7 Interesting Facts about the Military You Probably Don’t Know

Servicemembers saluting the flag with the title "7 Interesting Facts about the Military You Probably Don't Know"

The US Armed Forces has a fascinating history filled with interesting tidbits. But a lot of these aren’t well-known. We recently discovered several of these facts that we thought were too cool not to share with you.

So, without further ado, here are seven interesting details you might not know about the US military:

1. A Supercomputer Built from Playstation 3s

Glowing blue supercomputerThat’s right! Those video game consoles are quite useful, and the Department of Defense knows it. Back in 2010, they officially unveiled the Condor Cluster, which is made from 1,760 Sony Playstation 3 consoles.

But why would you make a supercomputer with them?

Well, the Condor Cluster can analyze ultra high-resolution images at fast speeds, and the console’s graphics capabilities can identify those blurry, flying objects in space better than other previous computers.

Additionally, it’s capable of performing 500 trillion floating point operations per second (TFLOPS), which makes it the fastest interactive computer for the Department of Defense.

It was also extremely cost effective. When it was being built, PS3s cost approximately $400 each and comparable technology would’ve been $10,000 per unit. In total, the Condo Cluster cost about $2 million, which is only about 5-10% of what it would’ve cost to build a supercomputer with other computer parts.

In addition to its cost, the supercomputer is energy efficient. It only consumes 10% of the power that similar supercomputers do.

The system is located in Rome, New York, and it’s used by the Air Force for radar enhancement, satellite imagery processing, and artificial intelligence research.

2. Tracking Santa Claus

Little boy wearing a Santa hat talks on the phone with someone from NORAD Tracks Santa According to tradition, the NORAD Tracks Santa tradition started on November 24, 1955, with a misprint in a Sears ad that was featured in a Colorado Springs newspaper. The misprinted phone number was Colonel Harry Shoup’s number.

The story has different variations, but according to Shoup’s children, his phone rang and he heard a soft voice on the other end of the line asking if he was Santa. Shoup thought it was a joke and was, according to the story, a little annoyed.

It’s important to remember that this was the Cold War era (tensions were high) and Col. Shoup didn’t know about the Sears ad. But then he heard crying on the other end, so he talked with the kid (pretending to be Santa), gave him some ho-ho-hos, and asked if he had been a good boy this year.

After the initial call, children kept calling, so Col. Shoup put a couple of airmen on the phones to act like Santa for the night, and that’s how the tradition was born.

Now, the NORAD Tracks Santa operation consists of many volunteers to help out by answering phone calls, emails, and maintaining the website and social media pages. The project receives phone calls from children in over 200 different countries.

3. Most US Presidents Served in the Military

Four US presidents wearing their military uniforms
Most of our presidents (32 out of 45) have come to office as veterans. Fifteen came from the Army or Army Reserves, nine from state militias, six from the Navy or Naval Reserves, and two from the Continental Army. Here’s a list:

  1. George Washington – Continental Army
  2. Thomas Jefferson – Virginia Militia
  3. James Madison – Virginia Militia
  4. James Monroe – Continental Army
  5. Andrew Jackson – Tennessee State Militia, Continental Army, Army
  6. William Henry Harrison – Army
  7. John Tyler – Virginia Militia
  8. James K. Polk – Tennessee State Militia
  9. Zachary Taylor – Army
  10. Millard Fillmore – New York State Militia
  11. Franklin Pierce – Army
  12. James Buchanan – Pennsylvania State Militia
  13. Abraham Lincoln – Illinois State Militia
  14. Andrew Johnson – Army
  15. Ulysses S. Grant – Army
  16. Rutherford B. Hayes – Army
  17. James Garfield – Army
  18. Chester A. Arthur – New York State Militia
  19. Benjamin Harrison – Army
  20. William McKinley – Army
  21. Theodore Roosevelt – Army
  22. William Howard Taft – Connecticut Home Guard
  23. Harry S. Truman – Missouri Army National Guard, Army, Army Reserve
  24. Dwight D. Eisenhower – Army
  25. John F. Kennedy – Naval Reserve
  26. Lyndon B. Johnson – Naval Reserve
  27. Richard Nixon – Naval Reserve
  28. Gerald Ford – Naval Reserve
  29. Jimmy Carter – Navy
  30. Ronald Reagan – Army Reserve & Army Air Corps (which branched off to become the Air Force later on)
  31. George H. W. Bush – Naval Reserve
  32. George W. Bush – Texas Air National Guard & Air Force

And here’s some additional trivia for you: James Buchanan is the only president that served as an enlisted man who did not go on to become an officer.

4. The FLIP Vessel

Image of the Navy's FLIP vesselIn 1962, a collaboration between the Marine Physical Laboratory and the Office of Naval Research designed a ship known as FLIP, which stands for Floating Instrument Platform.

The ship is one-of-a-kind because it goes from being a regular, horizontal ship to a standing vertical object. It’s 355 feet long, and when it’s vertical, 300 feet of it are submerged in water. It takes about 28 minutes for the ship to alter its position.

FLIP is used for oceanic research. Because of its ability to go vertically, it can take accurate readings of waves, water temperature, and acoustics.

However, because there can’t be any interference with its measurements, FLIP doesn’t have any engines or other means of propulsion. So when it needs to go out to sea, FLIP has to be towed out to open water.

In order for the crew to be able to navigate the ship no matter what orientation it’s at, FLIP was designed to have two doors for every room. That way, there’s an access point when the ship is in both positions. Even the bed bunks, gas stoves, and the toilets are designed to swivel.

5. An Interesting Addition to the Survival Kit

Picture of a survival kitThere’s one particular item of interest found in every United States Military Standard Issue Parachute Pack Survival Kit (SRU-16): a non-lubricated condom.

But it’s not for what you think.

Aside from its standard use, a condom can hold up to 1 liter of water, and, of course, it doesn’t take up any room. Basically, it’s included as a kind of condensed, back-up water bottle.

6. Ray Bans

Servicemember wearing RayBan AviatorsEver wonder where the stylish sunglasses company came from? Ray Ban was founded by the medical company, Bausch & Lomb, in response to an Army Air Corps Colonel’s needs.

In 1929, US Army Air Corps Colonel John Macready asked Bausch & Lomb to come up with glasses that would block out the sun and its reflections.

The first glasses, known as Anti-Glare, were issued for military use in 1936. They had green lenses that were effective in cutting out glare without hindering visibility. The glasses then took on a metal frame for public consumption in 1937, and the style became known as the Aviator.

