Top 5 Marine Movies

We do a lot of joking around here about how hard our job is. But, it might actually be true this time, as this was the most difficult top 5 we’ve put together. In case you didn’t know, there are a lot of really good movies out there about our Marines. This office itself got into a friendly debate about what should and shouldn’t be on the list, and then the order in which they should go. So to alleviate as much heartache as possible, the following are our top 5, in no particular order.

Feel free to add to our list in the comments below

Check out our list of the Top 5 Navy Seal Movies

Top Marine Corps Movies

Full Metal Jacket

Watch Now

A Few Good Men

Watch Now

Heartbreak Ridge

Watch Now

Generation Kill

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Check out our list of the Top 5 Army Movies

Jarhead

Watch Now

Okay, so maybe there are more than 5 on the list. We can in fact count, we just couldn’t narrow it down to only 5. So, here are 3 more.

Rules of Engagement

Watch Now

The Pacific

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Major Payne

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Check out our list of the Top 15 Military Movies

USAA Roadside Assistance Review [2019]

Roadside assistance is one of those things you hope you'll never need, but when you do, you want it quickly. With that being said, not all companies offer the same speedy service as others.

What You Need To Know

RE Factor Tactical Buyer's Guide
  • USAA is not known for a speedy response
  • USAA is cheap, compared to AAA, but AAA seems to provide better service
  • USAA is very specific on where they're willing to travel to help you in a time of need

Roadside Assistance

AAA
★★★★★ Learn More
USAA
★★★ Learn More

Imagine yourself stranded on the side of the road. You have no gas, a flat tire, you either lost or locked the keys in the car, your battery died—hopefully not all at once—whatever the reason, if you have USAA roadside assistance, there shouldn’t be much to fret about. USAA has 24-hour online roadside assistance, and we’re here to give you both the good and the bad.

24-Hour Online Roadside Assistance 

Contrary to what some may say, USAA roadside assistance isn’t free. Yes, it comes with some policies, but it’s not an automatic addition to your car insurance policy with USAA. You can add the service if what you elected to pay for doesn’t come with it. But, either way, it isn’t free. In some cases, you might get discounts for the addition, but it’s just that, an add-on. In my case, it came as a part of my policy. You can choose not to have it, just the same as you can choose to keep it.

Either way, if you want roadside assistance, it’s easy to get, and you can take advantage of it 24-hours a day—from your driveway even. Now the bad news. Just because you can use roadside assistance any time of day or night does not mean it’s a speedy service. Yes, in some cases you can call and a USAA approved mechanic or the likes will come out to you in a reasonable time. Unfortunately, this is not always the case.

USAA has an approved list of people they call for tows, jump starts, lockouts, etc. Sometimes those people are not close to you. Some might be 45 minutes away. Add on the fact that the individual first has to get notified, then has to get ready—especially if it’s at an unreasonable hour—you’re looking at a lengthy wait time (as if the military didn’t make you do that enough). Now, if you’re calling from your driveway, have another source of transportation, or you aren’t in a hurry, maybe this isn’t a big deal. But, it is something you might want to consider when looking for a roadside service. Sadly, there’s better and quicker roadside service out there you might want to consider before USAA if speed of service is your number one priority.

Roadside Assistance (If it’s NOT an Accident)

USAA provides roadside assistance for pretty much any problem that might leave you stranded. However, these are services rendered when you haven’t been in an accident. Also, there are a few caveats to their services, so keep reading.

Tow your Vehicle

If you’re stranded on the side of the road because your car died from an electrical failure or any reason that’s not an accident, USAA will send a representative to come out and tow your vehicle. However, they’ll only come if you’re stranded on or near a public roadway. This means, if you decided to go on a week-long camping trip in the middle of the forest in West Virginia and come back to find your car won’t start and need a tow, you’ll also come to find that USAA won’t be there to help you—unless of course you parked on a public road and hiked 20 miles to your camping destination (probably not the smartest idea).

Change your Flat Tire

It is true; USAA will send someone out to change your flat tire. The bad news, if you don’t have a spare available, it’s pretty much pointless to call USAA. If you want someone to change the tire, you better have a tire to replace it with. The tire must also be in good condition—because changing a flat with a flat doesn’t make much sense now, does it? Honestly, your best option is to learn how to change your own tire.

Unlock your Vehicle 

USAA will send out a locksmith to come open your car door for you. Be advised, if you are calling them because you lost a key, you’re going to have to pay more for it. This means, your coverage does not cover the cost of a new key. And if you have a fancy key for your fancy car, you’re going to pay some fancy prices that USAA won’t reimburse you for.

Deliver Gasoline

Yes, USAA will deliver gas for you. However, it does not cover the price of gasoline. They’ll pay for the delivery of the goods, but not the goods themselves. So, that means filling up with the most expensive gas on the market just because USAA is bringing it, doesn’t mean they’ll actually cover it—sorry, we didn’t make the policy.

Jump Start your Battery

USAA will send a representative out to jump start your vehicle. So, if you’re parked at the local mall, come out to find your battery is dead; someone will be there to help you.

Submit a Claim

Submitting a claim isn’t hard. You can go online to the claims center, call the claims center, or use the USAA Mobile App. The process is typically pretty smooth, from personal experience. But, in some cases, others have not had the same experience. So, if you need any of the services listed above as a result of an accident, filing a claim is your next step. Again, USAA typically does a decent job helping their clients out, but that doesn’t mean they don’t fall short sometimes—most of USAA’s complaints come from their car insurance and claims departments.

Request Reimbursement 

If for some reason, you did not use USAA to get a tow truck out to you or you were towed to an unapproved location, you can request a reimbursement. Simply keep a copy of your receipt for the tow and send it in for a USAA representative to look over and consider. Keep in mind, requesting a reimbursement does not guarntee you’ll get it.

Roadside Assistance Outside of the United States/Canada

If you breakdown on the side of the road in a foreign country, USAA might have services you can take advantage of. However, this requires you to go through their international contact directory. Unfortunately, we can’t promise the services elsewhere will be the same as what you’ll get here in the US and Canada, as we haven’t actually used roadside assistance outside of this great country.

USAA Roadside Assistance FAQs

People are asking a lot of questions about USAA roadside assistance. Below are the top questions people are asking Google.

What is USAA roadside assistance?

USAA roadside assistance is exactly what it sounds like. You need assistance because your car broke down, your battery died, you ran out of fuel, you got a flat, etc. USAA roadside assistance will be there to help you. However, keep in mind not all services are completely paid for as a part of your premium. You’ll be stuck with the cost of fuel, the cost of a new key that was lost or stolen, and you might not get the fastest assistance on the planet, because everything comes from a USAA preferred provider. 

What is covered under USAA roadside assistance?

  • Changing flat tires
  • Jump start your battery
  • Emergency gasoline delivery (The price of gas isn’t covered)
  • Lost keys and lockouts (The cost of the key isn’t covered)
  • Towing when stuck on or by a public roadway
  • Towing disabled vehicle to the nearest repair facility

How much does USAA roadside assistance cost?

The price of USAA roadside assistance will vary based on location, current policy, discounts from bundling, etc. But generally speaking, you’re looking at paying $12-$15/year for this service. Bundling is huge with USAA, and you’ll typically save more on roadside assistance if you’re already using other products from USAA. You’re most likely to pay more if you aren’t banking with USAA or don’t have other services provided through them. Ultimately, they reward members who bundle more than members who don’t. Something as simple as having personal property insurance could make a difference.

How do I know if I have USAA roadside assistance? 

Your best bet in knowing if you have USAA roadside assistance is to look at your policy. If your policy is confusing—let’s face it, they’re never written in plain English—then you can call the phone number on the back of your car insurance card and ask a representative. They will let you know if you have this service. If you don’t, they can help you add it.

How to add USAA roadside assistance

Adding USAA roadside assistance to your policy is easy. Simply call the number on the back of your car insurance policy card and speak with a representative. They can add roadside assistance and explain what the policy entails. They’ll also go over when you can and can’t use the assistance and how paying for the cost of the gas, an extra key, and filing a claim works, and what to do if you’re not stranded on a public road.

How to use USAA roadside assistance 

Using roadside assistance is about as easy as adding it to your policy. You can use the USAA Mobile App, go online, or call USAA directly and they will get a representative out to you.

