My Friend, You’ve Got a Problem

Meet La Wanda, a U.S. Navy Veteran, who cares and shares with fellow Veterans as often as she can.

La Wanda’s story is not so different from many of her fellow soldiers.

“I will fully disclose anything and everything about me when it comes to helping another Veteran,” La Wanda shared with Make the Connection.

La Wanda’s Journey

La Wanda’s journey began like many of us — partying with her friends. Unfortunately, it gradually evolved into the misuse of controlled substances. Her addiction led to an other-than-honorable discharge, followed by battle after battle with an enemy more powerful than her Navy training: addiction, anger, and PTSD.

Today, following years of detox and counseling, La Wanda has her addiction in control. She now shares her story with other soldiers facing her former foe. She finds that the walls addicts usually hide behind crumble when she shares her story. Their whole demeanor changes, and they ask, “Wow! Why would a total stranger tell me that?”

La Wanda’s openness is not without expectations. She assumes those she shares with will respond just as openly with her.

She acknowledges there is little difference between the addiction of a soldier and a member of the general public. “Substance abuse is substance abuse.” However, she wants the public to understand the unimaginable experiences Veterans encounter. Simple acknowledgement by a civilian may be the catalyst to a Veteran entering and remaining in a recovery program.

Drug court teams were established to assist Veterans caught in the legal fall-out of substance use and mental health. This program offers support systems in lieu of jail time.

Giving Back

La Wanda has become more than a survivor of addiction. Her time is now divided between employment as a Veteran Resource Coordinator for the VA and her role as a mentor with the drug court team.

“The Veteran track is something that I firmly believe in because Veterans, you know, sometimes we’re prideful and we don’t want to admit that we need help. And a big thing that you have to do is you have to surrender — you have to admit you have a problem. And to surrender, for Veterans, is something we’re not going to do.”

La Wanda’s Story

It was a friend who forced La Wanda to confront her problem.

Following a day of heavy drinking, La Wanda heard the dreadful proclamation that, until she sought help for her addiction, she would no longer be welcome in her friend’s home. Simply, she told La Wanda: “You can do something about this. You know there’s help available out there, and you need to get it.”

Rejection by someone she loved became La Wanda’s breaking point. La Wanda now admits it took her friend’s actions to make her stop. She had never been confronted by anyone before. It took more than just knowing she had a problem to force her to quit.

La Wanda has now been sober for seven years. A 12-step fellowship program was the key to her success. She found she first had to change the way she thought and viewed things around her; then she had to change her lifestyle.

Recovery is hard work, and it takes a team who offer support and an honest, open-minded willingness to help others.

La Wanda now looks back and says she does not regret the difficult journey she has come through because it brought her to the place she’s in now:  open and eager to help others.

“All Veterans suffer from a disease: They think they’re alone. I need them to know they’re not alone. They’re not alone,” she says. “We let them know, ‘Hey, I did it. You can do it, too.’ So, it’s probably one of the most gratifying, fulfilling things I’ve ever done.”  La Wanda

Like La Wanda, there is help available for you. You are not alone. Reach out. Find a program near you.

Story published at

Bad credit loans: How to get personal loans for bad credit

Our thanks to David Lafferty at Bankrate, Inc., for taking time to write us and offer to contribute this great article for our readers. Many of us have faced this mountain with little assistance. It’s nice for someone in the industry to offer his assistance. We hope this information may help many Veterans with a pressing need for financial advice.

MAY 14, 2019

At Bankrate we strive to help you make smarter financial decisions. While we adhere to strict editorial integrity, this post may contain references to products from our partners. Here’s an explanation for how we make money.

Having bad credit can feel like getting a flat tire on your way toward a solid financial future. It can also make you feel like you’re the only one stranded on the side of the road with no help in sight. You could convince yourself that things may have been the same had you taken a different route. But even if your situation was unavoidable, it doesn’t make it ideal.

The good news? You’re not the only one with blemishes on your credit record, and you have options for getting your finances back on track. Choosing a bad credit loan could help you bridge the gap between a long-term plan and a practical step toward rebuilding credit.
What are bad credit loans?

Bad credit loans are a type of loan offered to borrowers who have a less-than-average credit score. These loans can be either secured (backed by collateral like a home or car) or unsecured. Interest rates, fees and terms for these types of loan products all vary by lender.

