By Staff Sgt. Lauren Penney, 184th Public Affairs
With the way the cost is for anything these days, affording life can often be a challenge. A trip to the emergency room could cost you this year’s vacation. Trying to afford college might have you scraping for any scholarship, grant or student loan you can get your hands on, while still needing to work three part-time jobs and never getting any sleep. Not to mention paying off student loans for years afterward. Maybe you want to buy a house, but it seems impossible to afford. The Kansas Air National Guard can help.
Below is a list of six money-saving benefits the Kansas ANG has to offer to make your life less stressful and more comfortable.
- Higher Education
The Kansas Tuition Assistance program offers 100 percent tuition assistance for Kansas Guardsmen attending if they’re attending an accredited college in the state of Kansas. The amount of tuition assistance varies from semester to semester. The varying rate is based on the amount of money allocated by the state and the number of people who apply to use the program.
Tuition assistance is paid directly to the school to pay a student’s tuition bill. This program works with more than 60 higher education institutions in Kansas. This benefit also applies to Air Guardsmen who are residents of another state, they just need to attend a Kansas college.
Additional assistance is provided by the Montgomery GI Bill which is essentially a monthly allowance for individuals who are taking college classes. The amount of the benefit is pro-rated to the number of credit hours an individual is taking. Currently, full-time students (12 or more credits) receive approximately $365 per month, which is directly deposited into their bank accounts. You must be attending college classes to receive this money.
You also may qualify for other benefits such as a $20,000 non-prior service enlistment bonus and the GI Bill Kicker ($350 per month) which are available with select jobs. If you are prior service, you may qualify for a $15,000 bonus or a $20,000 affiliation bonus. Talk to a recruiter to learn more.
Montgomery GI Bill Kicker pays $350 per month for most Air Guard career fields. The kicker works in conjunction with the GI Bill. Just like the GI Bill, you must be attending college classes to receive this money.
Additionally, you will earn college credits through the Community College of the Air Force while attending Basic Military Training (BMT), tech school and leadership training courses throughout your ANG career.
The health insurance offered to Kansas ANG members provides full-time coverage for part-time employment. TRICARE Reserve Select, or TRS, is a premium-based health plan for qualified members and their families, and is available to Guardsmen at competitive rates, currently under $50 per member per month, and $220 per member and family.
The average cost per year for health insurance for a single person is $5,615, and family coverage is $15,745. So with TRS insurance at $600 for individual and $2,640 for family per year, that’s massive savings.
Members are also eligible for $400,000 in term life insurance. Coverage is 365 days a year, for $29 a month. Under Family Servicemen Group Life Insurance your dependents can also receive coverage at a discounted rate.
- VA Mortgage Loans
With the Veteran Affairs mortgage loans, you can get a variety of advantageous features. Such features include:
- Lower Payments – Competitive interest rates and no private mortgage insurance, meaning lower monthly payments.
- No Down Payment – The VA home mortgage is one of the only home loans available today with no down payment required.
- Easier to qualify – The VA loan program provides home ownership opportunities for millions who wouldn’t otherwise qualify for conventional financing.
- First-Time Buyers – No down payment and relaxed credit standards means loans from the VA program are especially helpful for first-time home buyers.
Most home loan lenders require a down payment of sometimes up to 20 percent the total cost of the house, depending on your credit. The down payment of a $120,000 home would be approximately $24,000, plus a high monthly payment with private mortgage insurance. With a VA loan, you wouldn’t have to fight tooth and nail for that pesky down payment or insurance rate.
- Free national park pass
As a current military member, you may obtain a free, year-long pass for all National Parks in the United States. All you need is to provide your military ID at the first park you go to, and they’ll give you the military annual pass card. Then you give both your ID and the pass at any national park and that covers the entry fee.
Some conditions apply such as, only the vehicle with the military member is provided free entry. If a family is traveling in two vehicles, the second vehicle must pay an entrance fee or must have a second pass. For motorcyclists, the pass allows entry for two motorcycles. The pass does not cover fees such as camping, boat launching, special tours, special permits or ferries, but those are often at discounted prices for military.
If you lose your pass, you can obtain another one the same way as the first.
An annual pass costs $80, while individual park fees without a pass are about $20 per park.
- Base Privileges
Another great thing the Kansas ANG has to offer is all the base privileges that come when you join.
Among these benefits are low-fare hotel accommodations (usually below $100 for a nice, family-sized room and less for a single) on military installations anywhere in the U.S. Military members also enjoy discounted prices at many hotels and restaurants and various other places across the nation.
There are also campgrounds on many military installations and discounted rentals on things like camping, boating, home and garden, and party equipment are available at outdoor recreation. Tax free shopping at base commissaries (grocery store) and base exchanges (department stores) are available for military members as well.
You and your family can avoid gym membership fees by using the gym on base, possibly saving you $50 per month. Many bases also have swimming pools, youth activity centers, golf courses and parks.
All of these base privileges can make traveling and everyday living much less expensive for you and your family.
- Free annual hunting, fishing and state park passes for Kansas
Free hunting, fishing and park vehicle permits are made available and issued based on funding to active members of the Kansas ANG. All you have to do it fill out the application, have your commander sign it and mail it to the Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism office. The permit does not cover additional fees such as game tags.
An annual vehicle permit for state parks costs $25, a hunting or fishing license is $27.50 each and a hunting and fishing combo license costs $47.50. So you’d potentially save $50-$70 per year.
If you take advantage of all these benefits the Air National Guard can provide for you, you’ll save thousands of dollars every single year, in addition to receiving your monthly paycheck, all for part-time employment. Not to mention you wouldn’t have to burn yourself out trying to keep your head above the water.