7. Wooden Ships

Large wooden naval shipsThe Navy still uses wooden ships. Why? To sweep for mines. The ships, known as Avengers, are made of oak, Douglas fir, or Nootka cypress and are coated in glass-reinforced plastic. The Navy built 14 of these between 1987–1994.

These ships are used to ensure the safety of major waterways and are designed to be durable enough to cope with shock waves from mines detonated nearby. The wooden structure also reduces the ship’s weight and lowers its magnetic signature, so they’re less likely to activate magnetic mines.

What Do You Think?

We limited this list to seven, but there are many interesting facts out there about the military. Comment below if we missed one of your favorite military facts!

How Does a VA Loan Work?

Applying for any type of mortgage can be difficult and confusing. They all require some work from you as a potential borrower and can sometimes feel overwhelming.

However, taking the time to apply for a VA loan will be worth it. VA loans offer many unbeatable benefits and some of the most competitive interest rates on the market.

So How Does a VA Loan Work?

The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) doesn’t issue the loans itself—rather, it guarantees the loans and sets the VA home loan requirements.

VA-approved lenders are lenders that follow these VA loan guidelines. With government backing, lenders are able to offer lower interest rates and include some other unique benefits.

Here are two key benefits to the VA home loan program:

  1. No down payment required
  2. No monthly private mortgage insurance (PMI) payments

If you’re familiar with the mortgage world, you know that these are some serious home loan benefits.

VA Home Loan Requirements

If you want to try and secure a VA mortgage, the first thing you want to determine is if you qualify. Some of the VA loan guidelines that will help you determine your VA loan eligibility are:

  • You served 181 days on active duty during peacetime
  • You served 90 days on active duty during wartime
  • You served six years in the Reserves or National Guard
  • Your spouse died in the line of duty or from a service-connected disability

If you fit into any of the criteria above, you may be eligible for a VA home loan. But remember that you’ll have to meet both these VA requirements, as well as any additional requirements the lender may add.

The 6 Steps to Getting a VA Home Loan

We can sum up the VA loan process in six steps:

1. Find a VA Lender

Finding a VA-approved lender might not seem like a hard step—after all, most lenders do offer VA loans. But don’t go with the first lender you find. Some research on your part will benefit you in the long run.

The first thing you’ll want to do is verify that the lender is an expert with VA loans. Your current bank might offer VA loans, but will their loan officers know the ins and outs of them? Remember, you deserve the best options out there. And finding a lender who specializes in VA loans is an essential first step.

Here’s one question you should ask a potential loan officer: “How many VA loans do you process per month?” If the answer is zero or minimum, then politely turn down their services.

On a side note, to get you really prepared, make sure you have your Form DD214 when you start applying. Additionally, you’ll need your VA home loan Certificate of Eligibility (COE), but a good VA lender will be able to pull that up for you.

2. Get Pre-Qualified

A pre-qualification will give you a fair estimate of how much house you can afford. Go ahead and start it now; it only takes 60 seconds to complete! After you pre-qualify, this is where things start to get exciting.

3. Get Pre-Approved

Getting a loan pre-approval is a major step towards your homeownership goal. While the pre-qualification step gives you a fair estimate, the pre-approval step will give you an exact amount to work with.

During this process, the lender will verify your income and financial information in detail. This will involve getting:

  • Pay stubs or earning statements from the last 30 days
  • W-2 forms from the past two years
  • Two months of statements from other assets (401k, savings, IRA)

While this step gets more involved, the end result makes it worth it. After the process is complete, you’ll be issued your pre-approval letter with an exact loan amount. You can then show this to real estate agents and home sellers to show them you’re a serious buyer.

4. Start Putting in Offers

Now you can start looking for houses and putting in offers. But to make this go smoother, you might want to have an agent with VA experience. There are some aspects of homebuying that are unique to VA loans.

To put it simply, your VA loan can only go towards a VA-approved home. This means that the home is move-in ready and can be a single-family home, a VA-approved condo, or some type of modular house. Having a real estate agent with VA experience can help you sort through these kinds of details.

5. VA Appraisal and the Underwriting Process

When you’re under contract, your lender will send out a VA appraiser to determine that the house meets the sales price. These appraisers are not part of your lender’s organization and have been approved by the VA.

After the appraisal, the underwriters will evaluate your income and any other finance-related documents, along with the appraisal. Once everything checks out, you’ll be ready for closing.

6. Closing Time

During closing, you’ll sign the legal documents required. You can also expect to pay your:

  • Closing Costs – Under the VA home loan program, closing costs are limited compared to conventional loans. Typically, they’re around 3-5% of the loan amount.
  • VA Funding Fee – The VA Funding Fee is a one-time payment for a VA home loan. The fee is used to offset the cost of the few loans that go into default. It also reduces the cost to taxpayers and ensures the VA home loan program is there for future generations. The fee can be rolled into your loan amount, which is a great option for many homebuyers. Many sum up the VA Funding Fee as “veterans helping veterans.”

After everything is done, you’ll get the keys to your new home. Then it’s moving time—whew!

Who We Are

Low VA Rates is not only an approved VA lender, but VA loans are our specialty. We have experienced mortgage professionals who have been issuing VA loans for years, so we know the ins and outs of VA mortgage products.

Become one of the millions of veterans who have bought a home with $0 down and a low interest rate—start your application today!

Honoring Military Dogs for National K9 Veterans Day

Dogs have been used in military operations for thousands of years, with some of the oldest accounts tracing back to the Persians, Greeks, and Babylonians.

Though their service in the United States military is more a part of recent history, the contributions of our military dogs is no less important. In fact, today is National K9 Veterans Day, a holiday that honors their service.

At Low VA Rates, we want to pay tribute to this important day, and these important members of our military, by sharing the history of our canine servicemembers.

Early History

The first official use of dogs in the US military dates back to the Second Seminole War. During the war, these dogs were used to try and track members of the Seminole tribe, as well as the escaped slaves they believed to be harboring.

Dogs were also used during the Civil War. The hounds helped guard prisoners as well as send messages.

Additionally, during the Spanish-American War, the Rough Riders, a cavalry unit under Teddy Roosevelt, used dogs to scout in the Cuban jungle. In addition to serving as scouts, these early war dogs helped prevent enemy ambushes

Despite their service in these three wars, military dogs didn’t officially become a part of the US Armed Forces until WWI.

World War I

Interestingly enough, the US was one of the few armies that didn’t already use dogs at the time. France, Britain, Belgium, Germany, and Russia all knew the value that trained dogs brought to the battlefield. It was during WWI that the role of dogs in the US military started to evolve, and this is where Sergeant Stubby made his mark.

