SAN DIEGO (NEWS 8) - If you're a veteran looking to own your own home there's help available to achieve the American dream.

The nonprofit Veterans Association of Real Estate Professionals (VAREP) assists veterans free of charge.

When Spshelle Rutledge got out of the US Marine Corps, she hoped to purchase a home in San Diego County.

She wanted the American dream for her family.

“Since I myself have a son, I want him to be able to have something when he's older,” Rutledge said.

But her credit score wasn't perfect and she thought she wouldn't qualify for a home loan.

“When I first got out of the Marine Corps, I was busy trying to transition into civilian life, which many veterans like myself struggle with,” Rutledge said.

For three years, she worked to get her credit score back up with advice from a real estate agent who also works for VAREP.

Rutledge ended up purchasing a condo in El Cajon.

Many vets don't realize they qualify for benefits, whether they were deployed during their service or not.

“All you have to do is find someone that's experienced enough to say, 'Hey, I want to use my VA loan,” said Andre Hobbs, the VAREP San Diego chapter president.

“By using you're VA loan, you have basically no down payment and you have no PMI mortgage insurance,” Hobbs said. “That can save you $300 to $400 dollars a month on that alone.”

If you're a veteran with a disability, Hobbs said you can save even more on housing costs.

“Should you have 100% service-connected disability in San Diego County, you can get your property taxes reduced,” he said.

Veterans also can qualify for a housing allowance and tuition benefits under the GI Bill if enrolled full time in college courses.

“I'm getting my Masters in public health with a concentration on mental health services,” said Rutledge.

She plans on pursuing a doctorate degree and one day hopes to get a job in behavior health services.

“I would like to be in a position where I am able to affect policy and change for a better future for veterans,” she said.