4 Great Financing Resources for Veteran Entrepreneurs

Starting a business certainly isn't easy, but veteran entrepreneurs have some resources they can look into tapping.

No one said starting a business would be easy. But if you served our country, chances are you may qualify for certain financial assistance that can lessen the burden.

According to the 2007 Survey of Business Owners data released in 2011, there were 2.45 million businesses with majority ownership by veterans. What’s more, they represented 9% of all U.S. firms. With veterans playing such a key role in our economy, it’s worth it to see what’s out there before bootstrapping (i.e., using your own money).

Of course, if you’re going to apply for financing, be sure check your credit. Many business loans, most notably business credit cards, require a personal guarantee, meaning a lender is going to look at your credit file before giving their approval. You can see where two of your credit scores stand by viewing your free credit report summary, updated every 14 days, on Credit.com. If you find your credit needs improving, try paying down high credit card balances, disputing credit reports errors and addressing delinquent accounts. (We’ve got a few more ways you can quickly boost your credit scores here.)

With that in mind, here are four financing resources veteran entrepreneurs can look into tapping.

1. Small Business Association

Perhaps the most established of the resources listed here, the Small Business Administration (SBA) offers several loan options for veteran-owned businesses.

“Depending on a borrower’s needs, these loans can be used for a variety of purposes,” and are guaranteed by the SBA, said Craig Heilman, deputy associate administrator, Office of Veterans Business Development, U.S. Small Business Administration. “Any small business can apply, and we encourage them to work with their district office or partners to get lender-ready.”

The SBA Veteran’s Entrepreneurship Act of 2015 “reduces the upfront borrower fee to zero dollars for eligible veterans and military spouses for SBA Express loans up to $350,000,” the administration’s site says. Leveraging Information and Networks to Access Capital (LINC) helps small business owners, including veterans, get in touch with advisers who specialize in microlending, smaller loans and real estate financing. To connect with an SBA-approved lender, you can visit the SBA’s website.

2. The Veterans Opportunity Fund

Launched in Maryland in October 2013 by TEDCO Capital Partners, which manages a family of venture capital funds, the Veterans Opportunity Fund (VOF) was designed to focus on service members specifically.

“It is our belief that veteran-owned business represent an attractive investment opportunity that, when proper due diligence is applied, can produce superior return on invested capital,” the site says. Not only are these veterans highly skilled — and highly disciplined — they’re committed to giving back to their country. Up to $3 million is up for grabs, so make sure your startup meets their criteria: Ideally you’re based on the East Coast, affiliated with technology and in the early revenue or testing stage.

3. The Veterans Business Resource Center

Though the St. Louis Veterans Business Center (VBRC) does not offer grants or financial aid per se, it does provide training on several aspects of entrepreneurship, from marketing to sales to business planning, and much more.

“There are adjusted fees for some classes, and clients who need on-site consulting are charged at a sliding scale,” the site says, but for the most part, there is little to no charge. “The VBRC emphasizes a distinctive veteran-to-veteran approach through extensive utilization of the many established and successful veterans in the St. Louis metropolitan area,” the site says. The organization focuses its efforts in Iowa, Kansas, Missouri and Nebraska. “This veteran-to-veteran approach permeates all aspects of VBRC’s services from training and consulting to advocacy, networking and mentoring,” the site says. 

4. Veteran Entrepreneur Portal

Though the Veterans Administration doesn’t offer financing programs for entrepreneurs, said Randy Noller, who works for the Department of Veterans Affairs, “our office of Small & Disadvantaged Business Utilization (OSDBU) does provide some help to veterans to get contracts with government agencies, etc.”

The Veteran Entrepreneur Portal (VEP), on the VA’s main site, makes it easier to locate Federal services online. Complete a questionnaire to see which government resources are best, or gather information directly on loans like the Fixed Assets CDC/504, which offer small businesses long-term, fixed-rate financing for major assets like land and buildings. You can also learn about CAPLines loans, which are ideal for meeting short-term working-capital needs.

Remember, whatever financing route you pursue, it’s important to read loan contracts carefully so you know exactly what you’re signing up for. You’ll also want to vet prospective lenders or offers thoroughly since, unfortunately, there are a lot of scammers out there that target vets. We’ve got more tips for veterans looking for a loan here.