Stubby’s WWI story begins at Yale University in July 1917. He was wandering the campus grounds while the members of the 102nd Infantry were training. He would hang around with the soldiers while they did their drills, and this is where Corporal Robert Conroy developed a fondness of him.

At camp, according to the Smithsonian National Museum of American History, Stubby learned the bugle calls, the drills, and even how to give his own version of a salute.

When it came time for the Infantry division to ship over to France, Cpl. Conroy hid Stubby under his overcoat without being detected. After landing in France, Stubby was discovered by Conroy’s commanding officer. Animals were not allowed in camp, but Conroy’s commanding officer (CO) let Stubby stay after the dog gave him a salute.

Stubby served in the trenches in France for 18 months. He suffered some injuries, but he always returned to battle. In the trenches, he provided the much needed morale for the soldiers, but it didn’t end there. Here are some of the heroic actions Stubby performed:

  • After suffering an injury from mustard gas, he became very sensitive to the tiniest traces of gas and learned how to warn his unit of poisonous gas attacks.
  • He could hear the whine of incoming artillery and would let the soldiers know when to duck.
  • He was solely responsible for capturing a German spy. He held onto the soldier until his unit arrived and assisted him.
  • He was great at locating wounded soldiers who had fallen in “no man’s land.”

Stubby came back a celebrity and got to meet three US presidents: Woodrow Wilson, Calvin Coolidge, and Warren G. Harding. Stubby passed away in his sleep in 1926.

World War II

In WWII, dogs were utilized more and even participated in combat during D-Day as paratroopers. During the advance across Europe, the dogs were useful in sniffing out landmines and other traps. They also predicted ambushes from enemy troops.

Chips was one of the more famous dogs to emerge from WWII. He served with the 3rd Infantry Division in North Africa, Italy, France, and Germany.

During the invasion of Sicily, Chips and his handler, Pvt. John P. Rowell, were pinned down by an Italian machine-gun team. The story goes that Chips broke from his handler and jumped into the pillbox where the gunners were and attacked them. The Italian soldiers were forced to jump out of the pillbox and surrender to the US troops.

Chips got a scalp wound and powder burns from the fight, but later that day he helped take 10 Italian prisoners.

Vietnam

As time went on, dogs continued serving with their fellow servicemembers. One of the more popular accounts of Vietnam involved Nemo and his handler, Robert A. Throneburg, an Airman.

The two were on patrol near the Tan Son Nhut Air Base (a Republic of Vietnam Air Force base used by the US) when Nemo became aware of the group of hidden Viet Cong (VC) they had been searching for inside the base. This clipping from the Seventh Air Force News from August 9, 1967 is worth reiterating:

In the silence of darkness, the two sentries walked cautiously forward. Suddenly their search ended. Nemo had alerted them to a group of hidden VC. “Watch him,” said Airman Throneburg. The dog’s muscles tensed for action. “Get him!” — was the next command, and Nemo lunged savagely forward into the enemy’s nest. Airman Throneburg followed close behind.

In the first moments of encounter, Airman Throneburg killed two of the VC. But, before additional security police could reach them, Airman Throneburg was wounded in the shoulder and Nemo’s snout was creased by a bullet. The remaining enemy were soon killed by other security police.

Nemo was credited not only with saving the life of Airman Throneburg, but indirectly prevented further destruction of life and property at Tan Son Nhut.

Throneburg fell unconscious after he was able to call for reinforcements, and Nemo crawled across him to protect his body. Nemo wouldn’t let anyone touch his handler. The veterinarian had to sedate Nemo in order to attend to Thorneburg.

Nemo lost an eye from the fight and received a bullet wound to the nose, but both he and Thorneburg survived.

Iraq & Afghanistan

In our most recent history, dogs have served in explosion detection roles and on assault teams. A dog named Cairo, for example, was on an assault team.

Cairo was on the Navy SEAL’s mission to kill/capture Osama bin Laden. To give you an idea of how valuable an asset a military dog is, Cairo was equipped with strong, flexible body armor and high-tech “doggles,” which are specially-designed goggles for dogs that have night vision and infrared capabilities. So these doggles would even allow a dog like Cairo to see human heat through concrete walls.

Cairo was the only SEAL identified, since the rest of the team is classified.

The Value They Bring

Dogs have proved to be a valuable asset to the military, and the US Armed Forces recognizes their bravery and sacrifice for our country. Nowadays, when a dog is discharged from the military, they become veterans.

In addition, outside of the battlefield, dogs still contribute a lot to the US military. Service dogs can have a very positive impact on wounded soldiers, both mentally and physically. There is a beautiful companionship that exists between service dogs and servicemembers.

So, to honor military dogs both past and present, share your story of serving with a canine companion or let us know in the comments how you plan to celebrate National K9 Veterans Day.

A Historical Overview of Native Americans in the US Military

1944 photograph of Gen. MacArthur with 5 Native American Servicemembers

Native American involvement in US military operations is as old as the military itself. Native Americans have been on this soil since before the US became a country, and they’ve been involved in the US military from the time of General George Washington to today’s conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Some of the involvement was to support the United States’ cause, and sometimes it was in defiance—not only of the government but of other tribes.

Native Americans also have a higher percentage of enlisted servicemembers than any other ethnic group. In fact, as noted by War Department officials during WWII, the military wouldn’t have needed a draft if people had volunteered their services at the rate that American Indians did.

As a significant part of US military history, Native Americans have made many substantial contributions to our country. To honor their service, we want to make these contributions known.

17th Century

Revolutionary War

American Indian involvement in US affairs goes back to before there was even a United States. During the Revolutionary War, some tribes joined with US forces while others sided with the British based on promises to put an end to settlers encroaching on native land.

During this time, many military leaders recognized that American Indians had a lot of valuable skills. Even George Washington could see how they would be an asset when he said in 1778, “I think they can be made of excellent use, as scouts and light troops.”

As we progress through this post, we believe George Washington would be proud of all the contributions that Native Americans have made for the country.

18th Century

War of 1812

The War of 1812 saw tribes splitting their loyalties again between the United States and Great Britain.

For the most part, native tribes formed alliances with Britain because they saw their land being threatened because of the US wanting to expand their territories.

Native Americans played a key role in defending Canada, but the war was ultimately a big loss for them. They were never able to form external alliances again or prevent the American frontier from expanding.

However, two notable chiefs, Red Jacket and Farmer’s Brother, did join up with US forces. Prior to the War of 1812, both had already been honored by George Washington for their part in peace negotiations, which likely led to their decision to side with the US during the War of 1812.

