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Charting a New Course: Veterans Transitioning to College Life

 

Charting a New Course: Veterans Transitioning to College Life

As you consider returning to college, your unique background as a veteran provides valuable experiences that set a foundation for success in various academic fields. Choosing the right program and balancing life’s responsibilities are crucial steps that require careful consideration. These decisions help you fully leverage your strengths and resources for optimal success. The American Legion Department of Connecticut shares more:

Advantages of Online Learning

Acquiring an online degree enables you to balance full-time employment with gradually enhancing your academic credentials. For example, a psychology program presents a distinct chance to delve into the intricacies of cognitive and emotional mechanisms shaping human conduct, which is crucial for aiding individuals who require assistance.

These virtual courses offer the adaptability needed to tailor your study timetable according to your commitments, thus facilitating the pursuit of further education without compromising your existing professional duties. Research accredited universities, and take the first step to get an online psychology degree.

Explore Programs Aligned with Military Skills

Your military experience has equipped you with a distinctive skill set that aligns perfectly with several promising career paths. Fields such as healthcare, engineering, business administration, and information technology value the discipline and leadership you bring and offer excellent prospects for advancement. Choosing a degree in one of these areas can provide a seamless transition from military to civilian professional life, using your existing skills while providing opportunities to expand them.

Strategizing Work and Study Balance

Juggling work commitments with your studies requires a well-thought-out strategy. Setting up a realistic schedule that accommodates your career and academic aspirations is crucial.

Prioritizing your tasks and maintaining open lines of communication with both your employer and educators will help manage this balance. This dual focus can lead to significant professional growth and academic achievement, ensuring you don’t have to sacrifice one for the other.

Financing Your Educational Journey

Navigating the financial aspects of returning to school is a pivotal step. Make sure to utilize your GI Bill benefits to the fullest, and don’t overlook additional scholarships and grants aimed specifically at veterans. Exploring options like part-time work or employer tuition assistance programs can also alleviate the financial pressures of education, making your academic goals more attainable without overwhelming debt.

Effective Management of Academic Documentation

Organizing all your college-related documents is crucial for efficiently navigating your academic journey. Saving these documents as PDFs ensures that their formatting and content remain consistent across various devices and operating systems, which helps avoid compatibility and accessibility issues.

Online tools that convert files to PDFs by simply dragging and dropping them are particularly useful for maintaining this organization. This method allows you to focus more on learning and less on dealing with administrative challenges.

Utilizing Disability Services

For veterans with service-related injuries or disabilities, colleges offer specialized support through disability services offices. These resources ensure you receive the necessary accommodations and support to succeed academically. Whether it’s adaptive technology, personalized tutoring, or advocacy, taking advantage of these services can make your educational experience more manageable and rewarding.

The Broad Benefits of Higher Education

The pursuit of higher education opens a world of opportunities. Not only does it offer the chance for higher earnings and career advancement, but it also fosters personal development. Acquiring new skills and knowledge can significantly enhance your marketability and allow you to contribute even more profoundly to your community.

Navigating Unique Veteran Challenges

As a veteran, you might face unique challenges when returning to the academic world. These can range from adjusting to civilian life to managing mental health concerns. It’s essential to connect with support networks, access counseling services, and utilize veteran-specific resources available at most colleges. These supports are designed to help you overcome these obstacles and succeed in your new academic endeavors.

Embarking on your college journey as a veteran is not just about earning a degree; it’s about continuing to build on your life’s work. Every challenge faced and overcome on this path enhances your personal growth and adds immense value to your community. You can make this transition successful and fulfilling by leveraging your unique strengths and the extensive support systems available.

How to Help the Senior Veterans in Your Community

How to Help the Senior Veterans in Your Community

 Many seniors are struggling these days – and that goes double for veterans. Whether their troubles are due to a lack of funds, problems with mental health, or simple loneliness, the fact is that there are probably seniors in your community who could use your help. Today, American Legion Department of Connecticut shares a few pragmatic insights to help you make a positive difference in the lives of seniors in your community.

