October 17, 2017

{Guest Post} Navigating Post-Military Benefits Like USAA

Thank you to Jennifer Grant for writing two very interesting guests posts for A Military Story. Jennifer has a background in American History and she is a military spouse. She is found often blogging about the great US of A and our service members here: http://blog.americanflags.com/


Navigating Post-Military Benefits Like USAA
Those who have served in the military know that service is not easy, even without tours in combat. Service members are limited in their ability to control their own lives, and their families must follow along with orders as much as the service member.
After finishing your time in the military, your service will follow you throughout life. You will find you have an array of benefits and programs available to you, over and above the programs available through the Veteran’s Administration, VFW posts and GI Bill.

The GI Bill
Some changes were recently made to the GI Bill which may require some navigation, although the changes do not affect the core benefits of the bill.
First, for servicemembers discharged on or after January 1, 2013, the 15-year time limit on using the GI Bill’s benefits is eliminated. Also, reservists mobilized after August 1, 2009 for disasters, emergencies or assisting combatant commands are now eligible. All Purple Heart recipients are now eligible automatically. Veterans who attend schools which close after January 1, 2015 could recover GI Bill funding if no credit was received.
Veterans enrolled in a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) program will provide funding over the amount of the GI Bill base benefit. The new bill reduces the housing allowance available for those who start receiving GI Bill benefits after January 1, 2018.
USAA
The United Services Automobile Association (USAA) is the largest provider of veteran’s benefits outside the Federal government. The USAA, founded in 1922, is available to all current and honorably discharged service members, their spouses and children.
The USAA currently has over 11 million members and started as an auto-insurance association. It offers a full line of financial services products.
While USAA has four in-person service centers (near the three service Academies and their San Antonio headquarters), it primarily provides financial services over the phone or online. The USAA’s website is full of information on the products they offer, as well as advice about a wide range of life-affecting concerns.
USAA provides a full range of insurance coverage, from automobile to homeowner’s and renter’s insurance to annuities. In addition, USAA is a full-service bank, offering everything your neighborhood bank branch can provide. It also provides investment and retirement planning, as well as investment management. Health insurance, mortgages and selected shopping discounts also are available.

Navy Federal Credit Union
The Navy Federal Credit Union (NFCU) offers services similar to those of the USAA. With 7 million members, the NFCU operates several branches around the country. The branches are concentrated around San Diego, Hampton Roads/Norfolk, Washington, D.C. and Jacksonville. Other branches are also open around the country.
NFCU owns a number of ATM machines around the country and has made arrangements with CO-OP network ATMs. Using VISA Plus ATMs may provide you a rebate of ATM fees, depending on the type of account you have with the NFCU.
Other business with the credit union is largely conducted online or by phone. If you are looking to obtain a mortgage, for example, you would go to their website and search for loan officers by state.
NFCU also provides solutions for small businesses, including payment and payroll services. They offer help setting up retirement plans for you and your employees as well.
First Command Financial Services
First Command was founded by an Air Force Colonel concerned about financial planning for service members and their families. Their clients include current and retired military personnel.
One service First Command offers is a complimentary financial plan for active-duty personnel at or over grade E-5. They also focus on coaching service members in insurance, savings and banking.
First Command’s operations are largely online, but they provide access to over 20,000 ATM for debit card use. First Command does not charge a fee for the first 10 monthly transactions and rebates the first $15 per month in ATM fees charged by ATM owners.
Disney
The Walt Disney properties have long honored the service by military personnel. Their Armed Services Salute program offers theme park tickets at over half off, and 30% - 40% discounts on rooms at Disney resorts.
The Disney discounts are available to current and retired military members or their spouses. Plus, 100% disabled service members are also eligible. However, children are ineligible.
A participating service member may purchase up to six tickets during an Armed Forces Salute period. Each ticket lasts for 4 or 5 days, and the service member (or spouse) must be one of the ticket holders during each visit.
Each Armed Forces Salute period covers most of a year; there are some blackout periods. The Salute tickets are usually not available around Christmas, and in some years, they are not available around Spring Break. In 2018, the blackout dates are March 25 through April 5, and December 20 through December 31.
Disney also is connected with “Shades of Green,” an Armed Forces Recreation Center located near the rest of the Disney properties in Orlando, FL. Shades of Green is the only AFRC in the continental U.S., and like all AFRCs, it is designed to support military personnel and their families.
Each day one of the Disney theme parks has extended hours, either in the morning or at night, allowing guests at Shades of Green to have extra time at the parks. Shuttles between Shades of Green and the park are available.
U.S. Chamber of Commerce
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce “Hiring Our Heroes” program focuses on veterans and spouses, and works with employers to connect with servicemembers. Veterans can use the program’s Resume Engine to craft a top-notch resume, as well as get expert career advice.
The program also has a corporate fellowship program and provides many other resources. Spouses may be able to take part in their hiring events and fellowship program as well. 

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