Credit Repair for Veterans

Veterans have gone above and beyond to serve their country. However, they still have problems just like other Americans. An issue for many veterans is their credit. According to statistics based on a survey of 700 US military service members and 100 military spouses, 36% of veterans compared to 26% of civilians have more than four credit cards. Of those four credit cards, 41% of veterans have at least $5,000 in credit card debt compared to just 28% of civilians. Other statistics include:

  • 27% of veterans have at least $10,000 in credit card debt compared to 16% of civilians.
  • 10% of veterans have at least $20,000 in credit card debt, compared to 7% of civilians.

Veterans also face other issues like higher rates of unemployment, less college education, and more. Combining all of these issues can lead to veterans in need of some credit repair. Luckily, there may be more hope than they realize!

Understanding Your Credit Score 

Before we dive into how a veteran can repair their credit, you should understand what your credit score is and how it works. Your credit score is typically a number between 300 to 850. This score is calculated by credit bureaus (also known as credit agencies) who use information found on your credit report. There are three major credit agencies which are Experian, Equifax, and Transunion. Your report has information about your credit history like outstanding credit accounts, total number of accounts, outstanding credit balances, credit limit assigned, age of your accounts, and more. When calculating your score, the credit bureaus will use scoring models. The 2 major models are VantageScore and FICO (but the FICO scoring model is much more common).

Different Score Ranges

Your credit score will fall into a different category based on the scoring model of the credit bureau. For the FICO scoring model:

  • Excellent: 800-850
  • Very Good: 740-799
  • Good: 670-739
  • Fair: 580-669
  • Poor: <580

However the VantageScore model looks a little different:

  • Excellent: 781-850
  • Good: 661-780
  • Fair: 601-660
  • Poor: 500-600
  • Very Poor: <500

What Factors Impact Your Credit Score

Regardless of the scoring model, there will generally be five factors that impact your credit score which include:

  • Payment History
  • Credit Usage (Credit Utilization Ratio)
  • Length of Credit History
  • Credit Diversity
  • Hard Inquiries

It’s important to keep these factors in mind when learning about why your score is the way that it is and how you can repair it.

Credit Repair for Veterans

Veterans are no strangers to dealing with stressful situations whether at work or with their finances. Luckily there are ways that veterans can repair their credit. They can:

  • Get Help from the Lighthouse Program
  • Get Into Good Habits
  • Use a Credit Repair Agency

Get Help from the Lighthouse Program

Many veterans don’t realize that Veterans United provides the Lighthouse Program as a way to help with their credit situation. VA loans are a great option for veterans, but it doesn’t mean that a veteran will automatically qualify. Instead, they will need to reach other criteria like a minimum credit score, a certificate of eligibility (COE), and more. Veterans may find that they do not have that score or they do and want to improve it.

This program can help veterans work towards raising their score. They can look over your credit report and figure out the best plan of action. For example, if they see that you have a payment history of late payments and high credit usage rate, then they can give you personalized advice around fixing those issues. Their plan would focus on improving the factors that impact your credit like payment history and credit usage. This free professional advice can show you the proper way to handle your finances.

If you choose to get help from this program, the amount of time it takes to see improvements varies. Depending on your report there may be more steps that you need to take to regain control of your credit. However, don’t expect the process to happen overnight.

Get Into Good Habits

Another way that veterans can work on repairing their credit is by regaining control of the situation themselves. Getting into good credit habits can make a world of difference on your credit score! Some good habits you will want to consider include:

  • Make your payments on time every month
  • Keep your credit usage below 30%
  • Don’t submit too many hard inquiries at once
  • Consider keeping a credit account open instead of closing it if you don’t use it

There are plenty of more ways that you can handle your credit repair on your own. Another method that people consider is disputing errors found on their credit report. Every year, consumers can get one free report from AnnualCreditReport.com. When you get this report you can review to find any inaccurate information that shouldn’t belong. If you find errors you can submit a dispute with any (or all) of the major credit bureaus. The credit bureaus then have up to 45 days to investigate and respond (but the timeframe is generally within 30 days unless there are special exceptions). If the item is found to be incorrect it will be removed from your report and you should see the negative impact fall off too!