I called USAA after being stranded on the interstate at 2 in the morning, and they were going to get a tow truck out to me “as soon as possible.” However, there is a downside. Just because USAA was willing to send a tow truck out to me, they were not willing to send the closest one available and I was going to have to wait quite some time for assistance. Luckily, the state trooper got me a tow that was much closer and took less time—which at 2 o’clock in the morning seemed like a necessity. Yes, I had to pay for the tow, but for me, at the time, it was worth it. If this is you, you can request a reimbursement from USAA—this, however, does not mean they will provide you said reimbursement, as it’s based on each individual’s particular situation.

USAA vs AAA

When it comes to roadside assistance, one of USAA’s competitors is AAA, so we’d be doing you a disservice not to mention this. AAA basically offers the same stuff. The biggest difference is what comes with a AAA membership vs a USAA membership, and the price. Yes, USAA has all of your banking needs and plenty of discounts if you bundle. However, AAA gives you discounts at places like hotels, on flights, rental cars, whereas USAA typically doesn’t.

AAA

If you’re not much of a traveler, going with AAA over USAA probably won’t make much of a difference, other than in your pocket. This is because you’re paying more for services you aren’t using.  And if you’re still in the military, you can often take advantage of government rates.

You should also keep in mind that when it comes to customer service, even with all the recent complaints, USAA does have AAA beat in that realm as well, but again, their travel discounts aren’t as significant. If you travel a lot and you no longer qualify for government rates or active duty discounts, AAA might be a great options for you. Yes, you’ll pay more, but AAA is known to have better response times along with all the travel discounts. And the response times alone might make it worth the cost.

AAA also offers extrication/winching services, which USAA does not and the option to upgrade to a free fuel delivery with free fuel included, yes you read that correctly, free fuel. But, you’ll pay more for this addition, so, it’s not really free at the end of the day. You’re probably paying more for fuel when you do the math, considering you’re probably not calling AAA once or twice a week to come fill up your car.

USAA Roadside Assistance Contact Information

Contact Number: 1 (800) 531-8555

International Contact Directory

AAA Roadside Assistance

Contact Number: 1 (800) 222-4357

AAA

★★★★★ Learn More
Costly, but comes with a lot more benefits that could be worth it if you'll actually use them. They also tend to be quicker than other roadside service providers.

USAA

★★★ Learn More
Typically slow to respond for assistance, but much cheaper than AAA.

USAA Renters Insurance

Renters insurance seems to be something people only get when their landlord requires it, but what does it cover? Specifically, what does USAA cover?

What You Need To Know

RE Factor Tactical Buyer's Guide
  • Renters insurance is now required for military housing
  • USAA covers food spoilage due to a power outage
  • USAA covers water damage from flooding

USAA Renters Insurance

USAA Renters Insurance
★★★★ Learn More

USAA hasn’t always been who we know them as today, which is more than a bank, more than a car insurance provider, more than a financial advisor. Today USAA offers renters insurance, something almost everyone in the military will need at one point or another—even if you live in base housing. That’s why we’ve decided to put together everything you need to know about USAA renters insurance policies.

About USAA

USAA started out with 25 army officers who wanted car insurance. Unfortunately, they couldn’t find any. In turn, they decided they’d do their own thing and insure each other. And that’s how USAA got started. Originally, the plan was to only insure active duty service members but they started to expand, taking on veterans too. Today, they insure even more people than that. While, USAA stays within the walls of the military family—those in relations to a military member or veteran—they didn’t use to. And we must say, we’re pretty happy that changed.

 

USAA Renters Insurance

You might be thinking, I don’t really need insurance. Do I? Well, if you’re living in an apartment complex, they’ll pretty much force you to have proof of renters insurance before you move in. The real difference is in the amount of coverage you are asked to get. Some apartment complexes will ask that you get a minimum amount of coverage, while others do not list an amount. Either way, you’re getting renters insurance if you want to live there. What you need to do is find out who you’ll be getting it through. In most cases, renters insurance isn’t going to break the bank, but the type of coverage you get and your payments will depend on who you get it through. So, while you might save a few cents here and there with one insurer, you might not get the same type of coverage.

Want to comparison shop? Read our blog, USAA vs Geico Renters Insurance for Service Members/Veterans.

Who is USAA Renters Insurance for?

Despite USAA exclusive membership, you might be surprised to know a lot of people qualify. You either need to be currently serving as active duty or a reservist/guardsman, be a veteran or be related to one through marriage. If you are the child of a former or current service member, you also qualify. And that’s it, that’s the only requirement to be a part of USAA’s club. Not only can you set up a bank account, but you can take advantage of their insurance policies, such as renters insurance.

USAA Renters Insurance Application Process

Signing up for USAA renters insurance isn’t very hard. I personally did it over the phone, just because I like talking to people over using the internet. But, you can do it online if you want or through the mobile app. If you aren’t already a member of USAA, that will be your first step. If you have that knocked out, here’s what’s next:

  1. Sign-in
  2. Click on “Products” at the top of the page
  3. When the menu drops down, click on “Renters Insurance” on the far left-hand side under “Insurance”
  4. Click “Get A Quote”
  5. Fill out the renter’s location form
  6. Get your rental insurance offer

Proof of Renters Insurance

Getting proof of renters insurance is a straightforward process. There are several ways to go about it. You can access the documents under “my documents,” you can have it mailed to you, emailed to you or sent to the landlord requesting proof.

USAA Renters Insurance Claim Process

Filing a claim through USAA isn’t very difficult either. All you have to do is file your claim through the claim center. I personally just call USAA and talk with a representative in the claims department. They’ve always walked me through each step and explained everything in detail. Including how long it could take for the claim to process. If you don’t want to call USAA, you can also file a claim online or through their USAA Mobile App.

Need more tips on renters insurance and more? Read our blog, A Renter’s Guide for Service Members.

USAA Renters Insurance Coverage

USAA renters insurance covers more than you might think. Below is an entire list of what they cover.

What USAA Covers

  • Clothing
  • Electronics
  • Silverware
  • Phones
  • Military Equipment
  • Jewelry
  • Storage
  • Fine Art
  • Bicycles
  • Sports Equipment
  • Cameral
  • Liability
  • Coins
  • China or Crystal
  • Music Equipment
  • Guns
  • Furniture
  • Stamps
  • Antiques
  • Computers
  • Appliances
  • Furs
  • Hearing Aids

When USAA Coverage AppliesFire and lightning

  • Flood and Water
  • Windstorm or hail
  • Collapse of building
  • Volcanic eruption
  • Earthquake
  • Smoke
  • Freezing
  • Falling objects
  • Explosion
  • Theft
  • Aircraft
  • Vehicles
  • Vandalism and malicious mischief
  • Riot and civil commotion
  • Sudden and accidental tearing apart, cracking, burning or bulging
  • Sudden and accidental damage from artificially generated electrical current

How much is Renters Insurance

The price of your renters’ insurance will vary based on where you need coverage, the type of coverage you get, and how much of it you want. The amount you agree to be deducted in the case your insurance provider will pay out will also determine how much your coverage will cost.

USAA Renters Insurance Quote

As of this post, USAA provides basic coverage for $12/month. Again, this will depend on a lot of different variables. So, if you’re in the market for renters insurance, the best option is to talk with an actual representative who can let you know what you need and how much. Again, you can get a quote online by following our steps listed above. There won’t be any obligation to accept the quote, meaning there’s nothing to lose, except maybe a few minutes of your time.

How much coverage do you really need? 

How much renters insurance you need will depend on how much you have. Are you a huge stamp collector, do you have a lot of hi-tech equipment, clothes, antique clocks, china, etc.? If so, you probably want more coverage than an 18-year-old with less than $100 to his or her name.

With that being said, only you can determine how much renters insurance you need. But, keep in mind, most renters require a minimum amount of liability coverage, and you’re going to pay at least $12/month through USAA for that.

USAA doesn’t just offer renters insurance, they’ve also got your car covered. Read our blog, Is USAA Actually the best Car Insurance for Veterans.