Image: michaeljung

The post 4 Great Financing Resources for Veteran Entrepreneurs appeared first on Credit.com.

6 Solid Tips for Veterans in Need of a Loan

Veterans are faced with some unique money challenges. Fortunately, there are ways for them to get an affordable loan.

U.S. military members transitioning out of service can find themselves facing many unique money challenges. After all, duty to one’s country can understandably push personal money management to the back burner. Fortunately, there are steps veterans can take to secure the funding they need to achieve their financial goals.

Here are some tips for veterans looking to secure a mortgage, small business loan or other types of financing.

1. Know What Federal Benefits Are Available …

There are programs out there designed to help veterans and their families overcome the various money challenges that can arise when a family member is on active duty. For instance, veterans are eligible for VA home loans, which often feature no down payment, no mortgage insurance and flexible underwriting requirements. And there are various grants, loans and business development programs backed by the U.S. Small Business Administration that can help former military members and budding entrepreneurs.

Veterans can get acquainted with the general benefits available to them on the Veterans Benefits Administration website. Prospective entrepreneurs can begin looking into business financing by checking out the Small Business Administration’s Office of Veterans Business Development online.

2. Research All of Your Options

That’s not to say veterans should limit themselves to federal loan programs. For instance, when it comes to mortgages, “to be sure, VA loans aren’t the right fit for every veteran,” Chris Birk, a Credit.com contributor and director of education for Veterans United, a VA loan lender, said. “Understanding all of your mortgage options is also key to getting the best deal possible. Even veterans with sterling credit and a 20% down payment would benefit from comparison shopping between conventional and VA loans.”

3. Consider Financial Institutions That Cater to Vets …

If you do decide to go for a VA loan to buy a home, consider finding a mortgage lender who knows the ins and outs of that type of financing.

“VA loan market share has soared over the last decade, but it’s still a niche product for many lenders and real estate professionals,” Birk said. “Working with companies and professionals who know the ins and outs of VA loans can help ensure veterans get the most from this benefit.”

Similarly, you can look into finding a credit card issuer or bank that caters to former and current military members. (We’ve got a list of some of the better military credit cards here to help you get you started on your search.)

And there are several startups, venture capitalist funds and, even, angel investors out there that offer small business financing exclusively to veterans and military members that may prove worthwhile, depending on your financial situation.

4. … But Be Sure to Assess Your Finances Holistically

We say “depending on your financial situation” because it’s important to consider factors beyond your status as a veteran when making money decisions. Take credit cards as an example. Ultimately, the right one for you will be influenced by your current financial situation or goals. For instance, if you’re trying to pay a lot of debt, you might want to look into a balance-transfer credit card. 

The same thing applies when exploring other financing opportunities — just because you’re a veteran doesn’t mean products designed for veterans are going to be the ones that best need your financing needs.

5. Watch Out for Scams

Due to the money challenges some veterans face (often related to spending extended periods of time out of the country or relocating frequently), they often find themselves on a scammer’s radar. That’s why it’s a good idea to vet any business you’re thinking of getting a loan from before filling out applications. You can start by conducting a thorough search online or checking a company’s status with the Better Business Bureau.

6. Brush Up Your Credit

A good credit score can make all types of financing more affordable, so it’s a good idea to see where you stand before applying for a loan. You can get a free credit report snapshot, along with two free credit scores, updated every 14 days, on Credit.com. You can also pull your free credit reports from each of the major consumer credit reporting agencies each year at AnnualCreditReport.com.  

If you need to build credit, you can look into credit-builder loans or secured credit cards, which help people with thin files establish a history of using credit wisely. If you need to improve your credit, you can focus on paying down high credit card balances, disputing credit report errors and limiting applications for new credit, all of which can hurt your credit score.

Image: Wavebreakmedia

The post 6 Solid Tips for Veterans in Need of a Loan appeared first on Credit.com.

Report: 600,000 Veterans Could Go Without Health Insurance Next Year

changes-to-Medicaid

A new Urban Institute report predicts that more than 600,000 veterans will go without health insurance in 2017 unless there are policy changes to the Medicaid program. They point out that more than half of those veterans live in the 19 states that have not expanded Medicaid.

“If Medicaid expansion decisions do not change between now and 2017, we project that approximately 604,000 veterans will be uninsured in 2017 and that 54% will be living in states that have yet to expand Medicaid,” according to the report.