Get Help from a Credit Repair Agency

Another option that veterans consider is getting help from a credit repair agency (also known as a credit repair company). Instead of handling the dispute process yourself, a credit repair agency will handle the process on your behalf. These companies can be costly and do not provide a service that a consumer cannot do on their own. However, they advertise that their experience in the dispute process helps consumers save time and effort.

They would review your credit report and find any unverifiable items to dispute with the credit bureaus. The bureaus still have 30 days to respond and if found inaccurate the item and negative mark would be removed (just like if you did it yourself).

Other Financial Opportunities for Veterans

We touched on it earlier but VA loans are a great option for veterans to consider. There are a variety of opportunities that can help veterans like:

VA Home Loan

There is more than one type of VA home loan. There is a direct home loan and a backed-home loan. With a direct home loan the United States Department of Veteran Affairs (VA) would be your lender. However, with a backed-home loan, you would get your home loan from a private lender but the VA insures the loan. This provides a safety net for lenders! The minimum credit score for a VA loan ranges between 580 to 620.

VA Health Care

Each veteran will have their own unique health benefits package. It can provide coverage for:

  • Treatments for injuries and illnesses
  • Prevention of future health issues
  • Improvement of your ability to function
  • Life quality enhancement

While dental care may not necessarily be covered, some can still qualify for it. Your coverage will vary based on your priority group, your VA care provider, your medical standards, and more.

Commonly Asked Questions

Repairing your credit as a veteran can feel complicated to understand. You may have questions that others have had as well!

Can You Ever Clear Your Credit Report as a Veteran?

No. Regardless of your status as a veteran, it is impossible to completely reset or clear your report. If there is an inaccurate item on your report you can dispute it but besides that all verifiable information will stay on there until any qualifying items expire.

How Long Does Credit Repair Take?

Generally, credit repair will take 3 to 6 months before you can see some serious improvement. It will vary based on the person. However, you will want to get started right away so you can see the results sooner rather than later.

What is the Minimum Credit Score Needed for a VA Loan?

If you are interested in getting one of the VA home loans, the credit score required varies between 580 to 620 depending on which one you choose.

Can the VA Help You Fix Your Credit?

While the VA may not be able to help you fix your credit, you may be able to benefit from the Lighthouse Program. This program is offered by Veterans United!

Overall

If you are a veteran that wants to improve their credit score then you are not alone. Your credit score is impacted by 5 main factors:

  • Payment History
  • Credit Usage (Credit Utilization Ratio)
  • Length of Credit History
  • Credit Diversity
  • Hard Inquiries

There are plenty of ways that a veteran can work on improving their credit from getting help with the Lighthouse Program, to improving habits, to using a credit repair agency, and more. If you need help, a professional will be able to assist! You may benefit from other VA opportunities like a VA loan or VA health benefits.

Article References

https://www.consumercredit.com/debt-resources-tools/military-veterans/the-facts-military/veteran-debt-statistics/

https://www.consumercredit.com/debt-resources-tools/military-veterans/the-facts-military/national-veteran-statistics/

https://www.creditkarma.com/credit-scores

https://www.investopedia.com/articles/pf/10/credit-score-factors.asp

https://www.veteransunited.com/education/credit/credit-help/

https://www.annualcreditreport.com/index.action

https://www.experian.com/blogs/ask-experian/how-long-does-it-take-to-complete-the-dispute-process/

https://www.va.gov/housing-assistance/home-loans/loan-types/

https://www.va.gov/health-care/about-va-health-benefits/

https://militarybenefits.info/min-credit-score-va-loan/

https://www.debt.com/credit-repair/how-long-does-credit-repair-take/

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