Liability

Liability coverage is to help protect you from spending a bunch of money on an accident. It’s typically the minimum amount of coverage you’ll need to get approved for an apartment complex. Before you sign a lease, your leasing office should tell you how much liability you need. If they do not, talk with your insurance representative about your specific needs. USAA recommends these considerations when applying for liability:

  • How much your landlord requires
  • How much you have in assets or as your net worth
  • How much you’re at risk for being held liable for injury or damages. For example, you have dog or you live with roommates

Personal Items

According to USAA the average amount of coverage a person needs in a two-bedroom apartment starts at $20,000. They recommend you start by creating an inventory of your things to help figure out how much coverage you’ll need.

Your Stuff is worth more than you Realize

Believe it or not, you have more than you think you do. You’ll quickly realize this when you get ready to PCS and don’t have enough boxes to pack up the kitchen, let alone the entire house. Now, imagine all that stuff you didn’t have enough boxes for, yeah, it adds up. While you might not think it’s worth much because it’s old, USAA knows better. In fact, if you were to try and buy all the stuff you had again, and replace it with new things, we almost guarantee you’d start saying things like, “do I really need a new one of these?” Luckily, with USAA renters insurance, you don’t have to ask that question, because all your things will be replaced, even the old stuff

Personalized Renters Insurance

Because your things are worth more than you think, you probably won’t consider everything you have when looking for a renters insurance quote. But, if you call and talk with a representative, you might find out you have way more to consider than you thought. They will ask you about your computers, guns, jewelry, clothes, electronics, you name it. Simply tell them what you have. Don’t leave something out because it’s only worth a few dollars. All that stuff adds up, so USAA will give you a personalized quote on your insurance. You have different needs than other individuals. You have different things, at different costs, worth a different price (personal value) than what your neighbor has. USAA realizes this, which means your quote will be tailored to your needs, not your neighbors’.

USAA Renters Insurance Details

USAA renters insurance is competitively priced. On top of that, they have a lot of great representatives willing to help with any questions you have. Whether you are just looking around or need to file a claim, the representatives are extremely helpful. One individual even said that after filing a claim, she got a quote with a repair price. The cost ended up being less than what was quoted and USAA let her keep the remaining value.

Why get USAA Renters Insurance

  • Your stuff is safe and protected
  • You’re covered for flood
  • Earthquake coverage is standard
  • USAA replaces the old with the new
  • Move, take and store your stuff, worldwide

How to Cancel USAA Renters Insurance

If you’re looking to cancel your renters insurance because you’re moving or want to switch to another provider, simply call USAA. The process is smooth. Call USAA, tell them you wish to cancel. They’ll probably ask why to ensure you’re going to be covered under your new circumstances. But they won’t try to sell you a product just to keep you like some providers.

Despite how good USAA is—in most cases—they do make mistakes. Therefore, make sure after you cancel, your policy was actually canceled. If for some reason it wasn’t, USAA will back-pay you for the coverage you weren’t using but paid for. This comes from personal experience, so know, it does happen—while unfortunate; USAA typically does a good job righting any wrongs they’ve made.

Renters Insurance and Military Housing

If you’re still serving, you probably already know this. But if you got out before 2015 or came in after 2015, this might be news to you. Have you ever wondered why you haven’t been asked to get renters insurance when you move into base housing? Well, you never have because renters insurance used to be a part of your BAH. However, in 2015, the DoD decided to remove this from BAH.

Because of the changes, service members have gone from not needing renters insurance for base housing, to needing it. If you use USAA for banking and other insurance needs, you can get renters insurance for pretty cheap. I personally pay less than $2 a month for renters insurance, but that’s including a discount. Typically, starting out—no discount included—you’ll pay $12. However, this will depend on what you have, where you live, and how much coverage you want.

USAA Renters Insurance FAQs

You’ve got questions, USAA has answers. Below are some of the most asked questions people are wanting answers to about USAA and renters insurance.

Does USAA renters insurance cover mold?

USAA does cover mold damage. However, they do not cover damage that was caused strictly from the mold. They will cover mold due to water damage and will remove the mold, so you have a safe place to live.

Does USAA renters insurance cover lost jewelry?

If you accidentally lose your jewelry, USAA will not cover it. However, if your jewelry was lost due to a fire or other disaster, they will replace it.

Does USAA renters insurance cover water damage?

USAA does cover water damage. If there is a flood, you’re covered. If there’s a long-standing leak, however, they typically will not cover the damages.

Does USAA renters insurance cover food spoilage?

Yes, USAA does cover food spoilage as the result of a power outage. From personal experience, there was an outage for days in my area. USAA made a notice saying they would cover any spoiled food as a result of the outage.

Interested to find out what else USAA offers? Read our blog, USAA Student Loans.

Does USAA renters insurance cover natural disasters?

Yes, USAA covers natural disasters. Simply file a claim with USAA and tell them you were affected.

USAA Renters Insurance Phone Number

210-531-USAA (or 210-531-8722)

800-531-USAA (or 800-531-8722)

USAA Policy Disclaimers

The below comes directly from USAA’s webpage as of April 19, 2019:

  1. Countrywide average price for policyholders who have $2,500 personal property coverage, $100,000 liability coverage, and $5,000 medical payments coverage as of January 2017. Rates vary by location and risk. Rates are subject to change.
  2. With replacement cost coverage, at our option, subject to policy limits and policy deductible, if you actually replace the property we will pay you the lesser of our cost to restore, repair or replace the damaged property or the amount you actually spent to restore, repair or replace the property.
  3. For coverage to apply, property must be under a bill of lading or other professional shipping document before being shipped. Policy must be in force before goods are placed in transit. Breaking, and marring & scratching are excluded.
  4. Availability of renters insurance to residents of another country is limited to qualified members.

USAA Renters Insurance

★★★★ Learn More
Cheap and easy to acquire, but nothing really stands out between USAA and other providers.

USAA Student Loans

You might be sitting there right now, getting ready to read this particular post and you’re thinking to yourself, why would I need a student loan?  You served in the military, you had Tuition Assistance (TA), and after 3 years, was able to take advantage of the GI Bill. But here’s the thing, not everyone takes advantage of TA while they’re in, then they get out, don’t have a degree, and have transferred their GI Bill to their child or spouse. Then one day, you apply for a job, you have all the experience, but you don’t have a degree and without it, you can’t get the particular position you’ve been eyeing.

Don’t worry; we aren’t saying education is the only way to get a job. Plenty of people have well-paying jobs, some even enjoy them, and guess what, they didn’t get a college degree to get it. Of course, if you want to be a Doctor or something like that, you’ll need a degree. But, in many cases, degrees get you promotions, not jobs.

College degree or not, you might find yourself sitting in an entry-level position. But, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t pursue higher education. Or, maybe you’re not the one seeking a degree because you somehow obtained five degrees while you were still serving and used your GI Bill because you were never planning to get married and have kids anyway-sike! Or maybe you were only planning for one child, you sign over your GI Bill to him or her and there isn’t enough to go around because your family of three suddenly went to a family of 5.

No matter your reasoning, when TA and the GI Bill are all used up, you might find yourself seeking out a student loan. So, we’ve decided to put together a piece about USAA Student Loans—just don’t get too excited yet, the following isn’t exactly what you’re expecting to read.

USAA Student Loans

Okay, so, unfortunately, now is the time to break the bad news. USAA used to offer a partnered student loan with Wells Fargo. However, they no longer do that. They offer personal loans, car loans, home loans, but not student loans. So, you could get a personal loan through USAA and use that, but that might not be the best idea, in fact, we don’t advice it because typically, the interest rates will be through the roof compared to a student loan.

USAA announced it was no longer giving its 25% discount to USAA members who got a student loan through Wells Fargo, back in 2016. However, they have made strides in continuing to help those in need of a student loan get the information that they need, and they’ll help with smart investments and savings meant explicitely for that fancy piece of paper you get when crossing the stage.

So, while we’ve basically just written an entire article about something that doesn’t exist, don’t go too far. We’re here to give you information on what to do if you’ve used USAA student loans before and wanted to get a new student loan, what to do if you currently have a USAA Student Loan, and how to refinance said loan, and how USAA can continue helping you reach your educational goals financially.

What to do if you have a USAA Student Loan

Here you are, in the middle of paying off your USAA approved Wells Fargo Student Loan, or maybe payments haven’t actually kicked in yet, and you find out USAA is no longer participating in the student loan market. What is your next move? Have things changed? Will this somehow affect your current loan? Does this mean you lose your discount? All valid questions but nothing to fret over—unless of course, you were set on getting a second student loan through USAA. Then well, yeah, we don’t have any good news for you on that one. Honestly put, you’ll just have to search some other place for a student loan.