 Help With Daily Activities

 If you know a senior who struggles with transportation, consider lending them a helping hand by doing chores, such as going to the grocery store or taking them to their medical appointments. In fact, depending on how close they live to the store, you could leave the car at home and get a little exercise while you help them run their errandsYou might also help to coordinate volunteer activities, like having the local youth group help with landscaping or simply write letters to veterans thanking them for their service. You might also consider helping them clean their home, which can give them a cozy and comfortable environment to live and relax. A clean and decluttered space is not only safer for seniors with mobility issues, but it’s also a healthier and more positive environment.

Assistance With Income

Quality of life correlates with income. Unfortunately, many seniors, and especially veterans, struggle to make ends meet each month. But you can help by connecting those in your community with resources that can help. A few examples, according to the National Council on Aging, include VA benefits for rehabilitation, home hospice, or community care. There are also programs that can help with housing, food, and even home repairs. You can look up information on financial assistance for the elderly by state to find out more about help that may be available based on age instead of veteran status.

 Entrepreneurship With Age?

 Even with income assistance, some veterans may need a bit of extra cash to make ends meet. Many turn to entrepreneurship as a way to not only meet their financial obligations but also for personal fulfillment. Help them get started by researching local LLC formation rules. You can even help them file online so that they don’t have to pay for an attorney. Your local Chamber of Commerce may be an additional resource that can help your senior entrepreneur get up and running.

 Share Fellowship

 Sometimes, one of the best things you can do for a senior is to simply sit with them during service or share fellowship in some other way. Invite them to family night (or another event) or even have them over for dinner after church. Other ways to help your senior friends enjoy their church community are to pray together, read the Bible together, or simply share words of encouragement when they are down.

Other Ways To Get Involved 

If you do not have a specific veteran that you’d like to help, there are still plenty of other ways to get involved. You might, for example:

  • Teach music classes to veterans for free
  • Set up a nonprofit to help those less fortunate
  • Offer a senior discount at your place of business
  • Volunteer at your local veteran food pantry
  • Plan fun events with seniors as the guests of honor
  • Help with their four-legged companions

There is no right way or wrong way to offer a helping hand to the seniors and senior veterans in your community. However, those ideas listed above are a great start. Whether you choose to sit down and share a meal, help them get their business started, or offer a helping hand with house cleaning, every gesture will have positive benefits. If you’re still not sure what you can do, just ask. There are many seniors in your community and congregation that would likely welcome the attention and assistance. 

American Legion Department of Connecticut is proud to serve America’s veterans. If you have any questions or you’d like to participate, call 860.436.9986.

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Advice for Veterans Who Live With Chronic Illness

Advice for Veterans Who Live With Chronic Illness

There has been a lot of research and funding that has gone into medical advances for chronic illnesses. This is because there are more people living with chronic conditions than ever before. These conditions can often be debilitating and require constant care. But the advances in living with a chronic illness that has occurred over the past twenty years are quite remarkable. Doctors can now diagnose conditions like Crohn’s disease, osteoarthritis, and Parkinson’s disease with much more accuracy than they could before. These improved diagnostic tools give doctors a better understanding of what is going wrong inside the body and how to fix it. Thanks to services like telehealth, doctors are seeing an increased success rate in treating chronic illnesses.

Veterans Suffer a Higher Rate of Chronic Illness

The Department of Veterans Affairs has found that up to 20% of veterans are impacted by a chronic illness. These illnesses are often associated with PTSD, cancers, and injuries sustained in combat.

These veterans have seen a higher rate of chronic illnesses than the general population. It is important to note that it is not just the combat veterans who are impacted by these illnesses, but many other veterans as well.

While the exact number of these illnesses is unknown due to the difficulty in measuring them, we know that they can be devastating for those who suffer from them.

If you’re a veteran and looking for support, your local American Legion can be a wonderful resource for you to get information and help with a variety of veteran-related issues like health care, career advice, and education. According to The American Legion Department of Connecticut, The American Legion’s success depends entirely on active membership, participation, and volunteerism. Reach out here to join, volunteer, or donate.

Managing Your Own Care

Being chronically ill means having to deal with the double-edged sword of managing your condition on a daily basis and also having to manage it as a part of your work life.

You may not realize it, but managing a chronic illness can be exhausting. You need to manage your own emotions, manage doctors, take care of your children, and you also need to find time for yourself. Find a support group, focus on small successes, get enough sleep, exercise, and practice self-care through hobbies, interests, or activities.

