A vet asks for help with student loans

Dear Sgt. Shaft,

I am a retired veteran with 21 years of service and active duty service during the Beruit, Lebanon campaign in the 80’s. I have a partial hearing disability. I was wondering if there is any help for me with my defaulted student loans. My State of Nebraska wages are being garnished at this time to pay the loan and apparently I cannot qualify for a VA home loan because of the garnishment. I would appreciate any advice you can give me. I served from 1980 to 2001, in the USMC and as an Army Infantry officer.

Thanks in advance for your help.

Barney H
Lincoln NE

Dear Barney,

I am not aware of specific programs for retired military or veterans trying to pay off student loan debt. You may want to search for programs under the Department of Education that may help with debt but the programs require placement in public service positions to qualify.

Shaft Notes

• The Department of Veterans Affairs recently announced that 1 million Veterans, Servicemembers, and family members have benefited from the Post-9/11 GI Bill since the program’s inception in August 2009.

The Veterans Benefits Administration, which administers the program, has distributed over $30 billion in the form of tuition and other education-related payments to Veterans, Servicemembers, and their families; and to the universities, colleges, and trade schools they attend.

“This is one of the most important programs helping our Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans reach their educational goals and find a good job,” said Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K. Shinseki. “We're proud this important benefit is making such a big difference in the lives of so many Veterans and their families.”

“Over the next few years, as more than a million service men and women end their military careers and return to civilian life, education will be at the forefront of that transition,” said Dr. Jill Biden. “As a community college teacher, I have seen firsthand the qualities our veterans bring to the classroom – dedication, a sense of teamwork, and a commitment to their work. Helping our veterans succeed in the classroom so they can go on to find good jobs to support their families is one important way we can thank them for their service.”

The VA announced that Steven Ferraro, who is currently attending Middlesex County College, a public community college in Edison, N.J., has been identified as the 1 millionth Post-9/11 GI Bill beneficiary. Ferraro served in the Army from 2003-2013 and deployed to Iraq in 2008 as part of Operation Iraqi Freedom. He is the father of three and is majoring in communications.

• Acting Administrator for the U.S. Small Business Administration, Jeanne Huli, recently addressed U.S. Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship. In her remarks, she noted that each year, there are over 250,000 service members transitioning out of our military. These veterans possess the unique skills, experience, leadership and drive that make them ideally suited to start businesses and create jobs in their communities.

Our nation’s 28 million small businesses are the engine of our economy, employing half of the private sector workforce and creating two out of every three net new private sector jobs in our communities.

As small business owners, veterans continue to serve our country by creating critical employment opportunities and driving economic growth.

According to the most recent U.S. Census data, nearly one in ten small businesses are veteran-owned. These businesses generate about $1.2 trillion in receipts and employ nearly 5.8 million Americans. Studies have also shown that veterans over index in entrepreneurship. In the private sector workforce, veterans are at least 45 percent more likely than those with no active-duty military experience to be self-employed.

At the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA), we are focused on ensuring that these start and grow successful businesses and create jobs.

One of the agency’s key functions is to support loans to small businesses that have challenges obtaining credit in the conventional market. Our loan programs have a strong track record of leveraging billions of dollars in credit to help entrepreneurs launch and grow their companies and veterans have access to the capital, counseling and federal contracting opportunities they need to hire new employees. Here in Arkansas, SBA has supported more than $116 million in loans in Fiscal Year 2013.

In FY 2013, SBA approved more than 3,000 loans to veteran-owned businesses, supporting more than $1.8 billion nationally. Today, I have the privilege to announce new measures to get even more small business loans into the hands of our nation’s veterans.

Of all SBA loans that go to veterans, 73 percent are $350,000 and below. The SBA Express Loan Program, which supports loans under $350,000, is SBA’s most popular loan delivery method. Since the program’s inception, it has also been one of the most popular delivery methods for getting capital into the hands of veteran borrowers.

Effective January 1, SBA is setting the upfront fee for borrowers to zero for all veteran loans authorized under the SBA Express program for the remainder of the fiscal year, effectively making these loans cheaper for borrowers and further increasing access to capital for the men and women who have served our nation’s military.

This year, SBA also challenged our top national and regional lenders to pledge to increase their lending activity to veterans by five percent each year for the next five years. With this support from our lending partners, SBA expects to serve an additional 2,000 veterans and increase lending by $475 million.

On January 1, 2013, SBA also began rolling out “Operation Boots to Business: From Service to Startup.” A nationwide entrepreneurship training program in partnership with the Department of Defense, Boots to Business is currently offered to transitioning service members from all branches of the armed forces at more than 150 military locations across the country. If the Fiscal Year 2014 Budget request level is funded, we plan to significantly ramp up the program.

Send letters to Sgt. Shaft, c/o John Fales, P.O. Box 65900, Washington, D.C. 20035-5900; fax 301/622-3330, call 202/257-5446 or email sgtshaft@bavf.org.