Wells Fargo Student Loans

Bad news aside, here’s what to do if you currently have a USAA Student Loan, nothing. Continue making your payment on time, and really, nothing more. Of course, if you do have questions, feel free to ask them. But, go direct with Wells Fargo. For example, if you were thinking about refinancing for a better interest rate, then call up Wells Fargo, give them your loan number and they’ll be there to help you make the next move.

How to Refinance your USAA Student Loan

Back to our comment about refinancing your USAA Student loan: the bad news, you can’t refinance through USAA, the good news, you never could. In fact, USAA hasn’t actually been giving out the loans, it was really Wells Fargo. What USAA did was offer the discount by going through them to get to Wells Fargo. Which means, you can still refinance your loan through Wells Fargo, just not with USAA’s blessing or 25% discount.

Refinancing a Wells Fargo Student Loan

If you’ve already paid of your USAA, Wells Fargo student loan and liked the experience, the rates were good, or whatever the case, you can go back and get another student loan from Wells Fargo. Again, USAA was just the third party here, they got you the discount, not the loan. Talk to Wells Fargo about your needs, see if they can offer a military discount based on your prior experience with them and USAA.

If you’re lucky, Wells Fargo will come back with a better rate—if you’re refinancing with them. If you refinance with a new lender, Wells Fargo pays off your loan, and maybe, just maybe, you might get a better rate then too. Just make sure you check out the market and refinance only if it makes financial sense. Yes, we know it’s a headache. Often you have to talk to a real live person, and that means listening to them try to sell you their product. But trust us, it’s worth it in the end. Not all lenders offer the same discounts or rates, so shop around so you can save money on your loan in the end. School isn’t cheap, why make it more expensive than it has to be.

What to do if you need a new Student Loan 

If refinancing isn’t on the horizon, but instead an entirely new loan, you’ll have to look elsewhere besides the USAA/Wells Fargo partnership. However, before you start burying yourself in a new student loan, make sure you take the appropriate steps to get all the financial aid you need.

Look into FASFA, grants, other federally based loans, scholarships, and even work-studies through the school you’re planning to attend, or you’re planning to send your child/spouse through. You’d be surprised as to what’s out there and how much you can save by not having to finance everything through a student loan. There’s even free money to be found for book expenses, you just have to take the time and look for it.

And if student loans aren’t on your radar yet because you’re little guy—or gal—is still, well, little, then USAA has plenty of advice and options to help lessen the amount of stress you’ll be feeling 17 years from now while your child is applying for colleges. 

Start a USAA College Savings Fund 

This might not be a new concept to you. Hopefully growing up you were told to start saving money. And if you didn’t, hopefully, the wise folks around you advised you to start saving for your future child’s college education after you got married.

If they didn’t, let us be the wise old folks for you—this is not admittance to anyone here being old, just well aged—start saving now. Don’t bet on your child getting sports scholarships, or even scholarships for being a genius. You never know what kind of child you’ll bring into this world, and it’d be a shame if they broke a leg and weren’t very bright, drastically decreasing their chances of sports and educational scholarships.

Now, this isn’t to say that there aren’t other scholarships out there. Or, that you can’t get grants and have them apply for FASFA. We’re just saying you shouldn’t put all your eggs in one basket, because that’s when you developed a hole, all the eggs fall out and now you just have a bunch of cracked eggs on the floor—and do you really want to worry about that? We’d hope not.

So, how to prepare for this stage in your child’s life—because trust us, not everyone can join the military, asthma and eczema have made sure of that. Simple answer, you start saving. However, there are various options out there to help you save better and save more. So, while USAA may not offer student loan services, they will give you some great financial advice on how to start saving for a college education. We’ve taken the liberty of covering some of the ways they’ll help you do this below, so keep reading.

Apply for a Free USAA College Checking or Savings Account

Don’t worry, we haven’t forgotten, that 18-year-olds are kids—adult children we’ll say—and they need to learn some level of responsibility. While we know few 18-year-old adult children have the finances to support a full education, that doesn’t mean they are excluded from helping fund their party-school, ivy-league, out-of-state tuition.

So, while you might have been putting away money for the past 18-years, there’s nothing to say they can’t help out. Get them signed-up with a free college checking and/or savings account with USAA, that way they can take over the loans you co-signed on or signed for on your own. Either way, there’s no excuse as to why you have to pay for the 4 times they switched majors, to end up taking Russian Literature and drop out after they realized no one cares about Russian Lit anymore.

If you set your kid up for success by starting them early in the financial world of saving, you’ll be able to set debit/ATM card limits, choose if they can make transfers and even deposits, and get text alerts when your little angel spends too much and the account balance drops too low for your comfort.

Just know, when they turn 18, USAA will automatically convert the youth account to a free classic checking account. As the guardian, you’ll be given the option to continue your joint account or letting the little birdy leave the nest—making all the financial mistakes you’d hope they’d never fall victim to—completely up to you. Of course, failing at life can be the best lesson.

Education Costs: Community vs. University

Here’s something you’d probably never guess in a million years, your child is going to become a teenager, they’re going to want to fly the coop—not the case for all, but most teens—and they will want to go to a big fancy university, because that’s where all their friends are going. Trust us, don’t fall for those puppy dog eyes, they’ll be fine going to a community college to get their electives knocked out and it will save you a LOT of money! If, they can’t succumb to this—because we all know that the college you go to will be the difference between an entry level job and…an entry level job—then you’d be smart to let them pay their own way through college and apply for 30-years worth of student loans on their own.

Now, we aren’t telling you how to raise your kids, but teaching them how to manage their money before they actually have money will 1. Give them an appreciation for the cost of that community college education and 2. Prepare them for their future expenses and save them a lot of stupid financial mistakes, like signing up for 5 different credit cards the day after they drive off to college in the car you paid for, on the car insurance under your name.

How to Apply for College Financial Aid 

Paying for a college degree can seem like a daunting task. We’d like to compare it to drowning while being eaten alive by piranhas—okay, maybe that’s a bit of an exaggeration. But, seriously, college isn’t cheap. That’s why there are so many options out there to help cover the expensive costs that go with higher education.

USAA has an entire article on how to apply for something called FASFA. If you haven’t heard of it, it stands for Free Application for Student Federal Aid.

If you don’t qualify for federal financial aid, there are grants and student loans with discounted rates for those falling into a certain income bracket. There are even work-studies, which will let you basically work for your education. Typically, this is work on campus, with a schedule that works around your class schedule.

So, if you’re past the stage of saving for college and there just isn’t enough, consider applying for financial aid, because even if you only qualify for a small amount, every penny will count and you’ll thank yourself later. Or, your adult-child will thank you later for helping them through all the forms so they don’t have a 30-year student loan to pay back after they graduate.

USAA Debt Management

College is over; you (or your now older adult-child) are left with all this debt. There are student loans that need to be paid off, a monthly car payment, car insurance, rent, renters insurance, utilities, a cellphone bill, probably a credit card in the mix—because someone made questionable choices and couldn’t afford even a bologna sandwich. Oh, and someone thought it was a bright idea to get married during the college years and there’s a new baby on the way—coming with their own expenses, of course. So, what do you do? There’s all this debt, and someone has to pay it off. Luckily, you aren’t alone.

USAA might not have given you the student loan or all that other debt you’ve racked up, but they’re there to help you manage it. Simply talk to one of their advisers, tell them about your debt, let them build a debt payment plan, and help monitor your progress. You’ve made it this far, but that doesn’t mean you can’t get the advice from the financial experts at your bank. And no, a degree in finances doesn’t mean you’re an expert, so just do yourself a favor and ask for help from people who’ve already been where you are and have more than a degree, but the experience to back up their advice.

529 Plan: Saving for College

In case you didn’t know, USAA can help you save for college with a 529 plan. A 529 is just one more way you can help prepare yourself or your child for their education. The difference between this account and other investment options is the tax benefits. If you have to withdraw from the account for any educational costs, including K-12 expenses, you won’t have to pay federal income tax on it.