Another way to manage your health is by keeping your medical files and documents organized. If you need to share files with doctors, family, and caregivers, PDFs are often the preferred format over Microsoft Word, Excel, and PowerPoint files. You can use an online tool that allows you to convert to a PDF document by simply dragging and dropping them into the tool.

Help With Home Ownership

Many people who suffer from a chronic illness have trouble earning enough income to buy their own home and can be subject to the whims of the landlord and market with their monthly housing expenses.

However, if you’re a veteran, you can take advantage of some of the many VA Home Loan benefits such as no down payment on home purchase loans, lower interest rates, and no monthly mortgage insurance premiums that will help keep your monthly payments low. To make homeownership more attainable for servicemembers and veterans, the Department of Veterans Affairs established the VA Home Loan, which guarantees a portion of the loan and enables them to provide you with more favorable loan terms. This guarantee allows lenders like Pennymac to offer home loans to service members and veterans who may otherwise not be able to qualify for a conventional loan. Contact them to learn about VA interest rates today. And check out this link for some of the best cities for veterans to buy a home.

The future of chronic illness looks more hopeful than ever before. It seems that the diagnosis of chronic illnesses is not as bleak as it used to be. Though there is still a long way to go, we are seeing progress and hope for a better chronic illness future.

The American Legion Department of Connecticut is proud to work side-by-side with our friends in The American Legion Auxiliary, the Sons of The American Legion and The American Legion Riders. Contact us today for more information! 860.436.9986

 

How Veterans Can Practice Self-Care and Live a Happy Life

While veterans are true American heroes, they don’t always think of themselves that way. Most are glad that they served, but they often see many terrible things during their years of service and they can often bring that stress back to their lives once their tour has ended. In order to live a happy, satisfied life, veterans need to practice self-care. Here at the American Legion Department of Connecticut, we try to do everything we can to help those who served our country, so we have some tips on how to care for yourself post-service.

Get Enough Sleep

If you feel stressed throughout the day then you need to put your mind at ease, and the best way to do that is to get enough sleep at night. Doctors recommend a minimum of seven hours of sleep at night because doing so will allow you to wake up well-rested and ready to take on a new day. The American Psychological Association explains that sleep helps us to fight stress because it helps to calm and restore the body while also regulating our mood and sharpening our judgment.

After some of their military experiences, it can be difficult for veterans to fall asleep. If you have issues, then you may have to adjust your schedule. Go to sleep at the same time every night and wake up at the same time every morning, even on weekends. Avoid looking at your cell phone or other screens as you lay in bed because the blue light they emit can keep you awake. Reading before bed is a great way to doze off.

A Peaceful Home Environment

Once you wake up, you can continue to feel stress-free by creating a healthy and peaceful home environment. In many cases, a messy and cluttered house can cause anxiety because we feel like we don’t have control of our surroundings. For many veterans, minimization may be key but don’t feel like you need to clean your entire house in one day. Instead, you can put an hour aside every day to fill a box with stuff you no longer need, and over time, you will have a clean house that is good for your body and mind.

In addition to helping our mental health, a clean and organized house also makes life easier overall because when we can find what we need right away, we save time and we can move on to more productive tasks.

You also add to the comfort and vibrancy of your living space by sprucing up a few walls. Room colors can have a surprising influence on mood. You can always put on a new splash of paint with soothing colors like blues or soft greens, or if painting isn’t your thing, you can try this peel & stick wallpaper. This type of wallpaper makes application super easy and non-messy, and because it’s removable you can either reposition it or replace it and use in another room. You also have plenty of colors, designs and textures to choose from.

Connect With Others

Sometimes the best way to deal with hard memories and anxiety is to talk to someone who will understand, and this is especially important for veterans. The best way to go is to search out veteran-specific support groups like the American Legion Department of Connecticut where you can talk to people that are going through the same thing and can offer advice. If you feel that talking about your issues in an informal setting is not providing the help that you need, then it may be time to get professional help by talking to a therapist or other mental health expert who can give you great advice and provide additional resources.

