MARQUETTE - Among the available and helpful financial assistance for veterans and their families are Veterans Administration guaranteed home loans and a new cost of living adjustment increase for VA benefits, the first in three years.
The 3.6 percent cost of living adjustment increase in compensation and pension benefits began Jan. 1.
"Veterans, their families and their survivors are entitled to benefits that keep pace with the cost of living," said Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K. Shinseki.
Under federal law, COLAs for VA's compensation and pension rates are the same percentage as for Social Security benefits. The last COLA for VA benefits was in 2008 when the last Social Security increase occurred.
The new compensation rates range from $127 monthly for a disability rated at 10 percent to $2,769 monthly for 100 percent. The COLAs also apply to disability and death pension recipients, survivors receiving Dependency and Indemnity Compensation, disabled Veterans receiving automobile and clothing allowances, and other benefits.
The full rates are available online at: www.vba.va.gov/bln/21/Rates/#BM01
A good place for veterans to find more information locally about financial assistance is from a county veterans service officer.
"There are a couple of good contacts," said Brad Nelson, public affairs officer with the Oscar G. Johnson VA Medical Center in Iron Mountain, "Your county veterans service office is your best point of contact."
For Marquette, Alger and Baraga county contacts, see the sidebar.
Veterans Administration guaranteed loan offer a safeguards and advantages over other loans and can be used to buy a home, a manufactured home or a condominium. The loans can also be used secured to buy a lot for a manufactured home, build, repair or improve a home, including making energy efficiency improvements. Existing loans may also be refinanced using a VA-guaranteed loan.
With VA-guaranteed loans - which are made by private lenders - the interest rate is competitive with conventional interest rates, but with little or no downpayment required.
Real estate brokers can help find a VA-guaranteed loan lender. Applying for the loans is done directly to the bank, savings and loan association or mortgage company involved. The lender will need a Certificate of Eligibility to prove that you are eligible for a VA-guaranteed loan. Certificates are issued by VA Loan Eligibility Centers.
When a loan is approved, the VA will guarantee part of it. The amount of VA's guaranty usually depends on the size of the loan. This guaranty protects the lender against loss up to the amount guaranteed by VA. The largest guaranty that VA can give is an amount equal to 25 percent of the Freddie Mac conforming loan limit for single-family residences. These limits are subject to change each year. The new limits for 2012 were just recently published online.
For information on VA loan eligibility, visit the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs website at: www.benefits.va.gov/homeloans/elig_center.asp. The website also provides a good deal of other veterans-related subject matter.
For additional information on veterans benefits and other issues, visit the National Veterans Foundation website at: www.nvf.org. The Department of Defense and VA jointly developed an eBenefits portal (www.ebenefits.va.gov) as a single secure point of access for online benefit information and tools to perform multiple self-service functions, such as checking monthly benefit rates, filing a claim, or checking its status.
John Pepin can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 206.