Pro Tip: If you open a 529 account under the parent or parents’ name, it won’t affect financial aid as much as with other funds. Also, you can earn cash back if you’re enrolled in UPromise. And if that’s not enough, USAA will let you invite your friends and family to help contribute to the educational expense through something called Ugift.

You can open an account for as little as $50 and make automatic investments of at least $50/month or make an initial investment of $250 and save yourself from having to make that automatic $50/month contribution. 

USAA Education and Training

If you’re want to do a little more research on what USAA has to offer in regards to investing in your future—or your child’s—education, they have plenty of resources. If you visit their Education and Training page, here, you can start looking at what steps can be taken to save for college and securing financial assistance when the time comes.

Conclusion

Remember, not everyone needs a giant student loan to pay for their education. There are a lot of resources out there, a lot of scholarships, grants, other sources of financial aid. USAA can help you get in the right mindset of investing for college. So, reach out to them and get more details, because no one wants to pay more for college than they have to. Also, it’s a free service. USAA won’t charge you to ask questions. And who knows, maybe you’ll find out something you didn’t know about making investments, because remember, not all investments are created equal. Some make you pay taxes, other don’t. Some have higher interest rates, while some are lower. Talking with a USAA investment representative can help you find the best to save money for your educational needs so that you get the most out of what you put in.

3 Ways the VA can Improve your Financial Situation

Not all lenders are created equal. Check out our recommendations below.

What You Need To Know

RE Factor Tactical Buyer's Guide
  • You don't have to make a down payment, but it will save you money on your VA loan
  • Not all sellers will agree to this, but having the seller pay your closing costs will save you a lot of money
  • Refinancing is a great way to save, and the VA won't let you do so unless it makes financial sense

Top VA Lenders

Veterans United
★★★★★ Learn More
Quicken Loans
★★★★★ Learn More
J.G. Wentworth
★★★★★ Learn More
Lending Tree
★★★★★ Learn More
NASB
★★★★★ Learn More

Believe it or not, the VA does so much more than screw up your disability claim, help you qualify for a home loan, and give you the funds through your Post 9/11 GI Bill. In fact, depending on how you look at it, they’ll help improve your finances. Here are three ways the VA can improve your financial situation, or at least help you keep a little more money in the bank.

VA Home Loans

Everyone knows about VA home loans, and if you don’t you either haven’t been in the military or you haven’t been alive long enough. With that being said, we probably don’t have to tell you pretty much almost all veterans qualify for this benefit. What you might not know, however, is exactly what you can and cannot do with a VA loan. We’ve gone pretty in-depth about the VA home loan process in previous posts, so here’s everything we’ve talked about so far in one placefor your reading convenience.

A traditional VA Home Loan comes with no down payment, which is typically the first thing that attracts the individual. Yes, you still have to pay the funding fee—unless you’re exempt—but you’ll save a lot of money in initial costs and be able to move in much sooner because you don’t have to save up 20% to make your home purchase.

Be aware, there are exemptions to a no down payment loan.  For instance, in cases where your home costs more than the county’s loan limit, as set by the VA, you might have to pay the overage. If this is your second home, you could also potentially make a down payment, if the combination of the first and second home exceeds the county’s loan limit. If you were to purchase a home where the appraised value is less than the cost of the home, you’ll have to make a down payment. Your best option here is to try and get the owners to sell at a lower price or to look at buying a different house that falls within the limits. You can read more about loan limits here.

Conventional Home Loans

Conventional home loans are great, in the sense that you get to pay a lot of extra fees—that’s us being sarcastic. For real though, unlike a VA loan, they don’t come with the same benefits, the rate might be higher, you’ll have to pay a down-payment in almost all cases, and the VA can’t step in to help regulate closing costs between you and the seller. Typically your credit score has to be higher than that in a VA loan because you aren’t being backed by anyone.

Minimum Credit Score for a VA Loan

Generally speaking, the VA does not have a minimum credit score. However you’re not getting a loan through the VA, so it’s the lenders that will set your minimum. That minimum is somewhere around 620, but this will vary from lender to lender. This doesn’t mean if you have a 610 you won’t get the loan, it just means your chances aren’t as high. If you’ve been paying your bills on time for the past 12 months, you’re showing your lenders even with a bad credit score you have the ability to pay your mortgage monthly.

Debt to Income Ratio

Lenders don’t just look at your credit score—though it is important—they also look at your debt to income ratio (DTI) and include all your current bills along with your potential new mortgage payment. Lenders want to see you have money flowing in even after your bills are paid, so the amount of income you have is important as well. Meaning, having a less than stellar credit score isn’t the end-all-be-all, there’s still hope. Even if you have a history of bankruptcy you can get a VA loan. You’ll just have to work on a few things and meet your lender’s standards. Because of this, make sure you speak with a local lender who’s well versed in the VA process. Of course, make sure you do your own research as well. I’ve definitely experienced loan representatives that don’t know about some of the basic details of the VA loan process, which makes you wonder what else they might be missing—like the VA funding fee exemption for qualifying veterans—costing you extra money.

VA Funding Fee

We mentioned a funding fee earlier in this article, but haven’t really gone in-depth yet. What’s important to know about this fee is, no matter what kind of loan you choose to use with the VA, you’re going to have to pay a funding fee. This is a fee that’s paid at closing. This fee can be rolled into your financing, but it will be there. This fee also increases if you buy a second home. This fee makes sure the VA can continue to offer no money down loan options for future generations. However, there are some qualifying members who are exempt from this fee.

VA Funding Fee Exemption

If you have a disability rating from the VA, you qualify for a funding fee exemption. In fact, if you decide to pay for a second home, you will be exempt from that funding fee too. You must have your rating and show proof during the purchase of your home, otherwise, you will not be exempt and will be required to pay the funding fee. You don’t even need a high disability rating, 10% is enough to qualify for this exemption.

If you want to know why a VA Loan is better than a traditional loan, click here.

VA Land Loans

Land Limits

There’s a lot of rumors going around about VA land loan limits. Many people out there believe you can only buy a certain amount of land. Let us assure you, this is not true. You can buy an entire farm if you wanted to. What the VA really cares about is that you aren’t buying undeveloped land, meaning you can live on it, with flowing water, a driveway, an actual house, etc.

We can’t stress this enough, the VA does not set a limit on the amount of acreage you can purchase with your VA loan. There are some websites claiming you can’t purchase more than 20 acres or even more than 5. However, coming directly from the VA, they do not set any land limits, here’s a link to that in case you’re skeptical about our claim. Personally, we can’t see anyone buying a farm with the VA limiting land to 5 acres—but hey, not all farms have to be big, right?

Land Improvements

VA home improvement loans, which you can read more about here, and land improvement are two different things in the eyes of the VA. Meaning, there are different policies governing it and more can and can’ts to go along with it. So, another thing you can’t do with a VA loan as far as land goes, you can’t buy land you plan to improve later. This simply means, if you want to buy land, you need to have immediate plans to move onto that property. If you’re building your home on the property, you need something more than a, “one day I’ll do that” plan. Basically, you can’t buy the land and promise the VA you’ll eventually build a house.

You need to be ready to move into your home within 60 days after the purchase of your new home. However, there are circumstances in which the VA will extend your maximum move-in date. For instance, if you’re within 12 months of retirement, you can purchase your home through the VA loan process and move in once you have officially retired, even though it’s more than 60 days. If your military duty or employment is preventing you from moving into your new home within those 60 days, you may also be eligible to extend your move-in date requirement. Simply talk with your VA loan lender for the details revolving around your specific situation.

So, with all that being said, no you cannot buy land with the intention of buying land only. If you want to buy land just for hunting purposes that’s a negative ghost rider. If you want to buy land for camping purposes only, again, that’s a firm no. If you want to buy land just to say you have land, yeah, that won’t fly with the VA either. But, if you want to do any of those things and live on it, in a primary residence, then that will work.

Basically, it comes down to vacant land not being allowed under the regulations of the VA. The VA won’t support your loan if you cannot immediately move into a safe and sanitary dwelling upon purchase. You’ll need running water, electricity, safe conditions and that means everything has to be up to code.

VA Construction Loan

Let’s say, however, you already have land—that did not involve a VA loan—you could use the VA to place a modular or prefabricated home onto your property. You also have the option of building your home on that land. Just because you didn’t utilize the VA loan to get started does not mean you can’t use it in the future, so long as the property is safe, and by the time it’s done, both livable and up to code.