Exercise Is Key

Another great way to fight stress and stay in shape is to exercise every morning for at least 30 minutes. Exercising as soon as you wake up is a great way to infuse your body with natural energy and you will get your mind right so you will be ready to take on a new day. Exercise can include cardio, weight lifting, or a mix of the two. Just try to stay active for that full half-hour. In addition to the physical benefits, Mayo Clinic points out that exercise also helps us to fight stress by boosting our brain’s production of endorphins which are the feel-good neurotransmitters that help to keep us in a positive mood.

While it may not seem like your cup of tea, other forms of exercise including yoga can also be a great way to relax and put your mind at ease. Meditation can help as well.

In the end, veterans deserve the chance to relax and enjoy their lives, and these self-care tips can help them live every day to the fullest.

Assistance for Veterans Looking to Open a Small Business

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Assistance for Veterans Looking to Open a Small Business

As a veteran in Cromwell, Connecticut, you might find you have the skills and discipline to open a business and work hard to see it thrive. Your armed service experience also gives you the upper hand since you’re used to risk-tasking. Plus, you learned the importance of integrity. Fortunately, when you know where available resources are and understand a few basic tips, you’ll be more likely to succeed in your venture.

Write a Solid Business Plan

Your first step should be writing a business plan. This document can help you manage your company. Plus, you’ll need it to apply for a grant or loan or intrigue investors.

For your business plan, write down a description of your company. You’ll need to write information about the employees you plan to hire and their roles. Include information about your competitors, financial projections, and target audience, as well.

Keep in mind that you’ll more than likely need a business plan to apply for a grant or loan or intrigue investors in Cromwell.

Know Where to Look for Funding

Look into the U.S. Small Business Administration’s low-interest loan programs as well as grants and other funding. If you’re a disabled veteran, you may qualify for the Service-Disabled Veteran-Owned Small Businesses program.

Additionally, research private grant programs for veterans. For instance, Hivers and Strivers is an organization that invests anywhere from $250,000 to $1 million during each funding period in veteran-owned businesses.

Use Technology to Your Advantage

The internet gives you access to bookkeeping software. With these programs, you can easily input all your transactions. You may then review the information and identify where you’re wasting funds. Some programs allow you to complete payroll online. In addition, you can find programs to complete your yearly tax return.

Hire a Logo Designer

Think about hiring a logo designer as part of your marketing. You’ll then have a professional symbol for your business.

Take into account that your logo is often a person’s first impression of your company, so you need to make it a memorable one. It also helps you stand out from the competition. If you have limited funds, consider using an online logo maker. You can still create an appealing design but won’t have to spend a fortune.

Fortunately, basic design programs are available that you can use without any background knowledge of logo design. You merely choose an image and style, then add text. Finally, you add the finishing touches, such as changing the font and colors. If possible, include some detail that lets people know you’re a veteran-owned business.

Last but not least, make sure to use tools that can help you compress PDF files for free. This way, you can easily attach your new logo to emails and official business-related documents.

How to Network

Use your service connections to get the word out about your business, especially if you have ties to people in other states and you’re creating an e-commerce business.

You may use social media if you’re local in Cromwell or an e-commerce business. Use either your personal pages or create business pages to spread the word.

Become a Strong Veteran-Owned Business

By searching for funding and using your resources to your advantage, you can lay the foundation for a business in Cromwell that’ll be more likely to thrive. Learn about other resources for veterans by visiting The American Legion Department of Connecticut.

Why You Should Consider Starting a Business During the Pandemic

Innovation has often been referred to as the hallmark of entrepreneurship. Hence, it comes as no surprise that various prominent organizations were born during times of low economic growth and difficulty. To name a few, Airbnb, Uber, Venmo, and Slack were founded during or just after the great recession of 2009 and have grown to become global market leaders in their respective domains.

With COVID-19 the world is facing similar challenges. While these may not be the most optimistic of times, it is the perfect moment for entrepreneurs with innovative ideas to create businesses that can flourish in the years to come.

Let’s look at some reasons why now is the best time to turn your business dreams into reality:

Easier Access to Talent

The news of downsizing among organizations has been a constant during the pandemic. However, this has led to a surge in experts offering their services as freelancers online. According to research, more than 55 million people across the United States now work as freelancers. These include digital marketers, product managers, graphic designers, business consultants, finance professionals, lawyers, and more.