Both Red Jacket and Farmer’s Brother played a pivotal role during the battles of Fort George and Chippewa by leading Seneca factions to assist US troops.

The Civil War

Native Americans played an integral part in the American Civil War, fighting for both the Confederates and the Union.

Their tracking skills proved to be a vital asset during the war, as did their knowledge of how to use the terrain as an advantage in battle. Additionally, many were great scouters. They could effectively locate and report on the enemy, which was vital because it determined the strength of the troops they were reporting on.

During this time, two Native Americans rose to become generals:

  1. Stand Watie (Cherokee) – A passionate Confederate Army general. He was the last Confederate general to surrender.
  2. Ely S. Parker (Seneca) – He joined the Union Army and rose to the rank of lieutenant colonel. He also became Ulysses S. Grant’s military secretary and the first American Indian to be appointed as Commissioner of Indian Affairs.

Spanish-American War

Teddy Roosevelt and his Rough Riders recruited Native Americans and went to Cuba as part of the Spanish-American War.

Additionally, four Native American women (Catholic sisters) from South Dakota worked as nurses for the War Department. They were first stationed in Jacksonville, FL, before transferring to Havana, Cuba.

20th & 21st Centuries

WWI

During this time (and prior), Native Americans were not considered US citizens. When Woodrow Wilson implemented the draft for World War I, this meant that Native Americans were not eligible to be drafted, but that did not stop them from joining.

About 12,000 Native Americans volunteered their service for the US military. Even American allies took notice. Four Native soldiers who served in the 142nd Infantry of the 36th Texas-Oklahoma National Guard Division received the Croix de Guerre from France. This is a medal demonstrating heroic deeds.

Also during this time, 14 American Indian women volunteered their services for the Army Nurse Corps. Two of the 14 served overseas in France: Cora E. Sinnard (Oneida) and Charlotte Edith Anderson Monture (Mohawk).

WWII

After WWI, Native Americans were granted citizenship, which happened gradually:

  1. In 1919, US citizenship was granted to American Indian veterans if they wanted it.
  2. The Indian Citizenship Act of 1924, also called the Snyder Act, gave all American Indians citizenship.
  3. The Nationality Act of 1940 further defined what US citizenship entailed for Native Americans, as well as all other people who were born in the continental US and its territories. This act clearly defined that Native Americans were US citizens.

This meant that when the United States entered WWII, Native Americans were now eligible for the draft, but as history has shown us, this didn’t really matter. Native Americans had more servicemembers per capita than any other ethnic group and they served in both the European and Pacific regions.

There are two popular accounts that came out of WWII:

  1. The 6 Flag Raisers at Iwo Jima

    In this iconic photo, one of the six United States Marines is Ira Hayes (Pima). He is depicted on the far left. This brought Hayes a lot of unwanted attention and popularity.

    Unfortunately, Hayes descended into alcoholism and died on January 24, 1955. On February 2, 1955, he was buried at Arlington National Cemetery with full military honors.

  1. Code Talkers

    The code talkers played an integral role during the war. This project was actually put into play during WWI and was pioneered by the Cherokee and Choctaw. Choctaw was the primary language used during WWI.

    In WWII, code talkers were used in Europe, North Africa, and the Pacific. Navajo code talkers, in particular, played a significant role as part of US operations in the Pacific Theater.

    The code used the Navajo language and utilized poetic circumlocution (speech used to circle around the idea rather than stating it directly). For example, a dive bomber would be designated as the Navajo word chicken hawk and a grenade would be the Navajo word for potato.

    That way, even if someone did speak Navajo, they wouldn’t understand what was being communicated. Only 29 code talkers (all Marines) were part of this secretive mission and this precise code was extremely monumental for the United States’ success over Japan.

    The code was so secretive that, even after the war, the code talkers were not allowed to talk about it in case the United States needed it for the future (and they did in Korea and Vietnam). It went unrecognized for many years.

    Unfortunately, these men came back to a country that marginalized them. Their duty, sacrifice, and efforts in preserving the freedom of this country weren’t enough to gain respect during that time.

    Chester Nez, the last of the Navajo code talkers (died June 4, 2014), put his efforts into preserving the memory of the Navajo code talkers before his death. For further reading, there’s a nice tribute from the New York Times that talks about his life and his time in WWII.

    On June 18, 2002, Congress passed the Code Talkers Recognition Act. It recognized the important part that these soldiers played in “performing highly successful communications operations of a unique type that greatly assisted in saving countless lives and in hastening the end of World War I and World War II.”

Additionally, 800 brave Native American women volunteered their service for the war effort. They served in units such as the Army Corps, the Army Nurse Corps, and as WAVES (Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service).

A few notable Native American servicewomen that served in WWII are:

  • Elva Tapedo Wale (Kiowa)
  • Corporal Bernice Firstshoot Bailey
  • Beatrice Coffey Thayer
  • Alida Whipple Fletcher (Sioux)

Korean War

Many Native American veterans continued their service during the Korean War. During this period, three notable Native Americans served and were Medal of Honor recipients and high-ranking officers:

  1. Joseph J. “Jocko” Clark (Cherokee) – He was the first Native American to graduate from the Naval Academy. As the vice admiral in charge the Navy’s 7th Fleet, he led what he termed “Cherokee Strikes,” which were behind-the-lines raids. These raids involved employing aircraft from the Navy, Marine Corps and Air Force.
  2. Major General Hal L. Muldrow (Choctaw) – He commanded the 45th Infantry Division’s artillery.
  3. Otwa Autry (Creek) – He became a brigadier general and led the 189th Field Artillery Battalion of the 45th Infantry Division.

Vietnam War

Despite the unpopularity of the Vietnam War, approximately 42,000 Native Americans served, and 90% of them were volunteers.

The Gulf War through Today

Since Vietnam, Native servicemembers have continued to serve in high numbers and have participated in the Gulf War, Iraqi Operation Freedom, and the conflicts in Afghanistan.

On a melancholy note, the first female soldier killed in Iraq was Native American. Lori Piestewa was a Hopi Indian and is believed to be the first Native American woman to die for her country. Her convoy was attacked in 2003 and she died from the injuries that she received from the attack.

Piestewa has been awarded the Purple Heart and the Prisoner of War Medal. Additionally, Piestewa Peak in Arizona is named in her honor.

In Recognition

Native servicemembers have served throughout all the military branches since the military began. The first Native American to receive the Congressional Medal of Honor was a Pawnee member of the US Army’s Indian Scouts unit in 1869. Since then, 27 American Indian or Alaska Native servicemembers have received the Medal of Honor. Some of them saved their comrades and died as a result.