Maybe building or buying a house isn’t for you. That’s okay too, you can always go the renter’s route—unless you were planning on living in your mommy’s basement forever—start with our Renter’s Guide for Service Members.

To make things simple for you, this is a short list of what you can’t do with a VA loan in regards to property:

  •       Buy property as an investment
  •       Buy property for a business
  •       Buy farmland you can’t reside on

Of course, this isn’t an extensive list, we’d be here all day if that was the case, and nobody wants that.

If you’re interested in building your own home with a VA Construction Loan, you can read more about the process in this awesome article we put together for you explaining all the details.

How to Start your VA Land Loan Application

Once you’re past all the rumors and you’re ready to purchase land to build your new home on, you’ll need to know and understand the VA application process when it comes to buying a piece of land. It’s actually very simple and it’s similar to the VA Home Loan process as if you were purchasing a pre-constructed home on a piece of land. Where it might get tricky will depend on what you’ll be doing with the land.

If you’re planning to build your own home, you’ll need to find a VA approved buildernot hard, they just need to apply for approval if they aren’t on the VA’s list yet—have blueprints drawn up, have a list of how long each step will take, the cost of each step, the cost of labor, and the cost of the materials being usedprovided by your builder.

But, let’s say you want that farmhouse and plenty of acres to go with it. You basically want the Little House on the Prairie lifestyle—props to you—then your process might be a little different if you intend to use the property as farmland. If this is the case, yes, as stated before, you need to dwell on the property. If, you plan on using the farm as your primary means of income, however, you have to prove to the VA that you are capable and have the skillset to run your own farm. If you do not want to list your future farm as primary income, then you don’t have to worry about this step and you can simply purchase the property—and home—as a regular VA Home Loan, so long as you meet all the other qualifying factors.

If you’re ready to start your VA home loan process, start with our VA Loan Guide to help you answer some of your most pressing questions.

How much does it cost to build a home?

People often ask the question, how much does it cost to build a house? That’s not a question that can be answered easily. When you build a home, the cost is going to depend on several factors. How much is the housing market, what season is it, how much are materials right now, where do you want to build the house, will you be using top-grade materials, how big is the house going to be? If you can answer those questions, then you have to worry about the land. How much land do you want, what type of land are you looking to buy, where are you buying the land at? Buying land that’s next to the lake is much more expensive than buying uncharted land with rocks and trees so thick you couldn’t see two feet in. You also have to consider how hard it will be to break land. While untouched land may be cheaper, it’s definitely much more expensive to work with. If you pick a place up in the mountains, it’s going to be more expensive than picking a flat area that is easily accessible to construction crews and equipment.

Somehow, even with all the extra work, people still look to build their own houses, despite the cost and aggravation. Why? Rarely does a home have absolutely everything you want, down to the intricate details. You can customize your new home, and to some people, that’s worth it. Of course, if you’re not looking to build a home, you can always go through lenders like Veteran’s United, who will help get you through the VA Home Loan process without all the hassle.

Home Advisor estimates that it costs anywhere from $149,044-$430,418 to build a house in 2018. But, apparently, some people have built homes for as low as $13,000 and as high as $750,000. With a price gap like this, it’s hard to give a good estimate as to what your home’s construction would cost. But, there are also great tools, such as this cost building calculator, out there which can give you a rough estimate based on the grade of materials you plan to use, how big you’re planning on the house being, and what state and county you live in. Just remember, this doesn’t include the cost of your land. If that’s scaring you, you can always look at buying a house that’s move-in ready by talking to one of our top-rated VA Home Loan providers, like Rocket Mortgage.

VA Construction Loan Lenders

After you’ve gotten a lot of estimates and decided, yes, you want to build your own home, you’ll need to find a lender. If you’ve served in the military and qualify for a VA Home Loan, you’ll also qualify for a VA Construction Loan. Lenders typically call this the 1x close VA construction loan.

Unfortunately, the Internet is filled with a lot of articles saying it’s near impossible to find a lender willing to do a 100% no money down VA construction loans. While this has some truth behind it, it’s definitely not an impossible feat. In fact, as the housing market has improved, more and more lenders are getting on board for this type of loan. So, when you do your research, look at the date of your article. Some of them are either outdated or using outdated sources.

Of course, there are far fewer lenders who offer this style of VA loan compared to a standard VA Home Loan, but that doesn’t mean it’s something you can’t do. If you can’t find a lender for your construction project, there are lenders who will have you make a down payment on the construction, and once it’s complete, will roll your fees into a VA loan.

VA Home Improvement Loan

A VA Home Improvement Loan is basically what it sounds like. You have a home, it needs improvements, and you need a loan to finance it all. However, it’s not nearly as easy as it sounds, and there are several qualification factors you need to consider first. Unfortunately, a VA Home Improvement Loan does not come without a VA Home Loan. So, if you want to do improvements, you must be purchasing your home through the VA and have your lender combine all the costs, including repairs.  If you decided to do improvements after your purchase, you’ll have to look elsewhere. If however, you’re planning to add energy-efficient upgrades, you can do this during your initial loan process or after.

Are you thinking about getting a new heat pump? No problem, the energy-efficient loan will cover it. Were you thinking about adding thermal or storm doors and windows, the VA has you covered there too. What about a clock thermostat? You guessed it; the VA home improvement loan is your go-to! This specific loan also covers insulation, solar cooling and heating, and other various energy-efficient modifications to your home, as long as it’s no more than $6,000.

If you’re thinking about doing some lavished remodeling to your home, the VA might not approve your loan. This doesn’t mean you can’t get the loan, it just means your repairs have to fit in within the community’s standards. Meaning, if you’ve purchased a standard, single-family home amongst other standard single-family homes, you won’t get approved for a home improvement loan to add in a million-dollar pool. Keep in mind, a lot of lenders work under this same policy.

Of course, for most of us, we’re probably not looking to install a million-dollar pool, so chances are, you don’t have to worry about this. That doesn’t mean you don’t want to consider exactly what it is you plan to do with your loan before you start all that paperwork. Simply put, your house has to qualify for the loan. If your house doesn’t meet the standard safety, security and habitability requirements, it better, and within 90 days of your purchase. If your home doesn’t meet the requirements, you could get approved for improvements costs to help you meet the standards, so long as it doesn’t cause your loan to go beyond the county’s loan limit.

What if your home doesn’t meet those standards? Well, you can still get the loan if you can meet it within those 90 days, but you can’t do the work yourself. Meaning, if your plan was to get the loan for materials and then do all the work yourself—because you’ve been watching a lot of the DIY Network and HGTV lately—you better think twice because it’s not allowed! What’s the point of this rule? Really, what’s the point of any rule—to protect you. But, don’t’ get too upset, the VA looks at it as a way to let the buyer retain their right to sue.

If all these rules don’t hurt your feelings just a little, maybe this 2% construction fee will. The VA loan requires a funding fee—unless you qualify for an exemption—but if you’re planning to purchase a loan for repairs or alterations to your home, you should plan on the possibility of paying up to 2% in construction fees on top of your 1.25-3.3% funding fee.

Who qualifies for a VA home improvement loan?

Who qualifies for a VA Home Improvement Loan is no different than who qualifies for a VA Loan, the difference isn’t who, it’s what qualifies. Therefore, as long as you are currently or were ever a part of any US Military component or a surviving spouse, you qualify to apply for the loan. Whether you actually get the loan is a completely different story.

What can I get with a VA home improvement loan?

The VA approves roof and floor repairs, bath, and kitchen remodels, and even HVAC. These all tend to be high-cost repairs, but with a VA Home Improvement Loan, you can finance each of them. Of course, this isn’t a complete list of everything you can utilize this loan for. But if it does anything to save energy, it most likely qualifies.

What if you don’t qualify for a VA home improvement loan?

If you don’t qualify for a VA Home Improvement loan, because you’re either planning on making extensive repairs after you closed without telling the VA or want to purchase more lavished materials, then you’ll be forced to look elsewhere for your loan needs. If this is the case, don’t worry; there are a lot of other great options for you out there to help you in the process.

Does the VA offer a rehab loan?