Check Your Personal Loan Rates

Answer a few questions to see which personal loans you pre-qualify for. The process is quick and easy, and it will not impact your credit score.

Various banks, credit unions and online lenders offer loans to those with weak credit, but the threshold for what’s considered a “creditworthy borrower” varies by institution. Some lenders have stricter requirements than others, which makes it important to shop around thoroughly when looking for a loan.

How do you know if you have bad credit? Check out these FICO score ranges to see where you land:

Exceptional: 800-850
Very good: 740-799
Good: 670-739
Fair: 580-669
Very poor: 300-579

Scores below 669 are considered to be below average or poor, and 34 percent of Americans fall into this category, according to credit bureau Experian.

How do bad credit loans work?

Personal loans for bad credit can be used for a wide range of purposes,

from debt consolidation to financing major purchases.

But it’s important to note that borrowers with poor credit are seen as riskier in the eyes of lenders. In exchange for taking on additional risk, lenders generally charge higher interest rates and fees than they would someone with excellent credit.

Legitimate lenders will typically check your credit history, financial situation, ability to repay and other information before extending a loan offer.

Does having bad credit mean I’m being punished for bad financial habits?

Keep in mind that having bad credit doesn’t always mean that someone was irresponsible. There are a myriad of life circumstances that can negatively impact your finances and set you back – such as unexpected medical bills, loss of employment, a natural disaster and more. Having a low credit score can also be due to the fact that you’re just starting out and have yet to build any credit. The bottom line: many people find themselves having a low credit score through no fault of their own.

But regardless of the circumstances that lead to it, there are some general side effects of having bad credit.

Higher interest rates

A lower credit rating could mean a higher risk for default. Lenders compensate by setting interest rates higher to protect their investment. So, borrowing a large amount could mean paying a large amount of interest over time.

Lower odds of loan approval

If you have an unusually low credit score, you’ll likely see fewer lenders willing to take a chance on approving you for a loan. This is the unfortunate predicament that many with poor credit find themselves in – such as a student applying for a loan or a potential borrower hit with an unexpected medical bill. In this case, getting a cosigner is usually a good route to take.

Difficulty renting an apartment or getting a phone contract

Even if you’re trying to rent an apartment or sign a smartphone contract – neither of which would call for a loan – having bad credit could still potentially cause a problem. Landlords and phone companies could also check your credit before agreeing to do business with you.

Paying more for security deposits

Utility companies – similar to landlords and phone providers – can check your credit as well. You may be asked to pay a security deposit, or a higher security deposit, depending on your credit score and the company’s policy. Since you wouldn’t be paying interest on utilities, the one-time upfront fee works the same as insurance would for the utility provider, as they could refuse to return your security deposit  if you don’t pay your bills.

Options for people with bad credit

There are two main options when it comes to getting personal loans with bad credit — secured and unsecured.

Secured loans require the loan amount to be backed by collateral, like a home or car. This is often a good option for borrowers who can’t qualify for an unsecured loan. And because it’s collateralized, secured loans generally offer more favorable rates, higher loan limits and better terms. But there’s a caveat: if you default on the loan, you could risk losing your collateral.

Unsecured loans don’t require any collateral. The rate you receive is based on your creditworthiness. Since it’s not secured by an asset, this type of loan typically comes with a higher interest rate and lower loan limits.

Fortunately, whatever your needs, there’s likely a lender that’s a good fit. Here are just a few of the many lenders that offer personal loans for poor credit:

Upgrade: This online lender offers fixed-rate personal loans to those with less than average credit for things like debt consolidation, home improvement and major purchases. Its unsecured personal loans have interest rates ranging from 7.99 percent to 35.89 percent APR with loan amounts from $1,000 to $50,000 and lending terms of 36 or 60 months. Origination fees range from 1.5 percent to 6 percent.

Upstart: Founded by former Google employees, Upstart’s algorithm uses more than just your credit score to determine creditworthiness. It lends based on education and experience for purposes including debt consolidation, personal expenses and college costs. Rates range from 7.69 percent to 35.99 percent APR with loan terms of 36 and 60 months and amounts from $1,000 to $50,000. One-time origination fees run from 0 percent to 8 percent.

OneMain Financial: OneMain is another lender who accepts applicants with fair to poor credit. Loan rates range from 16.05 percent to 35.99 percent with lending amounts varying from $1,500 to $30,000. You can find 24-, 36-, 48- and 60-month terms.