We want to thank all Native American veterans and current Native servicemembers for what you’ve done for this country. We honor all of our past and present veterans and our current servicemembers for the sacrifices they make.

If you feel like we missed an opportunity to recognize any Native American military contributions or individuals, please let us know in the comments! We want to hear all stories of our servicemembers.

The Actual Savings of a VA Home Loan

Home on a pile of cash next to a calculator, representing the savings of a VA home loan
VA home loans are as good as it gets for a mortgage. On average, you can save about $18,813.99!

With no down payments, reduced closing costs (or none at all), lenient qualifications, and lower interest rates, VA loans are very appealing. Of course, only veterans and current servicemembers are eligible for these great benefits, and why not? You’ve earned them.

We can always talk about how great VA loans are, but let’s do something else. Let’s go over just how the numbers break down. In this post, we’re going to take the national average in regards to:

  • Premium Mortgage Insurance (PMI)
  • Interest Rate (Conventional vs. VA)
  • Property Taxes*
  • Home Insurance*
  • Closing Costs
  • Down Payment
  • VA Funding Fee

Additionally, this post is geared towards first time homebuyers. Down payments and VA funding fees differ if you’re a repeat homebuyer.

*Property taxes and home insurance are determined by the state and county where you reside. The percentages and amounts used in this post are only used to illustrate an approximate monthly mortgage payment.

Monthly Payments: Conventional Loan vs. VA Loan

For this post, we took the national average VA loan amount ($254,870) and used it to compare both conventional loans and VA loans. You can find this amount by clicking on “FY 2017” on this site.

The tables below show how both a conventional and a VA monthly mortgage payment breaks down.

Monthly Charges for a 30-Year Conventional Loan of $254,870

Monthly Charges National Average Cost
Private Mortgage Insurance (PMI) 0.5% (until June 2026) $101.95
Interest Rate 4.32% + Monthly Principal $1,213.70
Property Taxes 1.25% $265.49
Home Insurance 0.35% $74.34
Total Monthly Mortgage Payment = $1,655.48

Monthly Charges for a 30-Year VA Loan of $254,870

Monthly Charges National Average Cost
Private Mortgage Insurance (PMI) N/A $0
Interest Rate 4.05% + Monthly Principal $1,224
Property Taxes 1.25% $265.49
Home Insurance 0.35% $74.34
Total = $1,563.83

The key number to look at here is the PMI. A VA loan does not require PMI so you’re saving $101.95 a month with your VA benefits. Also, notice what that PMI does in the long run. It’s estimated that the borrower is paying that PMI until June 2026, so let’s calculate how much they’re paying from January 2018–June 2026.

  • $101.95 x 102 months = $10,398.90

Wow! That’s $10,398.90 that can be avoided with a VA loan.

One-Time Expenses: Conventional Loan vs. VA Loan

Now let’s look at the one-time expenses when you close on a loan.

One-Time Expenses for a 30-Year Conventional Loan of $254,870

Expenses National Average Cost
Closing Costs $3,700 $3,700
Down Payment 4% $10,194.80
Total in One-Time Expenses = $13,894.80

One-Time Expenses for a 30-Year VA Loan of $254,870

Expenses National Average Cost
Closing Costs N/A $0
Down Payment N/A $0
VA Funding Fee 2.15% $5,479.71
Total = $5,479.71

As you can see, closing out on a VA loan is very beneficial. With a conventional loan, you need to raise a lot of funds in order to get into your new home.

Let’s talk about closing costs. The Department of Veterans Affairs only allows certain closing costs to be charged to a veteran homebuyer. However, these closing costs can actually be covered by the seller. For this example, we’re assuming the closing costs are covered.

With the VA Funding Fee as the only expense, you can see the significant difference between a conventional loan and a VA loan. It’s a difference of $8,415.09 at closing, which is very beneficial for a first time homebuyer who may not have the funds for a down payment.

Hypothetical Closing Costs

For our example, we assumed the closing costs were paid by the seller, but what if in your case they aren’t?

The term itself, closing costs, is very broad. There are all kinds of fees that happen during the finalization process. But here’s the good news. The VA only allows certain closing costs, meaning the seller and lender are limited in what they can charge at closing.

Let’s take a look at what is allowed, assuming the seller doesn’t cover the closing costs:

  • Origination Charge – For processing, underwriting, and origination, the VA allows the lender to charge up to 1% of the loan amount.
  • Appraisal – An appraisal is required and the VA sets the appraisal, not the lender. Typically, this is around $525, but it depends on which state you live in.
  • Credit Report – A credit report may be charged by your lender for accessing your credit information, and this shouldn’t exceed $50.

Now, let’s run through these charges:

  • 1% of the $254,870 loan amount equals $2,548.70
  • An appraisal fee of $525
  • Credit report of $50
  • Total amount of $3,123.70

With the VA Funding Fee of $5,479.71 and the $3,123.70 in closing costs, your total amount comes to $8,603.41. This is still less than the $13,894.80 for the conventional loan—$5,291.39 less.

Resource

The example for this post was done so by using the U.S. Mortgage Calculator. Here you can crunch the numbers and see things for yourself. This calculator is great because it factors in taxes, insurance, and PMI.

Recap

With no PMI, no down payment, and reduced closing costs YOU COULD SAVE $18,813.99!

VA loans are the best on the market, and they make getting into a home a lot easier.

Are you ready to get started today? Even if you’re just curious about what we offer, contact us here at Low VA Rates. Explore our website or call us at 866-569-8272 to speak to a mortgage professional today.

A Complete List of VA Benefits

A member of the military holds the American flag over his head in celebration of his VA benefits

There are many benefits offered to veterans through the Department of Veterans Affairs. In fact, there are so many that a lot of veterans aren’t even sure what’s out there or what they qualify for.

The goal of this post is to create awareness and invite you to take advantage of the benefits you deserve for your honorable service.

We’ve compiled a list of the veteran benefits offered through the Department of Veterans Affairs and have highlighted what the benefit is, what requirements there are, and how to apply for them.

Here’s what’s covered in this post:

Infographic overview of all VA benefits

Veterans Disability Compensation

You may be eligible for tax-free monthly benefits if you have disabilities, medical conditions, or injuries that were incurred or aggravated during your active military service. Veterans disability compensation is available regardless of when or where you served.

