News From Our Blog

VA Home Loans Can Help Servicemembers and Veterans Purchase, Refinance, or Adapt a Home

The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) offers a variety of home loan programs for active duty servicemembers, veterans, and National Guard and Reserve members: 

  • Purchase Loans help purchase a home at a competitive interest rate often without requiring a downpayment or private mortgage insurance.
  • Cash Out Refinance Loans take cash out of your home equity to pay off debt, fund school, or make home improvements.
  • Interest Rate Reduction Refinance Loan can help you obtain a lower interest rate by refinancing an existing VA loan.
  • Native American Direct Loans help eligible Native American veterans finance the purchase, construction, or improvement of homes on Federal Trust Land, or reduce the interest rate on a VA loan.
  • Adapted Housing Grants help veterans with a permanent and total service-connected disability purchase or build an adapted home or to modify an existing home to account for their disability.

These programs are not one-time benefits - they can be reused.

Learn more about home loans for veterans and servicemembers.

Changes to Federal Benefits After the Supreme Court’s Ruling on the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA)

On June 26, 2013, the U.S. Supreme Court issued an opinion on the case United States v. Windsor (PDF). They ruled that Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act (PDF), which said “marriage” and “spouse” only applied to heterosexual unions, was unconstitutional.

In response to this ruling, President Obama directed the Attorney General to “work with other members of my Cabinet to review all relevant federal statutes to ensure this decision, including its implications for Federal benefits and obligations, is implemented swiftly and smoothly.”

A number of federal agencies have released information about changes to federal programs and benefits as a result of the Supreme Court’s decision:

Taxes - The Department of Justice and Internal Revenue Service (IRS) ruled that “same-sex couples, legally married in jurisdictions that recognize their marriages, will be treated as married for federal tax purposes. The ruling applies regardless of whether the couple lives in a jurisdiction that recognizes same-sex marriage or a jurisdiction that does not recognize same-sex marriage.”

Social Security Benefits - The Social Security Administration now recognizes same-sex marriages for purposes of determining benefits.

Medicare - All beneficiaries in private Medicare plans now have access to equal coverage when it comes to care in a nursing home where their spouse lives.

U.S. Visas for Same-Sex Spouses - U.S. embassies and consulates will process visa applications for same-sex marriages the same as for opposite gender spouses.

Benefits for Uniformed Servicemembers - The Department of Defense will extend benefits to same-sex spouses of uniformed service members and civilian employees.

Benefits for Federal Employees (PDF) - The Office of Personnel Management is now able to provide benefits to legally married same-sex spouses of federal employees and annuitants.

For the most up-to-date information on other government programs that will change as a result of the ruling, please visit the agency website.  If you don’t know the agency, you can browse by program.

Read this note in Spanish.

How to Estimate Your Social Security Benefits

Whether you’re getting close to retirement or planning for the future, you can estimate your Social Security benefits.

The estimator gives you an idea of what your monthly Social Security benefits would be, based on your current record of Social Security earnings. Your actual benefit amount cannot be determined until you apply for benefits. 

As you plan for your retirement, keep in mind that you’ll need 70-90 percent of your pre-retirement earnings to maintain your standard of living when you stop working. Social Security benefits will only make up a part of this percentage and should be supplemented by a pension, savings, and/or investments. Check out 10 Ways to Prepare for Retirement.

Low-Income Families Can Get Help Paying for Phone Service

The Lifeline program helps low-income households get telephone service by providing discounts that average $9.25 a month on one basic phone service (landline or wireless).

In order to enroll in Lifeline, potential subscribers must demonstrate their eligibility by showing proof of income or participation in a qualifying program.

Learn more about Lifeline and find out if you’re eligible.

Service Members and Veterans Can Apply Online for Benefits

eBenefits from the Department of Veterans Affairs and Department of Defense is the place where service members, veterans, and their families can find out what benefits they’re eligible for and apply online. They can also check the status of benefits, access documents, and more.

Learn more about eBenefits and register for an account to apply for benefits today.