TD Bank: If you’re looking for a full-service bank that offers secured and unsecured loans, TD Bank might be a good option. It offers loan amounts from $2,000 to $50,000 with rates from 6.99 percent to 18.99 percent. Repayment terms of 12 to 60-months are available.

Choosing a bad credit lender

Despite the obstacles, having a low credit score doesn’t mean getting a loan is impossible. What it does mean is you may need to utilize a little more strategy in selecting a lender. You can be approved through a short-term lender, online lender, bank or credit union. You have plenty of options to choose from and convenient ways of searching for them. But if you decide to do a little more digging on your own, it helps to know where to start.

Competitive interest rates are only one piece of the puzzle. Your goal is also to identify supportive resources that help you chip away at debt and ultimately get back to building your credit score. Here are a few things to think about when considering your loan options:

Types of bad credit loans

Installment loans: These loans are for a specific sum of money that you repay with interest in equal monthly installments over the life of the loan.

Payday Loans: While this type of short-term loan with high APRs doesn’t require collateral, you must repay it by your next payday.

Cash advances: Similar to payday loans, cash advance lenders most likely won’t check your credit, but these are most useful if you have a credit card or steady income. Not available in all states.

Bank Agreements: Per your bank’s policy, they may approve you for a short-term loan or minimal overdraft agreement. This is, of course, dependent on your banking history and ability to keep your account open.



Customer service/assistance

Do they have a full online/mobile service?

Is there a comprehensive pre-approval process?

Are there service agents ready to speak with me whenever needed?

Service reach

Are they licensed in all 50 states, and where are the branch locations?

What’s the minimum credit score to receive service?

How is underwriting handled, and will they consider alternative credit data?


Are there a variety of secured and co-signed loans options?

Do they offer zero and low down payment options?

Are they willing to waive lender fees?

How to fix credit in order to get a better loan

The best way to get better terms and rates on a personal loan is to improve your credit. And while there’s no quick fix for bad credit, even small increases in your credit score can help lower the rates you receive on a loan.

It’s important to remember that boosting your credit takes time. Here are several things you can do to get started on the path to a higher credit score:

Pay bills on time, every time. This doesn’t just apply to your credit card bills, but also to any other debts, including auto loans, mortgages and student loans.

Watch your credit utilization ratio. Keeping an eye on your balances relative to your total credit limit is crucial for improving credit. According to Experian, lenders typically like to see a ratio of 30 percent or less.

Use credit score boosting programs. Experian Boost and UltraFICO connect to your bank account to grab utility and other financial information. This is especially beneficial for those with a thin or no credit profile.

Leave unused credit cards open. As long as there is no annual fee associated with an unused card, leaving it open can be beneficial to your credit utilization ratio.

Limit your credit applications. A “hard” inquiry is made on your credit report every time you apply for a new line of credit, which lowers your score temporarily.

Fix errors on your credit report. By law, you’re entitled to one free credit report from each of the three major credit bureaus per year. Correcting any blemishes on your report can help you improve your credit standing overall.

Is there risk in bad credit loans?

As a borrower, you take on some risk whenever getting a personal loan. If you default on a secured personal loan, for instance, the lender could take your collateral, and your credit score could take an even bigger hit. Defaulting on an unsecured loan could mean being pursued by a collections agency, or it could result in your wages being garnished if the lender decides to take legal action.

You also chance racking up even more debt if you don’t pay bills on time. That’s especially true with a riskier payday loan, which may charge as high as 400 percent interest, according to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

Scams targeting borrowers with poor credit seeking loans are also a concern. Fortunately, these fraudulent lenders throw up some red flags that are easy to recognize. Here are some of the signs you might be walking into a scam:

Guarantees without approval. Reputable lenders generally want to see your credit report, income and other information before extending an offer. If you come across a lender who isn’t interested in your payment history, you might be getting lured into a bad situation.

No registration in your state. The Federal Trade Commission requires that lenders be registered in the state where they do business.
Poor advertising methods. Phone calls, snail mail and door-to-door solicitation are no longer considered legitimate advertising streams for trustworthy lenders. Look for lenders that advertise online instead.
Take steps to check on a lender before you decide to submit an application. Read online reviews and look at ratings from companies like the Better Business Bureau in order to get a full picture.