VA Requirements for Veteran Disability Compensation

  • You have a physical or mental disability
  • You’ve had an injury or disease from a service-related experience
  • You experienced an event in service that caused an injury or disease
  • A link exists between your current disability and the event, injury, or disease from your military service

Here’s a list of documents that you can submit with your claim if you have them:

  • Your DD-214 (or equivalent)
  • Records of service treatment and any supporting documents
  • Private medical records and hospital reports

Surviving Spouses and Dependents Compensation

In addition to the disability benefits available to veterans, surviving spouses or dependent children may also be eligible for compensation benefits through the Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (DIC). This financial benefit is awarded to those who have experienced an economic loss through:

  • The death of a servicemember during military service
  • A veteran’s death that was caused by a service-connected disability
  • The death (not service-connected) of a veteran who was rated by the VA as being totally disabled from a service-connected disability for a period of time before death

How to Apply

There are two ways to apply for compensation:

  1. Apply online with the Department of Veterans Affairs using your eBenefits account, or
  2. Contact an accredited Veterans Service Organization for a representative that can help you submit your claim.

If you have any questions, you can contact the VA toll-free by calling 1 (800) 827-1000.

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Veterans Health Care

Veterans can get great health care, and many qualify for VA health care. With over 1,200 sites, the Veterans Health Administration is the largest health care system and is typically ranked as one of the nation’s top healthcare providers.

Here is a list of services that all enrolled veterans have access to:

  • Preventive care
  • Primary care
  • Specialty care
  • Prescriptions
  • Mental health care
  • Home health care
  • Geriatrics and extended care
  • Medical equipment/prosthetics

Additionally, female veterans can receive:

  • Breast and cervical cancer screenings
  • Prenatal care
  • Maternity care coverage
  • Other gender-specific services

VA Requirements for Health Care

In order to be eligible for veterans healthcare, you must have served in active military, naval, or air service. Dishonorable discharge does not qualify, but any other separation does.

Application requirements include:

  • Your DD-214
  • Your additional health insurance information, including coverage through a spouse/domestic partner
  • Your financial information, including the previous calendar year’s gross income

How to Apply

Submit an application form with the Department of Veterans Affairs. From there, the VA will send you written notification of your enrollment status.

The VA also provides a Health Benefits Explorer tool online so you can check if you’re eligible for health care.

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Education & Vocational Training Programs

Veterans can take advantage of higher education and other vocational training programs. These VA education benefits can go towards:

  • Traditional degrees
  • Non-college degrees
  • On-the-job training
  • Apprenticeships
  • Flight training
  • Online career training  programs

These benefits can help cover the costs of tuition, housing, training, or any other education-related expenses. Some veterans use their benefits to get a second college degree, if they have enough remaining entitlement from their GI Bill. The second degree might be in another field, or it might be an AA, BA, or MA in the same general field of study.

You can receive your benefits under one of the following programs offered by the VA:

The Two Types of GI Bill

The GI Bill program, which supplies education benefits to veterans, is split into two types: the Montgomery GI Bill and the Post-9/11 GI Bill. If you served before 9/11/2001, you may qualify for the Montgomery GI Bill. If you served after 9/11/2001, you may qualify for the Post-9/11 GI Bill.

If you started your service before 9/11/2001 and continued to serve after that date, you may qualify for both types of GI Bill, and you’ve likely been asked to pick one or the other. Each program has its own requirements and uses.

Chapter 30, the Montgomery GI Bill (MGIB), can give educational benefits to veterans for up to 36 months. You can use it for degrees, certificates, apprenticeships, on-the-job trainings, and correspondence courses. You can also use it for remedial, deficiency, or refresher courses if they’re approved.

If you bought into MGIB, you may remember that you were required to pay $100 per month during your first 12 months of active duty. Your benefits will expire 10 years after you’re discharged from the military, even if you’re enrolled in education when they expire.

The Post-9/11 GI Bill doesn’t require a buy-in payment. You simply become eligible after 90 days of post-9/11 active duty, whether you were in the US military or under an order to active duty from the Reserves or National Guard.

In addition, you can be eligible for the Post-9/11 GI Bill because of National Guard duty in which you were responding to a national emergency or were organizing, administering, recruiting, instructing, or training for the National Guard.

You can see a helpful summary of the two different types of GI Bill in this video from Low VA Rates.

The Transfer of Post-911 GI Bill Benefits to Dependents

You can transfer the benefits of the Post-911 GI Bill to your dependents. If you do, it can pay for these expenses:

  • Tuition and fees (paid to the educational institution directly). The payment amounts will be based on the maximum tuition rate at a public institution of higher education in your state.
  • If institutions participate in the Yellow Ribbon program, extra funds may be available to cover all or part of the tuition that exceeds the maximum tuition rate. This includes tuition at private schools and out-of-state tuition at public schools. 
  • Books and supplies for each year. Benefits can be up to $1,000 a year.
  • Housing and living expenses. These benefits are paid every month and are based on the school’s zip code.

VA Requirements for Educational and Vocational Benefits

  • Copy of your DD-214
  • Documentation of enlistment incentive or College Fund a.k.a. “Kicker”
  • For housing, you must be enrolled in school for more than half-time (7 credits minimum)

How to Apply

Before applying, the VA recommends that you determine which benefits program is right for you. They provide a chart to assist you.

When you decide which program best fits your needs, you can apply online with the Department of Veterans Affairs. Make sure to plan ahead because VA educational benefits can take a few weeks to process.

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Employment Services

Transitioning from your service to the civilian world can be tough. The VA offers benefits, resources, and services to help with your transition.

In addition to the Educational & Vocational Training benefits, the VA provides other pathways for you to explore:

The U.S. Department of Labor offers the following online resources to veterans, which you can use to help you look for work and understand your career prospects.

  • CareerOneStop: Use the veterans section to search for jobs, look at your training and education options, and find other benefits and assistance for veterans, such as housing benefits.
  • My Next Move: On this website, you can search for jobs that are similar to the type of work you did in the military. You can also search by keywords and industries.

Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment Program

The benefits of the Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment (VR&E) program are available to veterans who are rated by the VA as at least 20% disabled. Benefits can help you prepare for, search for, and keep employment. Also, for veterans with disabilities that prevent them from working, the VR&E program can help to improve their situation and give them more independence.