As an entrepreneur, you now have access to a pool of talent whose quality is much higher than before. Additionally, the cost of hiring freelancers is just a fraction of a full-time employee as you do not need to pay benefits, 401(k) contributions, etc.

Lower Costs

According to research, 1 in 4 workers in the US is currently working remotely, which is expected to grow further in the coming years. With the pandemic, workers have become accustomed to working remotely, making having an office or even renting a shared office space redundant. Not having to invest in furniture, equipment, insurance, and more office expenses will save you thousands which can be used towards investing in your business and fuel growth plans.

A Shift in Customer Behavior

Ecommerce sales have skyrocketed since the start of the pandemic. Customers are now more open to making purchases online and use websites and social media as active tools to research and buy products. Additionally, as reported by Mckinsey & Company, 40% of customers have switched towards purchasing from brands that provide them more value. Factors such as promotions, discounts, and ease of buying were other prominent reasons.

By catering to this reformed customer behavior, your business can outperform competitors and even pull business away from existing players in the market.

 

To thrive in a pandemic market as a new business, it is important to utilize your capital and resources efficiently and effectively. Here are a few ways you can do just that:

  • Emphasize Planning: Create a strong business plan and accurate financial predictions for at least three years. These documents will give you a concrete direction to follow and serve as a guide for allocating funds to essential activities.
  • Create an LLC: A Limited Liability Company will establish your business as a separate legal entity, allowing you to protect your personal finances and assets from lawsuits. If you are based out of Connecticut, you will have to file for a Connecticut LLC and similarly for any other state. By using a formation service, you can significantly reduce the cost of filing, and time to process paperwork, and gain insights on reducing business costs using eligible tax benefits.
  • Conduct Extensive Market Research: Above we’ve discussed a few factors regarding overall customer behavior. Before you start selling, it’s important to understand customers in your niche, analyze competitor strategies and learn about current and future market trends.
  • Invest in Customer Experience: Make consumers the center of your business. Based on your research, create product features that resonate with customer demands, market your products heavily on digital platforms your customers use and provide exceptional customer service right from first contact to post-sales.

The pandemic has created a unique space for new businesses to enter the market. By taking advantage of shifting consumer trends and creating a strong online presence, your business can not only thrive during the pandemic but can grow tremendously in years to come.

This resource guide is just one example of the great content you can find on The American Legion Department of Connecticut website.

Tips for Military Wives Who Struggle with Sleep

When you’re a military wife, you carry the weight of the world on your shoulders. And when your husband is deployed in a different time zone, it’s exceedingly difficult to keep up with him, the kids, and yourself. Sleep is often the first area we neglect to do it all. According to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, military wives suffer from extreme short duration of sleep, or less than five hours per night.

Getting a good night’s sleep is critical for everyone, but for many, it can be frustratingly elusive, but here are some steps one can take to make better sleep a priority.

Start positive habits and let go of harmful ones

 The first step to better sleep is to implement self-care strategies and to look to positive habits. For example, avoiding substances like nicotine, caffeine, and alcohol can make a difference in sleep, as well as avoiding large meals too close to bedtime. If one can’t wean themselves of alcohol or nicotine, it can really help to implement a moderate exercise routine during the day. Exercise makes us more tired at night and helps to curb the desire to smoke or drink.

Yoga or gentle stretching before bed can help loosen the muscles and set the stage for relaxation. Try to reserve the time before bed for stretching instead of watching TV or looking at the phone can help the brain unwind.


Assess Your Routine and Bedroom

 Creating a bedtime routine is a great way to give the body a hint that it’s time to start winding down and relax. Consistently waking up and going to bed at the same time every day is also beneficial. Keeping the room cool and dark will naturally help the body get into a sleep rhythm as well, though individual needs may vary. Room-darkening shades can also set the stage for a good night’s sleep, and white noise machines or a sleep meditation app can help get you into REM sleep. Consider improving the sound with a soundbar or speaker. Think of what makes you comfortable and consider how you could work them into your regular routine.

 Cut back on the naps

 If you aren’t getting sleep, it’s really tempting to take naps during the day- which then make it harder to fall asleep at night. We can power through all kinds of things as military wives, but when it comes to taking a nap it’s easy to give in. You don’t want to drink coffee later in the day and you don’t want to take a nap. So, what can you do? Take a walk, eat a piece of fruit, or try meditation. It may be harder to meditate when you’re sleepy, at first, but according to Headspace, meditation actually activates the mind and will generally make you more alert.