In May 2011, the Urban Institute, supported by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, began studying the effects the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010 had on citizens. The findings in the September 2016 report are based off analysis of data from the 2011 – 2015 National Health Interview Survey (NHIS), 2013 – 2014 American Community Survey (ACS) and U.S. Census Bureau.

The report notes that, even with Medicaid expansion, thousands of veterans are going to be left without a way to pay for medical care, as they all aren’t eligible for care provided by the Department of Veterans Affairs. It estimates that 38% of veterans would become part of the “assistance gap,” meaning they are not in the low-income category that qualifies them for Medicaid, but are making too much money to qualify for federal Obamacare health insurance subsidies. (It’s important to note that Medicaid expansion doesn’t come without costs — states have to figure out a way to pay for it.)

The researchers predict that, while fewer than 1 in 10 uninsured veterans in certain states would qualify for Medicaid in 2017 based on current expansion plans, “a projected 47% would qualify if all 19 states chose to expand.”

How Medical Debt Can Affect You

Medical debt can become a major burden and may even damage your credit, no matter if you’re a veteran, on active duty or a civilian. This can complicate things when it comes time to get a mortgage, take out a loan for a car or even apply for a job (many employers look at a version of your credit report as part of the application process).

If you’re currently laden with medical debt, it’s a good idea to review your bills for any errors, like double charges or other incorrect entries, that may help that number come down. And, while it may be challenging, it’s important to remember that you need to make your bill payments on time to maintain good credit. (You can see how your medical debts are affecting your credit by taking a look at two of your free credit scores, updated every 14 days, on Credit.com and by getting copies of your free annual credit reports through AnnualCreditReport.com.) If you need assistance with paying these bills, consider talking with a professional to see what your options are.

Image: agentry

The post Report: 600,000 Veterans Could Go Without Health Insurance Next Year appeared first on Credit.com.

The Bill That Could Help Veterans’ Credit Scores

veterans_credit_scores

Veterans experiencing credit problems could be in store for some good news. Lawmakers are looking to help ensure veterans’ credit scores don’t get dinged when they have late payments on medical bills.

The Protecting Veterans Credit Act (H.R. 1862), introduced last month by Reps. Randy Hultgren (R-Ill.) and John Delaney (D-Md.), would provide a 1-year grace period before medical bills for services received through the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Choice Program could be reported to the credit reporting agencies.

The bill is in response to the program, created in 2014, which made it possible for veterans to seek medical treatment outside VA clinics because of long wait times, according to TheHill.com. Many complaints have arisen that the VA is slow to make payments to these private doctors, which have reported the outstanding medical debts to credit bureaus, the political news site said.

The VA did not immediately respond to Credit.com’s request for comment on the bill.

The lawmakers say their bill will provide the VA with enough time to make payments on the bills, ensuring veterans’ credit scores aren’t unnecessarily and negatively impacted.

According to TheHill.com, Rep. Delaney said veterans already had to endure long wait times for treatment. “We shouldn’t destroy their finances on top of that,” he reportedly told the website.

Maintaining Your Credit 

Whether you’re a veteran, active military or a civilian, medical debt can ultimately damage your credit. And a low credit score can have a negative impact on your ability to buy a home, take out a car loan or even get a job.

You may be able to mitigate medical bill nightmares by reviewing billing statements closely for double charges, evaluating all the insurance, Medicaid and charity options available, and using your own low-interest credit card to pay for medical bills instead of opening a new account through the hospital (which typically carries high interest rates).

And to maintain good credit in general, it’s important to make your bill payments on time, keep your credit card debt to a minimum and check your credit regularly. You can view two of your credit scores for free, updated monthly, on Credit.com, and get your free annual credit reports through AnnualCreditReport.com.

If your credit is looking lackluster, you can generally improve your scores by disputing credit report errors (you can go here to learn how), paying down high credit card balances and limiting new credit inquiries while your score rebounds.

[Offer: Your credit score may be low due to credit errors. If that’s the case, you can tackle your credit reports to improve your credit score with help from Lexington LawLearn more about them here or call them at (844) 346-3296 for a free consultation.]

More Money-Saving Reads:

Image: vgajic

The post The Bill That Could Help Veterans’ Credit Scores appeared first on Credit.com.