Protecting your credit score after laying fresh ground
Building credit and boosting your credit score aren’t always synonymous, but they are related. Once you’ve regained some financial footing via a bad credit loan (and you will), you can then continue to practice good habits and set up protections around your credit score.

Three quick tips:

Make automated payments: Start by setting up automatic payments for your bills through your bank. This will relieve you of the burden of having to remember due dates. And it will get you into a consistent  rhythm of repayment, which is music to a creditor’s ears.

Cash in, cash out: Be strategic with your credit cards and pay for more purchases using cash. Your budget shouldn’t allow you to spend beyond what you earn. Using cash will help you keep track.

Keep an eye on your accounts: Even when you’re not overly active, continue to check your FICO score and credit card accounts regularly. This will help you maintain an ownership mentality, monitor spending  and keep annual fees from sneaking up on you.

Check Your Personal Loan Rates

Answer a few questions to see which personal loans you pre-qualify for. The process is quick and easy, and it will not impact your credit score.


The bottom line

Starting over financially most likely means starting over personally in some areas as well, and that’s nothing to be ashamed of. A lack of knowledge, adequate resources, or access to funds to pay off debt can have a swift impact on your credit score. But remember, bad credit isn’t irreversible. You still have options toward building a functional financial life; and a bad credit loan could be a viable one.

Long Overdue Changes Coming to the VA Caregiver Benefits Program

Last month we introduced you to the fact that the VA does offer benefits to caregivers of Veterans. Since that report, a major bill known as the VA Mission Act, has passed Congress with a 92-5 vote. Items included in this bill include streamlining access to medical care at non-VA community centers when similar treatment is not available at the local VA center, the creation of new VA “walk-in clinics,” as well as beginning a new program for caregivers.

The highlight of the bill is the expansion of caregiver benefits, which include a monthly stipend, health insurance, respite care, and training, to caregivers of veterans severely injured before 9-11 back to the Vietnam War era. With this expansion of benefits, Veterans of all eras are now to be cared for.

Once the VA certifies the program is ready to launch, it will take place in two phases. The first phase is slated to begin in early 2019 and will apply to veterans injured in the line of duty on or before May 7, 1975. Phase 2 will begin two years later and will apply to caregivers of veterans who were injured in the line of duty after May 7, 1975 but before September 11, 2001.

These benefits have been available to post-911 veterans, but they were never applied back to the Veterans of Vietnam and their caregivers. This program is long  overdue. Thank you, VA, for correcting this terrible injustice.

Veteran Finds Empowerment, Sense of Family, Through Adaptive Sports

Ivanna Brown is one of 10 athletes selected for the Women Veteran Athletes Initiative. The participants represent all branches of the armed services and were selected by the VA and its partners — the Veterans Canteen Service, Team Red, White & Blue, the Semper Fi Fund and Comcast.

Ivanna, who is half-British and half-Jamaican, joined the U.S. Air Force on a green card even before she earned her U.S. citizenship. Her stepfather, who was an American citizen, was in the Air Force. Following his example, Ivanna joined the military following high school graduation in Germany at age 19.

At age 25 Ivanna Brown’s military career ended with a tragic car accident which left her a paraplegic. Ivanna chose to fight and find a new life, and she is proud to be a two-time participant in the National Disabled Veterans Winter Sports Clinic.

The clinic exposed Ivanna to many different athletic pursuits, and she has become an avid participant in dragon boat racing and rowing. Hand cycling has become a daily activity as well.

The clinic is hosted by the VA in partnership with the Disabled American Veterans (DAV) once a  year. Participation is open to active-duty service members and Veterans with spinal cord injuries, orthopedic amputations, visual impairments, and certain neurological problems and disabilities.  For more information about the winter sports clinic, visit

Visit the Center for Women Veterans website to see photos of each athlete by Veterans Portrait Project photographer Stacy Pearsall. Find more on social media at @deptvetaffairs (Twitter, Instagram) and @VAWomenVets (Twitter, Facebook) and by following #WomenVetAthletes.


The VA Caregiver Program

The program provides:

  • Peer support mentoring,
  • A support phone line, and
  • A website with a wealth of resources on family caregiving.

The Program of Comprehensive Assistance for Family Caregivers, a program specifically for eligible Post 9/11 Veterans and their caregivers, offers additional support and services, including access to health insurance and financial assistance. The primary family caregiver must meet certain criteria but is not required to be the Veteran’s spouse.

Click here to learn more about the Caregiver Support Program.