 Be Prepared to Address a sleep disorder

 If sleeplessness lasts, you may have anxiety over the absence of your spouse, or you may have a sleep disorder. It could be stress, yes, but DexaFit notes it could also be hormones or something more dangerous, such as sleep apnea. If, despite your best self-help efforts, you are still unable to wind down, don’t be afraid to reach out to your doctor. Many understand fully the difficulties of being a military wife and know that compounding this with the devastating effects of sleep deprivation can be emotionally depleting. They may suggest anything from a sleep study to therapy.

 Everyone deserves a good night’s sleep, especially the wives of our service members who are fighting a battle at home and have sacrificed more than most people know. By taking care of yourself, changing up your bedroom and building a bedtime routine, you can take matters into your own hands and start getting the rest you deserve.

 The American Legion in Connecticut is a nonpartisan, not-for-profit organization with great political influence perpetuated by its grassroots involvement in the legislation process. Legionnaires’ sense of obligation to their community, state and nation drives an honest advocacy for veterans in Washington. Contact us to join a post of The American Legion in Connecticut! 860.436.9986

VA to start processing disability claims for certain conditions related to particulate matter

The Department of Veterans Affairs will begin processing disability claims Aug. 2 for asthma, rhinitis and sinusitis on a presumptive basis based on presumed particulate matter exposures during military service in Southwest Asia and certain other areas — if these conditions manifested within 10 years of a qualifying period of military service.

 

The process concluded that particulate matter pollution is associated with chronic asthma, rhinitis and sinusitis for Veterans who served in the Southwest Asia theater of operations beginning Aug. 2, 1990 to the present, or Afghanistan, Uzbekistan, Syria or Djibouti beginning Sept. 19, 2001 to the present. VA’s review also concluded that there was sufficient evidence to presume that these Veterans have been exposed to particulate matter.

 

Additional info: Airborne Hazards and Burn Pit Exposures – Public Health (va.gov)

Things You Can Do to Support Those Who Served

Things You Can Do to Support Those Who Served

 

Whether you realize it or not, you have a lot to thank veterans and their families for. They are among our families, friends, and neighbors, and there are many ways you can show your gratitude for their sacrifice. If you’re looking to empower, honor, and show appreciation for the people who keep the country safe, here are ideas you can explore. Make sure to visit the American Legion Department of Connecticut for more valuable resources for veterans.

Make a Card of Gratitude

Besides keeping the country safe, military members spend a lot of time away from their friends and family. Like everyone else, they need emotional support and to feel they’re appreciated.  Writing cards of appreciation for veterans and service members helps. It’s a reminder to them they’re loved and appreciated for the great sacrifice they make in keeping everyone safe. You can submit your letters and cards through an organization like Operation Gratitude.

Volunteer Your Time

It will cost you nothing to volunteer for a day in your community. There are veteran programs always looking for volunteers in different capacities. Reach out to a hospital near you or a veterans’ home and ask if there’s a way you can help. You can easily find volunteer programs you can participate in within your state. If you know a veteran neighbor in need of transportation for their medical appointment, you can help them whenever possible. Also, for those needing help around their homes, you can offer to mow their lawn or do other tasks.

Sponsor Companion Dogs for Veterans Battling PTSD

Over a third of Afghanistan and Iraq veterans will or have experienced post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Most of them are dealing with the stress of their time in service. Handling PTSD can affect not just the veterans, but it also touches their families and friends. Through programs like Puppies Behind Bars, you can sponsor a dog and get updates on their life and training.

Help a Veteran Get Education

After time in the military, one can also pick a new career path. If they already have previously completed a course in a university, you can help them get started with a Master’s program, which would advance their career. There are online advanced degree programs that make it easy to work full-time and study at the same time. Some of these programs span several industries, including psychology, business, criminal justice, and more. Check if they’re eligible for the GI Bill program, which helps veterans pay for graduate school, college, and other training programs.

Build a Home for an Injured Veteran

Often, severely injured vets come home looking for a place to live that accommodates their disabilities. You can offer support to such vets through organizations like Building Homes for Heroes, which specially modifies homes to accommodate severely injured veterans to ensure they can live independently. The homes are offered at no cost. Also, the organization offers financial planning to help veterans manage their income and savings in a more responsible way.