If your home needs more than a few improvements and something closer to a complete transformation, then you’ll need to look for a rehab loan. Unfortunately, this isn’t something the VA provides. The VA requires you to either buy a home that is move-in ready or will be if you’re using a construction loan. If your home needs deep, non-cosmetic repairs, you don’t qualify for the VA’s Home Improvement Loan. This means that gorgeous 1930’s Farm House you bought with foundation issues won’t be covered through the VA. If this is you, there are other options out there.

The FHA 203K loan is a government-insured program. It’s perfect for any purchase that requires extensive repairs. This particular loan also covers unfinished construction, flipping (the home must be occupied), foreclosures, and condemned or abandoned property.

What is the best loan for home improvements?

The loan that is best for home improvements depends on what type of improvements you want to make. If you’re planning to make a cosmetic improvement, the VA Home Improvement Loan may be perfect for you. Are you planning to make non-cosmetic repairs? Maybe the FHA 203K loan is perfect for you. The type of loan also depends on how much you need. If you’re planning to make energy efficient changes, the VA will lend you up to $6,000, but any more than that you’ll have to look elsewhere. If you want to make more general repairs or improvements, but the total loan cost is going to be more than the county’s loan limit, you’ll have to look for another loan option as well if you don’t’ want to make a down-payment.

Work Assistance

Chances are, you know about the VA’s home loan process and how it can help you save money. But what you might not be so knowledgeable on is the work assistance you can get through them. This work assistance can help give you valuable skill and feed your pocket. Below are a few ways you can make money through the VA or at least get you on your way to making that cold hard cash.

Compensated Work Therapy

Compensated Work Therapy or CWT is a service offered to veterans living with any mental or physical disabilities. This program can be utilized by any veteran who qualifies for VA health care, which means, even if you don’t have a 10% VA disability rating or above, you can still qualify for the program.

CWT consists of several programs and depending on your situation, is something worth looking into as a veteran.

Transitional Work

TW is a time-limited service. During the program, the veteran is matched to a work assignment, where personnel at the worksite will supervise them. The veteran does not get traditional employee benefits under this program, but they do receive pay at minimum wage under state or federal guidelines, whichever is greater. The goal of this program is to help veterans move from vocational work assignments to competitive employment.

Supported Employment

SE is a great service provided to veterans with PTSD or TBI, who are having a hard time functioning independently in a work environment as a result of their condition. Unlike TW, which is time-limited, this program is ongoing and includes:

  •       Vocational assessment
  •       Rapid/individualized job search
  •       Job development and placement
  •       Assertive engagement
  •       Follow-along supports provided in the context of clinical treatment

Community-Based Employment Services

CBES is a program intended for veterans who need employment support but don’t necessarily have a psychosis diagnosis. The point of this program is to get veterans into competitive employment opportunities. During the program, the veteran will continue receiving clinical support along with:

  •       Skills training
  •       Job Development
  •       Job Placement
  •       Supportive counseling
  •       Interventions within the work environment

Vocational Assistance

Vocational Assistance is offered to groups and individuals. The service is short-term and designed to help veterans realize what skills they have, the resources available to them, attitudes and expectation for finding employment. The service also helps veterans with the interview process and shows them how to succeed in their job without needing to continue the job search, job development or follow-up support.

Supported Self-Employment

SSE is a guidance program. The services are intended to help veterans via guidance on:

  •       Business practices
  •       Training
  •       Networking opportunities
  •       Linkage with community financial institutions

SSE gives veterans a choice through preferred work activities, with flexible hours and schedules, self-management and disability accommodations when they’re needed while potentially generating a substantial income.

Supported Education

SEd is intended to help veterans with education and training programs to help them achieve instructional goals. The program also works to link veterans and educational facilities.

The good thing about these programs is your income isn’t counted as income, according to the IRS. This means any money you make under a CWT program does not need to be reported to the IRS come tax time.

For veterans who need civilian work experience, the VA offers various types of employment opportunities. The opportunities fall under the Department of Veterans’ Affairs Programs or Veterans and Military Intern Programs.

Non-Paid Work Experience

Non-paid work experience or NPWE is a service offered by the VA to help place veterans in government jobs. Non-paid does not translate to the veteran making zero money, it’s not like a non-paid college internship. Instead it refers to the fact that the employer has no obligation to pay the veteran, instead, the veteran receives a subsistence allowance from the VA.

Because there’s no “red tape” to hiring and firing, they don’t have to pay the veteran, and there’s a minimal amount of paperwork required from the agency, the employer is more likely to take on the veteran and give them the valuable work experience they need.

On-the-Job Training Program

OJT, something every military member knows about. Well, it’s not just something that exists only in the military, it’s on the outside too. And, the VA is prepared to give you the OJT you want and need in order to be successful in competitive employment.

Both the veteran and agency benefit from the VA’s OJT program. The employer gets a hard-working veteran, and the veteran gets the necessary tools, equipment, and uniforms provided to them via the Department of Veterans’ Affairs. Again, like all these programs, reasonable accommodations should be made if needed so the veteran can receive the same opportunities as their fellow co-workers.

Life Insurance

Yes, the VA also offers life insurance, and depending on where you’re at in life, this option could lift a heavy financial burden off your back with their competitive rates. Which is great, because when you’re getting out of the military the last thing you want is another high monthly payment. Again, the competitiveness will depend on where you’re in life.

VGLI

Veterans’ Group Life Insurance or VGLI is an option all veterans who were discharged under anything other than dishonorable have an option to obtain. If you used SGLI—which chances are high you did—then you are eligible. If for some reason, you didn’t have coverage under SGLI, then you would not qualify for VGLI. For veterans that do qualify, when you initially sign-up for coverage, you can only select up to the same amount of coverage you had under SGLI.

For example, let’s say you had $200,000 worth of coverage under SGLI. When you get out of the military, if you elect VGLI for your coverage, you can only get up to $200,000 coverage. However, once 5-years have passed, you can increase your coverage by $25,000, and so on for every 5-years after, for a maximum amount of $400,000.

You also have the option of selecting less coverage under the VGLI plan compared to what you had with SGLI but in increments of $10,000.

Do I Need Life Insurance

Unlike health insurance, life insurance is not for everyone, because not everyone needs it, which leads to your question, “Do I need life insurance?” The answer truly depends on you. There may be a point in your life, where it’s a necessity, and then one day you wake up and you simply don’t need the coverage anymore.  

Let’s say, you’re 65, all your bills are paid off and there’s no one depending on you for financial support, then life insurance may not be needed. Remember, life insurance isn’t for you, it’s for your family. If you don’t want your family having to worry about paying off the rest of your house, your car, paying necessary bills, putting food on the table, your kid’s college getting paid off, etc., then having life insurance might be a good idea. If these are things you don’t have to worry about, the life insurance might be pointless.

However, let’s say you’re in great health; you’re 65 but haven’t paid off all your bills. Using VGLI might be a financial burden because it’s considerably more expensive than getting life insurance through someone else. If you’re 70 or older, your premium rate will also increase. But, if you still have bills and your family is still depending on you for support, again, life insurance may be necessary.

Now, let’s say you did your 20 years—maybe more, maybe less—in the military, you got out, you’re 40 years old, have one kid in middle school, two kids in college, you just purchased a new home, and your spouse stays at home as a result of a physical handicap. In a scenario like this, you are the breadwinner, if you were to pass away, your living spouse would not be able to pay the mortgage, keep food on the table, keep your kids in college, or provide other essentials for him or herself and your kid who just started the 6th grade. This isn’t a scenario any of us wants to picture, but it is always a possibility. This is why life insurance is important. If you want to make sure your family is provided for in your death, life insurance is there to make sure that happens.

Should I get VGLI

After you’ve answered the question about needing life insurance, you’re left wondering who to get it from. Should you get coverage under VGLI? The answer again, it depends. Have you sustained considerable health issues as a result of your service or are you in great health? Do you smoke, or no? Are you over 60? How you answer these questions can increase or decrease your monthly payment when it comes to life insurance, and sadly, it can increase your chances of not getting the coverage you need.

However, VGLI can make things a little easier. Let’s say you did sustain considerable health issues while you were serving. With VGLI, as long as you apply for their life insurance within 1 year and 120 days of separation from the military and you were discharged with anything other than dishonorable, you qualify. This coverage is called term life insurance, meaning you can increase or decrease your coverage every 5 years. The only qualification is that you be a qualifying veteran, it doesn’t matter your health. Your age is also the only determining factor when it comes to your monthly premium, not your gender, not your health, not even if you’re a smoker.