Benefits include:

  • An evaluation of your employment interests, abilities, and skills
  • Career counseling
  • The development of a rehabilitation plan
  • Help in getting you ready to work
  • Available job training
  • Assistance searching for employment
  • Assistance creating a resume
  • Case management, medical referrals, and counseling
  • Services to enhance independent living for veterans who are unable to work
  • A monthly subsistence allowance

To be eligible for the VR&E program:

  • Veterans must have received a discharge that was not dishonorable and must have a disability rating from the VA of 10% or more. or a memorandum rating of 20% or more.
  • Servicemembers currently on active duty who expect to receive a discharge that is not  dishonorable must meet any of the following:
    • Have a VA memorandum rating of at least 20% disabled OR
    • Get a proposed Disability Evaluation System (DES) rating from the VA of 20% or more OR
    • Get a referral to a Physical Evaluation Board (PEB) OR
    • Participate in the Integrated Disability Evaluation System (IDES)

Your eligibility usually extends for 12 years after the date you were discharged, or the date you received your service-connected disability rating. The expiration will be based on whichever date is later. If you have a disability that prevents you from working, your rehabilitation counselor can extend your eligibility further.

There are two ways to apply to the VR&E program:

  • Log in to your eBenefits account. You’ll need an account with Premium Access to apply online. Click on “Apply.” Then, under “Education and Training,” click on “Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment Benefits.” Follow the instructions on that page.
  • Print out and complete VA Form 28-1900. Mail it to your nearest VA Regional Office. Add “Attention: Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment” to the address.

If the VA decides you are eligible for the program, they’ll invite you to an orientation at your nearest VA Regional Office.

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Home Loans

The VA home loan program is designed to help veterans become homeowners. The program offers many exclusive benefits for veterans and current servicemembers. These benefits are not offered to civilians and can’t be matched by conventional loans. VA loans help supply homes for veterans by making homes easier to buy.

Some of the key benefits of VA loans are that they:

  • No requirement for a down payment or mortgage insurance
  • Lower interest rates
  • Reduced closing costs (or none at all)
  • Lenient credit requirements that aren’t as strict as they would be for conventional loans

The three main types of guaranteed loans that VA approved lenders offer are:

  1. Purchase Loans
  2. Cash-Out Refinance Loans
  3. Interest Rate Reduction Refinance Loans (IRRRL)

Homes for Disabled Veterans

If you are a disabled veteran with service-connected disabilities, the VA offers grants to help accommodate your home. The grants can help cover things such as installing ramps, widening doors, or making any other modifications to help you live more independently.

There are three types of grants:

  1. Specially Adapted Housing
  2. Special Housing Adaptation
  3. Temporary Residence Adaptation

To apply, you need to fill out VA Form 26-4555 and submit it to the Department of Veterans Affairs.

Native American Veterans

The Native American Direct Loan (NADL) is put in place for Native American veterans who want to live on Federal Trust land. For eligible Native American veterans, it provides a direct loan for purchase, construction, or improvement on a home.

What Happens When a VA Loan Becomes Delinquent?

In the case that a VA loan becomes delinquent, the VA works with the borrower to try and avoid a foreclosure. This can include providing financial counseling or direct intervention with the lender if needed. But, VA loans in 2013 had the lowest foreclosure rate compared to all other types of loans, and this is still the trend today.

If you have difficulty making your mortgage payments, you can call 877-827-3702 to speak with a VA Loan Technician.

VA Requirements for Home Loans

  • Suitable credit
  • Sufficient income
  • Certificate of Eligibility (COE) to show lenders you qualify for the VA home loan benefits
  • Form DD-214
  • Certification demonstrating you’ll occupy the home

For your COE, most VA approved lenders have access to the VA’s automated system and can obtain your COE for you.

The Process of Buying a Home Using a VA Loan

Here are the typical steps that you’ll follow when buying a home using a VA loan:

  • Apply for a Certificate of Eligibility (COE), which your lender can do for you.
  • Find a house to purchase.
  • Complete a purchase contract that includes the condition that you’ll be approved for a VA loan.
  • Apply for the VA loan with a lender.
  • Get a VA appraisal of the house.
  • Get the decision from the lender on whether or not the VA loan is approved.
  • Go to the loan closing, at which the lender or an attorney will explain the loan details and you’ll sign the mortgage and related documents.

Requirements for Specially Adapted Housing (SAH) Grants

  • The VA determines that you are eligible for SAH benefits
  • The proposed property is considered medically feasible for you to live in
  • There are no discrepancies between the cost of the proposed housing and your income and expenses
  • The property is suitable for your needs
  • You have proof of ownership so the property can be adapted

How to Apply

If you’re interested in purchasing a home using your VA benefits, you can contact a VA-approved lender. Also, click here to learn about what you can do before starting the application process. This will help save you time and will make the application process go a lot smoother.

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Help for Homeless Veterans

Homeless veterans, or veterans at risk of becoming homeless, should contact a local VA medical center. You can call 877-424-3838 or go to va.gov/homeless. The VA can help you get the help you need to get you back on your feet.

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Pension

The VA pension is a needs-based benefit there to make life more secure for veterans and their loved ones. It’s geared toward wartime veterans (65 and older) who may have limited or no income or who have permanent and total non-service-connected disability.

Veterans’ Survivors Pension

Spouses and dependent children of wartime veterans may also qualify for the Survivors pension if they meet the net worth and income requirements set by Congress.

Surviving spouses and dependent children who are housebound (or cannot perform the activities of daily living without aid) may be eligible for the Additional Pension Allowance.

VA Requirements for Pension

  • Your proof of income and information on your net worth (bank statements and pay stubs)
  • Your private medical records
  • Any medical records held at a federal facility (for example, your records from visits to a VA hospital)
  • Completed applications such as the VA Form 21-527EZ for the Veterans Pension and the VA Form 21-534EZ for the Survivors Pension
  • If applicable, VA Form 21-2680 for the Additional Pension Allowance

How to Apply

The VA recommends for you to file a Fully Developed Claim (FDC), as it is the fastest way to obtain pension benefits.

The typical steps are:

  • Selecting the type of pension and gathering the required evidence
  • Collecting military medical records and private medical records
  • Confirming there’s no more evidence
  • Submitting your application*

*How you submit your application will depend on the type of pension you are applying for. For specific instructions, visit the VA’s pension page and click on the “How to Apply” tab below the slideshow box, towards the right side of your computer screen.

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Life Insurance

Life insurance is a great benefit that’s offered through the VA that provides coverage for veterans, servicemembers, and their families. You can choose from a variety of life insurance options:

For most servicemembers, SGLI is automatic, but VA Form SGLV 8286 could be used to designate beneficiaries. It can also reduce, decline, or restore your coverage.

SGLI can also be converted to VGLI. The VA supplies you a chart so you can see when you should apply.

There’s also the Accelerated Benefits Option. This allows anyone who is terminally ill with less than nine months to live to access their insurance. Typically, you can access about half the value of your policy.

How to Apply

You’ll need to decide which life insurance policy best suits your needs. The VA provides decision-making tools that can help you in your decision.