Keep Veterans Off the Streets

Because of lack of support and social isolation, former troop members are likely to become homeless. In the U.S., veterans are about 6% of the population yet make up 8% of the homeless population. You can help homeless veterans rebuild their lives by supporting a program like the National Coalition for Homeless Veterans, which offers a framework that volunteers can use to organize support within their own communities.  

Service members in the military, veterans, and their families sacrifice a lot to keep everyone safe. There are different ways you can help them feel appreciated for their sacrifice. Volunteer in projects that help veterans rebuild their lives after service and reach out to service members and their families to show your gratitude.

 

Preparing for a Home Loan as a Veteran:

Essential Tips for Landing Your Dream Home

As a veteran who is accustomed to moving from place to place, you may be looking forward to putting down roots in a house you can finally call your own. Though exciting, the home-buying process can be difficult and overwhelming. The American Legion Department of Connecticut are a few ways you can simplify it and possibly make purchasing a home more affordable.

Start Saving Money

Regardless of a lender’s down payment requirements, you will need a good sum of money for things like closing costs, moving expenses, installation fees, etc. Closing costs are substantial, ranging anywhere from 3% to 6% of a home’s purchase price. For example, if you purchase a home for $200,000, you’re looking at paying between $6,000 and $12,000 in closing costs alone. At a minimum, you should have between $15,000 and $20,000 saved before beginning your search.

Boost Your Credit Score

Regardless of what type of loan you choose to go with, you will need a decent credit score to obtain approval. The most flexible lenders accept applicants with scores that are in the mid-500s, while conventional mortgage lenders require scores of at least 620. Most VA mortgage lenders require a 620 as well. If your score doesn’t meet the minimum requirements for the type of loan you want, you will need to improve it before applying. You may want to focus on bolstering your score regardless of what it is, as a better score can get you a lower interest rate.

Make Yourself More Attractive to Lenders

Though sizable savings and a good-to-excellent credit score can go a long way toward impressing lenders, you can do more to increase your borrowing power. Pay down your debts as much as you can without dipping into your closing savings, boost your income, find ways to save, and get preapproved.

Explore Your Lending Options

Eventually, you will need to apply for a home loan, but the question is, who should you go through? As a veteran, the VA is the most obvious option. Per the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, VA home loans come with several benefits, including a zero down payment option, limited closing costs, loose credit requirements, and no PMI requirements. However, there may be instances when another type of loan is a better fit. Some additional lending options to consider are as follows:

 

  • FHA Loans: Though not as cost-effective as VA loans, FHA loans are great for first-time homebuyers who have less-than-stellar credit and can only afford a small down payment. You may consider an FHA over VA loan if your score is less than 600.
  • USDA Loans: USDA loans are those issued by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. They require zero down and are to be used to secure mortgages for property in nonurban areas.
  • Conventional Loans: Conventional loans are the most issued mortgage loans in the U.S. They are not backed by the government and, as such, have stricter lending requirements. However, if you meet them, you may be able to secure great terms and rates.

Regardless of the type of loan you choose, make sure that you clearly understand the terms. Carefully consider the APR, interest rate, terms, and payments before agreeing to anything. If you’re looking for a VA loan, carefully explore your options and familiarize yourself with current VA fixed mortgage rates. Rates may fluctuate based on your current credit score, home location, and type of residence.

Plan for the Move

Even when you have yet to find the perfect home, it’s wise to prepare a moving plan beforehand. Doing so allows you to pad your budget accordingly, and it helps make for a more organized move. If you plan to hire movers, reach out to professional moving companies to get an idea of what a move would cost. Now is also a good time to start packing up some of your belongings, even if it’s just items you don’t use all the time. Lastly, prepare a checklist that you can refer to as you get close to a moving date. Items should include

  • Connect with utility and internet providers
  • Log your change of address with the USPS
  • Find a highly rated locksmith who can rekey your doors
  • Checking out local schools

Buying a home is the epitome of the American dream. By referring to these tips, you can remove some of the hassle from such a major purchase and life milestone. In doing so, you will be closing before you know it.