill program was reformed by Congress to the Post 911 GI Bill®.

The new GI bill program provided more college and stipend benefits for military service members who served on or after September 11, 2001. Therefore, I was able to take advantage of a full four-year scholarship degree program to pursue my goals. I am now finally in my last year of studies and working with both the Wounded Warrior Project and Vocational Rehabilitation program employment readiness counselor to assist me with my job placement needs.


5 Top Military Spouse Benefits

Military spouses face many challenges so it’s nice to have benefits to balance the scales.  Spouses can find many advantages ranging from educational benefits to employment opportunities.  Many programs are provided automatically upon entrance to military service or marriage to a service member.  Listed below are 5 top benefits not provided automatically, but available to military spouses to utilize.

1.  Military Spouse Career Advancement Account (MyCAA):

One of the most advantageous programs offered to military spouses is the MyCAA Scholarship.  This program offers up to $4,000 in financial assistance to military spouses who are pursuing any of the following offered by an institute aligned with the MyCAA Program:

  • A License

    Military wife with family
    Photo By: Pfc. Codey R. Underwood
  • A Certification
  • An Associates Degree

Spouses of active duty, guard, and reserve members holding the ranks of E-1 to E-5, W-1 to W-2, and O-1 to O-2 are eligible, and must be able to begin and complete their program while the military member is on Title 10 military orders.

2.  Family Service Members’ Group Life Insurance (FSGLI):

Military spouses are eligible to receive up to $100,000 in life insurance coverage. Military members can elect to enroll their family members in this program for coverage of $10,000 to $100,000.  Spouse and dependent coverage may not exceed the coverage held by the service member, and children are restricted to $10,000. Contact your Military Personnel Office for enrollment information.

3.  Patriot Express:

The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) has established this small business loan program for veterans and spouses. Its purpose is to assist with the initial costs in establishing a small business, or costs related to expanding a small business.  Low interest rates are assigned to the loans, typically ranging from 2.25%-4.75%.  The SBA guarantees up to 85% of the total loan, with a maximum loan amount of $500,000.

4.  Transferred GI Bill® Benefits:

Education benefits can be transferred from service members to their spouses and children.  Once the military member has reached the required time in service, he or she may elect to assign a portion or all of their GI Bill benefits to a family member. Benefits may be used while the military member is still serving in the Armed Forces.  Spouses are able to use the benefits for up to 15 years after the military member separates from the Armed Forces, and children may use the benefits until they reach 26 years of age. Children may also be eligible for additional benefits, such as monthly housing allowances. Your installation’s Education Office and the Veteran’s Affairs (VA) office can provide additional details.

5.  Military Spouse Preference (MSP) Program:

With unemployment remaining high, any advantage that can help to secure a desired position is helpful. Under the MSP, military spouses are given preferential employment placement in vacant Department of Defense (DoD) civilian positions. These vacancies may fall under either civil service or Appropriated/Non-Appropriates Funds. Please contact you local Civilian Personnel Office (CPO) or Human Resources Office (HRO) for current vacancies.

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10 Veterans Benefits You May Not Know About

Many veterans know about the basic health care and education benefits available to them through the Department of Veterans Affairs: Tricare and the GI Bill.­­­ While these benefits alone are substantial, numerous other programs help provide more benefits to veterans and their families. Even within the health care and education programs are little-known benefits to improve the lives of veterans and help ease the financial burden of medical care or other expenses. Here are 10 veterans benefits you haven’t heard about that all veterans should see if they qualify for.

1.     Long-term Care
Long-term care is expensive, but often necessary to provide care for aging relatives. Through the Aid and Attendance program, many veterans are eligible to receive money to cover the cost of nursing homes, assisted living programs and other long-term care options. With the ability for couples to receive up to $25,020 a year, the Aid & Attendance benefit will help take care of a significant portion of long-term care costs. Surviving spouses of veterans are also eligible to receive up to $13,560 a year to cover their long-term care costs.

2.     Caregiver Support
Should you choose to take care of an ailing Veteran at home, the Department of Veterans Affairs offers a caregiver support program. While this program does not offer any monetary support to caregivers, they are provided with a free support line and a caregiver support coordinator to help navigate military benefits and the stress of care giving.

3.     Death Benefits
When a veteran dies, families have a few unique benefits available to them. A U.S. flag may be requested to drape over the casket and families may request a Presidential Memorial Certificate to honor the deceased loved ones service. The Department of Veterans Affairs also provides free headstones or grave markers.

4.     Certification Programs
In addition to receiving credits to use toward a college degree, the GI Bill offers up to $2,000 to help cover the cost of certification courses or other vocational training programs. This benefit will work well for veterans who wish to change careers or pursue a career path that does not require a college degree.

5.    Transferring GI Bill® Credits
Unused credits through the GI Bill may be transferred to spouses and dependents of veterans. There are service limits required to transfer the benefits.

6.    Free Tax Preparation
Veterans and their family have access to free tax preparation services through the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance offices on military bases. The individuals who work in the offices have expertise working with the complicated nature of military-related tax issues.

7.    Life Insurance
Many veterans have trouble obtaining traditional life insurance, particularly if they sustained an injury during their time of service. Through the Servicemembers’ and Veterans’ Group Life Insurance program, veterans may receive up to $400,000 in life insurance. This program also offers competitive premium rates.

8.    Mortgage Help
Veterans having trouble making their mortgage payments are eligible for repayment assistance through the Department of Veterans Affairs. Options for help include special repayment plans, loan forbearance and loan modification programs. Additional benefits are available for veterans with VA loans and for homeless veterans.

9.    VA Foreclosures
The VA maintains a list of homes serviced by VA loans that have gone into foreclosures. Veterans have the ability to search the list of VA acquired properties and purchase homes at a discount. You do not have to be a veteran to search the properties, but all properties qualify for VA financing.

10.    American Corporate Partners
American Corporate Partners connects veterans with top companies to help them obtain a job after their time of service. Along with being connected to job opportunities, veterans have the opportunity to receive one-on-one mentoring and other career development services.

FAQ

How do I get life insurance as discussed above?

Visit the VA’s Servicemembers’ & Veterans’ Group Life Insurance website. It provides everything you need to know.

1. Long-term Care, – “With the ability for couples to receive up to $25,020 a year, the pension;” does pension here mean a Vet must be receiving a military pension to be eligible for this benefit?

You must establish eligibility for basic VA pension first. However, this enhanced pension is based on a higher income limit so even if you’re not eligible for the VA basic pension you may still be eligible the the A & A program. The VA Pension for Veterans programs is a benefit paid to wartime Veterans who have limited or no income, and who are age 65 or older, or, under 65, and are permanently and totally disabled, or, a patient in a nursing home, or, are receiving Social Security disability payments.

Who should be contacted in regards to American Corporate Partners for job employment / training?

Here is the American Corporate Partners website link to contact them.

How can you acquire a list of VA Foreclosed homes & properties?

Find local Veterans Affairs offices here.
After the VA acquires a foreclosed property they are added to the local Multiple Listing Systems or MLS which local veterans affairs offices and/or real estate agents have access to.

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