What Is the VA?

The U.S Department of Veterans Affairs, commonly referred to as the VA, has long been an amazing resource and pillar of support for veterans and their families.

From health care services to VA-backed home loans, this government agency provides service members both past and present with the tools needed to be reintroduced into civilian life. This being said, many individuals still underestimate the wide scope of assistance the VA offers.

Here is everything you need to know about the VA and the lenders who work with them to provide veterans with the best resources and support possible.

What does the VA do?

As AllGov explains, the first attempts by the federal government to dispense benefits to soldiers began during the Revolutionary War. What started as providing specialized hospitals and financial support for service members only grew in proportion to the increasing veteran population.

Today, the VA provides millions of American veterans and their families with health care services, benefits programs and access to national cemeteries. Helping veterans get back on their feet after returning home and making sure their dependents are taken care of is just one way the government shows their appreciation for their service.

While much of the VA's programs and benefits are accessed and managed online, the department also employs more than a quarter-million people at their own medical centers, nursing homes and benefits offices. No matter if veterans need medical care or help accessing their benefits, the VA provides the resources to help and are easy to contact.

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs official website outlines their main areas of expertise in:

  • Helping service members determine which benefits they are eligible for.
  • Teaching family members of veterans and caretakers of survivors about their benefits.
  • Planning burials in a VA national cemetery as well as ordering memorial items.
  • Providing career resources to veterans and assistance with applying for vocational rehabilitation services.
  • Assisting with the application for disability and monthly payments.
  • Providing VA life insurance for Veterans, service members and families.
  • Determining eligibility for a VA-backed home loan.
  • Managing GI Bills and educational benefits for veterans.
  • Distributing Veteran ID cards.
  • Applying for VA health care and accessing services.
  • Filing claims for disability compensation.
"A VA home loan is easier to qualify for than other mortgages to help veterans on their path to homeownership."

What is a VA home loan?

Perhaps one of the most well-known offerings from the VA is their home loan. Veterans and other service members (and their families) may be eligible for this special loan backed by the VA. The Balance explained, rather than issuing loans themselves, the VA pledges to repay about a quarter of every loan it guarantees in the event the borrower defaults.

This guarantee by the VA is appealing to lenders, as it's seen as having less risk and they therefore offer competitive rates and other benefits to veterans. For instance, a VA loan requires no down payment. Without needing a significant amount of money upfront, purchasing a home can be more affordable.

VA loans also have competitive interest rates that are usually lower than conventional rates. The entire application process is streamlined once a veteran or dependent determines their eligibility (which the VA can help with). All together, a VA home loan is easier to qualify for than other mortgages to help veterans on their path to homeownership.

What can a VA home loan be used for?

VA home loans can be used for more than just purchasing your first home. According to Military Benefits, lenders also approve VA home loans for multi-unit properties, condominiums and townhouses, as well as manufactured (mobile homes). It's important to note that some lenders may be hesitant to provide funding for a mobile home since it's considered a depreciating property, so always check beforehand with your bank or the VA.

A VA home loan can also be used to improve properties and increase their value. These are commonly referred to as VA rehab loans. This allows veterans to purchase homes in need of some TLC and make improvements to increase their value. This could mean adding thermal windows and doors, updating the heating and cooling systems and/or upgrading the insulation to be more energy efficient.

Basically, if a veteran or other eligible individual is going to be living in the property or enhancing it, they can benefit from a VA home loan.

On the flip side, Military Benefits also list some projects and properties a VA home loan cannot be used for. They include:

  • Properties in a foreign country.
  • A farm or vacant land (new construction is permitted but comes with additional challenges).
  • A cooperatively owned apartment.
  • Investment properties, vacation homes or second homes.
  • A business loan.

Who offers VA home loans?

The VA does not dispense their home loans themselves. Instead, they allow mortgage lenders to offer them while following their general guidelines for eligibility. Because of this, not all VA loans are the same.

Even though the mortgage is administered by the VA, the actual terms of the loan are determined by local lenders, explained Nerd Wallet. While VA home loans are easier to qualify across the board, different lenders may include additional fees and restrictions to their application process.

That's why, in addition to understanding their own financial situation, veterans should do their research and shop around for a VA mortgage lender. This way, they can compare mortgage rates and qualification requirements to make sure they're receiving the best offer.

Veterans should make sure they're working with a lender with experience handling VA home loans and how they differ from other offerings. Lenders should be transparent with their fees and qualifications so borrowers can be confident they will receive the best financial support and have an expert to ask any of their questions.

Dustin DiMisa, CEO of InterContinental Capital Group, created Veterans Choice with this in mind. We provide VA home loans to prior, current and Reserve/National Guard members of the Armed Service and certain other government employees with little or no money down.

Contact us today to see if you are eligible for a VA home loan and begin your path to home ownership.

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