Making Veteran’s Day More Than a Day Off from Work

Here at Republic Wireless, we are deeply grateful to the brave men and women who sacrifice everything to make this world a safer place for all of us.

Military service isn’t an afterthought here – our CEO, David Morken, served in the US Marine Corp, and it isn’t unusual to see him leaving the office early to welcome home family members on active duty. Many team members and our loved ones proudly serve or have served in one form or another in the US Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Air Force, and the Coast Guard.

Veteran Ryan Guina, writer for The Military Wallet, and his daughters.

As such, we are so excited to work with Ryan Guina, the tireless blogger and podcaster behind TheMilitaryWallet.com. Ryan served on active duty in the US Air Force and is currently serving in the IL Air National Guard. He has dedicated a good portion of his time since leaving active duty military life to helping the military community better manage money and understand the variety of programs and benefits available to them. As Veteran’s Day draws closer, Ryan doubles down and spends hours and hours compiling all the restaurants and companies who want to thank our veteran’s by providing them with discounts or a free meal. It’s a great honor to help support Ryan’s efforts for the 2015 Veteran’s Day Free Meals and Discounts.

Cherie, otherwise known as Republic’s PR lady, snagged a couple of minutes with Ryan and shares the excerpts from their conversation here:

The Military Wallet is consistently ranked one of today’s top personal finance blogs. Tell us about a day in the life of writing. What inspires you? Do you get a lot of feedback or ideas from members of the military?

Thanks, Cherie. I created The Military Wallet when I transitioned off active duty and joined the “civilian world.” Many veterans struggle with this transition, and I was no exception. I started the site to help keep track of what I was learning, and to help other veterans who were going through the same process. Over time, I have expanded the site to include information for all generations of military members, from those serving today, to those who left military service decades ago.

As far as inspiration goes, it comes from many sources. Much of it deals with my personal experiences during my transition off active duty, and with joining the Air National Guard just over a year ago. I also receive dozens of emails each week. I try to personally respond to each one question or comment, and if possible, I try to turn that into a resource that can be used to help others (removing any personal information, of course!). The result is a lot of articles and podcast topics that dive deep into various problems military members and veterans are experiencing, and where possible, I provide solutions and references to help our military community succeed.

You clearly bring a lot of “plain English” understanding to what can be very complex military benefits – stories such as “The VA (Veteran’s Administration) Denied My Disability Claim. Now What?” What’s been the most surprising thing you’ve learned while researching these stories?

Thank you – simplifying the complexity that surrounds military and veterans benefits is my goal! The most surprising thing I have learned is there is no one-size-fits-all solution for almost anything. A veteran’s benefits eligibility can change based on when or where you served, whether or not you were in combat, whether you have a service-connected disability rating, and many other factors. Navigating the VA website and the US Code to determine benefits eligibility can be a daunting task. So my goal is to simplify things for my readers. This usually requires a lot of time and research, but getting this information out there in an easy to understand fashion is important.

Congress is well on its way to passing a 2016 National Defense Authorization Act that contains significant reforms to the current military retirement system. If you were in Congress, is this a bill you’d be proud of passing?

This is a difficult question to answer, partly because the final version hasn’t been passed yet, and it’s complex (here is an overview for military members who want to learn more). Overall, I have to say Congress did a fairly good job with the proposal as written. These are significant changes to the military retirement system. But the changes are necessary, as the current system has become incredibly expensive, and potentially unsustainable in the long run.

There are two things they did that make these changes work: The first is to grandfather current military members and retirees into their current retirement system. So the new plan won’t impact anyone who is currently serving, or has already retired. The second thing that makes this work is offering military members matching contributions to their Thrift Savings Plan (military version of a 401k). Approximately 85% of service members never make it to military retirement, so this gives those members some retirement savings they can take with them when they leave the military. The plan reduces the fixed portion of the military retirement pension from 50% to 40% of base pay at 20 years, but the retirement plan contributions give members the opportunity to make up some of that ground.

A post that touched me a lot was the research and infographic about homeless veterans in America. Tell us about writing a post like this.

The research for the infographic was actually performed by the USC School of Social Work, where they have a program that focuses on Military Social Work. There is a great need among many groups in the US, and service members are no exception. Homelessness is a big problem for some veterans, and so are other issues such as unemployment and underemployment, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, traumatic brain injuries, service-connected disabilities, and many other issues. By nature of their line of work, many military members are exposed to stressful or dangerous environments, which certainly contribute to these issues.

Writing about these issues is difficult. There are no clear cut answers, and it takes a special skill set to be able to make a meaningful difference to the veterans who struggle with these issues. I don’t have the skill set to counsel or provide individual assistance for these matters, but I can help bring attention to them.

And finally a few questions from our “10 Things we always ask”…

What have you done with your Republic savings?

I think my wife is putting the savings toward our Disney cruise fund. We took a family vacation there this summer and my wife already wants to go back!

What’s your favorite app on your Republic phone?

I’m a big fan of Android, and I love Evernote and my fantasy football apps (much to my wife’s dismay!).

Who do you stay connected with the most?

My family and a few close friends.

What’s the next item on your bucket list?

I have lived a blessed life so far, and I’ve been able to do so many amazing things people typically put on their bucket lists. For example, I’ve traveled to over 30 countries on five continents. I saw the Aurora Borealis in Iceland, I’ve flown a plane, skydived, and been in a hot air balloon. I owned a motorcycle and a 1973 Corvette. I started successful business. On the personal side, I have a beautiful wife and two beautiful daughters. But something I haven’t yet accomplished is writing a book. So I guess that will be next!

Thank you from Republic to Ryan and all of the courageous men and women who have served our great country – this Veteran’s Day and every day. For your courage, service and sacrifice, we are forever grateful.

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