We are buying a house, Danusia and I. I guess we are “in contract”, as it is called. We have pre-approval for the mortgage, I downloaded the contract, have an appointment with a lawyer from the union, we’ve made an offer and it was accepted. All we need is to send the contract to the bank and wait for the appraiser.
I’m entitled to a guaranteed home loan from the V.A., due to my brief stint in the 82nd Airborne 32 years ago. That brief stint also figured in my citizenship bid.
Another thing we have to do is buy insurance for a house we don’t even own yet; talk about a Catch-22.
A friend suggested we go to USAA, the company that provides low cost insurance to veterans and their families. If you watch the History or Military channels you’ve seen their commercials, “I got mine over the Pacific in 1943”, or “in Vietnam in 1968”. I should have gotten mine in Ft. Bragg, N.C. in 1980, but since I was not the most compliant of soldiers, I didn’t.
After being in the Army for 18 or so months, and going through a typical “Dear John” breakup I decided I didn’t want to be there anymore. It being a volunteer army, they really can’t stop you if you want out. But they can make you pay.
I thought it was just paying back the bonus (or part of it) that I’d gotten for signing up for “combat arms”, i.e.; being a grunt rather than a clerk or typist or some other thing I was probably better qualified for. They thought I was crazy when my GT test results came back and I chose the infantry.
“You can be anything you want”, the guy who gave the test said.
“You can go to officer’s candidate school”. But I wanted the money, and I chose to be a grunt.
When I wanted out, I was offered a “General Discharge”, which said “under honorable conditions”. To me it sounded good, it wasn’t “dishonorable”; but it turns out it’s not honorable, either.
Me shortly after my discharge.
So yesterday, when I was on the phone with USAA trying to get this insurance for the house I don’t even own yet I found out I didn’t qualify. I qualify for the house loan from the V.A., but not the insurance from a privately owned company.
I asked if I could qualify if I get my discharge upgraded, and they said yes. So today I am off to the V.A. offices on Varrick Street to see what I can do about my DD-214, which is what the government calls your discharge papers. I never even read what the DD-214 said until a few years ago, when I was sitting for my citizenship interview. The interviewer said, “So why did you do badly in the army?”
“Excuse me?” As far as I was concerned, I was a good troop up to the point that I decided I didn’t want to be there anymore.
“It says here you were discharged for ‘failure to maintain proper military standards.”
“Oh.” Oh is my standard reply when I can’t think of how to explain my sometimes-irresponsible behavior.
“That was a long time ago, I’m a different person now.” I added when I had a couple of seconds to think.
I did become a citizen, and I will probably get the upgrade, but not in time to get the lower cost insurance.
When the loan people at the bank ran a credit check I discovered that my credit score was higher than Danusia’s, which surprised the hell out of me since she seems so much more fiscally on the ball than me. So yeah, I have changed a lot; when I got that discharge in 1981 I was living on one hot dog a day and sleeping on the floor of my brother’s studio apartment in Hell’s Kitchen, working as a foot messenger for $3.95 an hour and not a credit card to my name. And now I can buy a house.
A bungalow like this one, actually.
So, if you are young and reading this, or even if you are not so young but still on the irresponsible side, take note- things do come back to bite you on the ass. But you can also do something about it, if you are willing to take the time and put in the effort to do so.