Unlike some insurance companies, which require you to get a physical, provide medical documentation and then determine the price based on age, gender, medical history, smoking history, and your physical results, VGLI won’t require a deep look into your lifestyle as much, at least not if you apply within 240 days of separation—after this, you’ll have to answer questions about your health.

Not so sure about life insurance through the VA? Check out some of these top life insurance companies here.

IS VGLI Worth the Price

The price of life insurance can be a reasonable one, especially if you’re young and in good health. But, where you might see a bit of concern, is when you reach 60, at least under VGLI terms, in which case the price may seem completely unreasonable.

Depending on your age and health, the price of life insurance through most providers and VGLI can be competitive. Now, this doesn’t mean you can’t find insurance at a lower price. The real advantage comes if you have health issues, you’re a smoker, or you can’t get insured elsewhere. Once you’re over 60 the price raises considerably, and the competitive part goes out the window, especially if you’re over 75. Again, this is a good choice if you can’t get life insurance elsewhere because of your current health condition. If you can get  $400,00 worth of coverage at 75 years of age for under $1,840/month, then it’s probably a good idea to look elsewhere. Again, make sure you need life insurance, and make sure you need the amount of coverage you’re paying for. If you don’t have $400,000 worth of expenses and no one is relying on you for financial support, then maybe you don’t need $400,000 worth of coverage. Maybe, $10,000 is all you need. So, do the math and select the amount of coverage that makes sense to you, and then decide if the price is worth it.

Pros and Cons of VGLI

Pros
  •       Cost-effective for the younger generation of veterans, especially if in poor health
  •       The older generation of veterans in poor health are eligible, even when most companies won’t provide coverage
  •       No proof of good health required if applied for within 240 days of separation
  •       You can increase your coverage by $25,000 every 5 years, up to $400,000
Cons
  •       Expensive for the older generation of veterans in good health
  •       Doesn’t require a physical exam, therefore lower prices can be found with other providers
  •       Not always the best option if you’re in excellent health
  •       You can only enroll up to the amount of life insurance you were covered for under SGLI (after 5 years you can increase the amount)

How to Sign-Up for VGLI

There are three different ways to sign-up for VGLI. The fastest way to do this is online. Simply go to Prudential or eBenefits’ online VGLI application. There will be step-by-step instruction through both platforms. If you’d rather not apply online, you can also print out the application on the VA’s website, fill it out, and mail it to:

OSGLI

PO Box 41618

Philadelphia, PA 19176-1473

Again, ensure you apply for VGLI no more than 1 year and 120 days after separation and no more than 240 days after discharge if you want to apply without having to answer any medical/health-related questions. If you apply after the 240-day mark, your health will be considered in determining your coverage, which means there’s a chance you could be left without an option of utilizing VGLI.

SGLI

We won’t speak on this subject too much, because chances are you’ve had the SGLI through your military service. And while signing-up for it may have been the easiest insurance you ever purchased, and it was basically handed to you at 18-years-old, you probably didn’t know you could say no—that would have been stupid—and you’re pretty much going to ride it out until the end. Of course, you can change your coverage, but if you’re already out of the military this section probably won’t mean anything to you. Of course, if you know someone going in, this might be valuable information you can pass on, so at least they go in educated.

Should you Enroll in SGLI

The short answer is yes, yes you should.  If you qualify for SGLI, VGLI or TSGLI then you should absolutely take advantage of the program.  This is one of the least expensive life insurance policies offered you can get. The military is typically very good about paying out the allotted $400,000 to your next of kin.  This money is can help pay for any unknown expenses that may arise following your death.  In short, you’re essentially getting a life insurance policy that is designed to help your loved ones and not you.  This is a great thing to do for those who you care about.

Who’s Eligible for SGLI

SGLI is available for a wide number of individuals and isn’t just limited to active duty military personnel. Eligible members include:

  •       Active Duty Military, Reserve, National Guard
  •       Employees of the US Public Health Service or National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
  •       Cadets of the US Military Academies
  •       ROTC members
  •       National Guard/Reserve- In order to be eligible for SGLI you must perform at least 12 periods of inactive training per year.  You can also receive coverage if you’re drilling for points rather than pay.

SGLI Coverage

Most service members opt for a 400,000 dollar coverage.  However, anyone can choose any amount between $50,000 and $400,000, in increments of $50,000.  If you are separating from the military your SGLI coverage will extend 120 days from the date of separation.

SGLI For Disabled Veterans

If you’re separated from the military with a total disability, you can extend your coverage for up to 2 years after the date of your separation under the SGLI disability extension.

TSGLI

Traumatic Injury Protection or TSGLI is designed to offer prolonged care assistance to you and your loved ones following a traumatic event that requires long-term care.

Can I get TSGLI?

You may be able to get TSGLI if you were insured by SGLI when you experienced a traumatic injury. According to the VA website in order to be eligible for TSGLI you must meet the following:

All of these must be true:

  •       You have a scheduled loss that is a direct result of the traumatic injury, and
  •       You suffered the traumatic injury before midnight on the day that you left the military, and
  •       You suffered a scheduled loss within 2 years (730 days) of the traumatic injury, and
  •       You have survived for a period of not less than 7 full days from the date of the traumatic injury (the 7-day period begins on the date and time of the traumatic injury and ends 168 full hours later), and
  •       You were an active-duty military member, a Reservist, a National Guard member, on funeral-honors duty, or on 1-day muster duty

Are any injuries excluded from TSGLI?

Yes. To qualify for TSGLI, none of the descriptions below can be true of your injury.

Your injury can’t:

  •       Be self-inflicted on purpose or the result of an attempt at self-injury, or
  •       Involve the use of an illegal drug or a controlled substance that was given or taken without the advice of a medical doctor, or
  •       Be the result of medical or surgical treatment of an illness or disease, or
  •       Occur while you’re committing or trying to commit a felony, or
  •       Be the result of a physical or mental illness or disease (not including illness or disease caused by a wound infection; a chemical, biological, or radiological weapon; or accidentally swallowing a contaminated substance)

How much does TSGLI cover?

TSGLI is paid out in a lump sum as a tax-free payment.  This payment ranges from $25,000 up to $100,000 and is dependent on the service member’s injuries.  You can submit a claim for TSGLI by going to the VA’s TSGLI webpage.

Will TSGLI be enough to cover my injuries?

This is a personal editorial note so please take it for what it’s worth…  Most people are unaware of how much extreme trauma can cost their family. Even if you have Tricare or additional healthcare coverage you will almost always find yourself paying out of pocket if you don’t have the proper coverage.  As a kid, my dad was a helicopter pilot. My family held two levels of life insurance coverage for my dad, one was if he died as a result of a helicopter accident, the other was if he died as a result of something other than a helicopter accident.  

My dad ended up getting into a helicopter accident that left him severely disabled for three years. He eventually died as a result of his injuries. During his period of recovery, we managed to rack up over $1 million in medical bills. Had my family not secured the proper life insurance coverage we would still be trying to pay those bills to this day.  In reality, $100,000 is a drop in the bucket when it comes to a traumatic injury or death. If you want a personal recommendation, get ample coverage.

Most often, a good life insurance policy can be obtained at a very nominal amount but will offer huge dividends in the long run. The reality is that if you don’t get insured, you won’t be the one that suffers.  If you’re in a traumatic accident, your family will bear the burden of your death or traumatic injuries. Imagine your family having to care for you full time if you have a massive brain injury. Would you want them to also have to pay your medical bills or try to work while trying to take care of you? In short, life insurance is one of the best things you can do to support your loved ones.  Get coverage, they will thank you.

How the VA Supports you Financially

Just a quick recap, the VA can help you save money if you take advantage of all the programs they offer. You can save on closing costs through a VA home loan. You can save money on training through more than the GI Bill, but also through their work assistance program, which gives you valuable work experience while putting money in your pocket. And finally, you can save money be electing VA life insurance, also known as VGLI. These, of course, are only a few ways to help save or make money with the VA. There’s also VA disability compensation, for those who qualify and then again, the GI Bill, especially if you have the post 9/11 version.

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