After you make a decision, you can get started here.

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Memorial Benefits

A benefit that a lot of individuals don’t know about are the VA memorial benefits. The VA provides these benefits to honor and pay a lasting tribute to those who have served and sacrificed their lives.

There are 135 VA national cemeteries located in 40 states and Puerto Rico, and the department is looking to increase this number so that veterans and eligible family members can be close to home.

Additionally, the VA offers the benefit of a final resting place for eligible spouses as well as dependents. Click here to learn more about eligibility.

Burial in a VA national cemetery includes:

  • Opening and closing of the grave
  • Burial of cremated remains or placement in an above-ground vault
  • A government-furnished grave liner
  • Ongoing care of the gravesite
  • Inscription on the headstone or grave marker
  • A burial flag
  • A Presidential Memorial Certificate
  • Transportation of the flower arrangements to the gravesite

The VA also provides some benefits to veterans who choose to be buried in a private cemetery, including:

  • A government headstone, marker, or medallion
  • A burial flag
  • A Presidential Memorial Certificate

Survivors may also be entitled to VA burial allowances for a partial reimbursement of the burial costs.

VA Requirements for Memorial Benefits

All you need are the discharge papers to verify eligibility.

How to Apply

Check out the Department of Veterans Affairs’ memorial benefits page to learn about what you need to do to prepare for any memorial benefit.

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Lesser-Known Benefits

Here are a few veterans benefits you may have never heard about. See if any apply to you!

  • Free Credit Repair: With errors in as many as 70% of credit reports, veterans need an advocate to help them repair their credit. Visit this website for a free consultation and trustworthy free services.
  • Free Sporting Events and Concerts: The Veteran Tickets Foundation is a non-profit that provides free event tickets to veterans. The organization helps veterans attend events that can lower stress levels and bring families closer together.
  • Shades of Green: Shades of Green is a resort that provides an affordable vacation experience for military servicemembers, veterans, and their families. It’s part of Walt Disney World Resort, with a PGA golf course on either side.
  • Free or Discounted Admission to Theme Parks: At certain times, active duty military personnel and veterans can receive free admission to high-quality attractions, such as Legoland. Some parks offer discounted military tickets year-round.
  • Free Meals: As a veteran or active duty servicemember, you can get a free meal on Veterans Day from popular restaurant chains. Restaurants include IHOP, Applebee’s, Olive Garden, and many more.
  • Lowe’s Military Discount Program: Get a discount on your building and construction materials at Lowe’s. You’ll sign up online and verify your military service.

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Conclusion

As you can see, the Department of Veterans Affairs offers many benefits for all of you who have served and sacrificed your time and your lives. We hope this post was helpful and that you’ll take advantage of the benefits that you’ve earned and deserve.

For further questions regarding any of these benefits, contact your local VA office.

Prepare for a VA Loan with a Purchase Checklist

Image: Couple standing in front of home. Text: Mortgage Checklist

How can you make sure you’re ready to apply for a VA loan? In this post, we’re going to cover the stuff you and your lender will need when you apply for a VA loan. Having this checklist will make this process more of an experience and it can save you from a potential headache.

The VA Purchase Checklist

Personal Information

You’re already going to have most of your personal information such as your name, age, and address. But another thing you can make sure you have before starting the application process is making a copy of your driver’s license.

If you don’t have a driver’s license, make sure you get a copy of your government issued ID. Having a copy of your identification is a great way to help the process along.

Military Information

What do we mean by military information? In order to eligible for a VA loan, you, of course, have to be a veteran or a current servicemember. Your VA lender is going to need:

  • DD Form 214 (or DD214) – Most servicemembers know how important this document is and you probably have it stored away in a special place. But, if by chance you can’t find it, it isn’t necessary for the application. However, having it does save a lot of time and makes your experience go a lot smoother.
  • Certificate of Eligibility – This is something you won’t have lying around. This is a document that you can obtain from the Department of Veterans Affairs, or we here at Low VA Rates can help you obtain it. As an approved VA lender, we can access an automated system that’s been set up by the VA. Your DD214 actually has information that makes it easier for us to track down your Certificate of Eligibility.

If you’re active duty, we’ll need to get your Statement of Service from your commanding officer.

Employment/Income Verification

Another thing your VA lender will need is employment verification or income verification. If you’re employed here are the things you can gather up:

  • Two years of W2s
  • Tax returns (if you’re self employed you’ll need to provide at least two years, but oftentimes, three years of tax returns)
  • 30 days of pay stubs

Your VA Lender will need your income documented if you’re not employed. So if you are living off pensions or veterans benefits, we’ll need awards letters from the VA or Social Security (whichever applies).

And if you’re living off of investments, we’ll need statements that show you’re getting a continuous flow of money each month.

Liabilities

Most loan officers will have you list out your liabilities. Why? Because your VA lender will need to know if you can afford the home you’re interested in buying.

This can include: credit card balances, car payments, student loans, etc.

But one important one that most people forget to account for is child care costs. Imagine you’re about to close on your loan and then the underwriter comes across undocumented child care costs. This will throw off your application completely.

If you’re working with a VA lender who doesn’t ask about child care costs, you might want to be skeptical. There’s even a letter out there you can sign. It’s a statement about child care costs. So this one is very important to keep in mind, and your lender should ask about it.

Assets

What’s great about the VA loan is that you don’t need to bring any money to closing. If done correctly, it’s a no money down, no cash out of pocket transaction.

Work with the experts. The seller can cover some of the closing costs and your lender (hopefully us) can help cover them too.
So why should you provide assets? Even though there’s no money down, having assets will make you look stronger as a borrower. If you provide proof of assets, the approval process can go a lot smoother for you. This can be:

  • Two months of bank statements
  • Investment statements
  • And if you own real-estate there’s a form you can fill out that lists your properties

Property Information

Your lender should ask you about the type of property you’re interested in. If you’re dealing with a novice VA lender, they might overlook this information, which can lead to problems later in the mortgage process. That’s because property type affects some of the things you need to consider:

  • Not every condo qualifies with a VA loan
  • Inspections have to be done if you’re looking to buy in a rural area and the property has a well or a septic tank
  • Also, any additional information needs to be supplied such as a property having a private gravel road that the city doesn’t maintain

Final Thought

When you work with an expert VA lender like Low VA Rates, you can be assured we’ll go through the checklist with you. That way there are no surprises and you can get into your home with confidence.

We’re also going to link you to a PDF of our Purchase Application so you can see the checklist for yourself.

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*Annual savings calculator based on 2015 monthly average savings extrapolated year-to-date.