Thank you to our troops and families! We know freedom is not free!
Servicemembers and their families face unique financial challenges. But there are also unique protections such as your VA benefits, the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act, and more.
Information for Servicemembers about the resources that may be available to you can be found by visiting the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Read about the CFPB's "Financial Fitness Forum" which they recently convened to learn about and raise awareness of unique consumer financial products and services being offered to or used by servicemembers and their families.
MORTGAGE SERVICING NEWS:
Thousands of military families have been overcharged for their mortgages by JP Morgan Chase bank. Not only were these families made to pay too much, the inflated bills have ruined their credit and contributed to as many as 14 wrongful foreclosures. Capt. Jonathan Rowles filed a class-action lawsuit on behalf of thousands of active-duty servicemembers using the protections of the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act, otherwise known as the SCRA, to protect his home from an illegal foreclosure. (Read more here and read: Chase's statement here)
Many servicemembers have student loan debt. The below linked report, highlights the obstacles that many military families face when they attempt to manage their debt.
The report, "The Next Front? Student Loan Servicing and the Cost to Our Men and Women in Uniform," shows that servicemembers are having a hard time accessing the student-loan repayment protections granted to them under federal rules.
I am proud to support our men and women who have enlisted in the military and their families. They protect my rights, my freedom and my way of life, so I do whatever I can to show them that I appreciate their many sacrifices. That's why it really disgusts me when I read about scams that specifically target our military personnel and their families.
In my opinion, it takes a particularly depraved thief to steal from military families. It doesn't help that our military families are vulnerable to ID theft in ways that ordinary households might not be.
The families of active duty military personnel face a set of unique credit issues.
Don't get ripped off!
Listen to an interview with Paul Richard, Executive Director of the Institute for Financial Education, an organization that has extensive history helping military families deal with credit and financial issues.
Protect Your Credit
Plan ahead to protect your credit while you are away. If you are deployed away from your usual duty station and do not expect to seek new credit while you are deployed, consider placing an "active duty alert" on your credit report. An active duty alert requires creditors to take steps to verify your identity before granting credit in your name.
The alert is effective for one year unless you ask for it to be removed sooner. And if your deployment lasts longer than a year, you may place another alert on your report.
To place an active duty alert, or to have it removed, call the toll-free fraud number of one of the three nationwide consumer reporting companies. The company you call is required to contact the other two. If you cannot perform this function yourself, the law allows you to use a personal representative to place or remove an alert.
Know your rights!
The Service Members' Civil Relief Act. The SCRA provides many protections to military families and enables you to focus on your military duties without worrying about financial and legal obligations at home. This law applies to all military personnel--those entering the service, on deployments, called to active duty, or whose service is extended.
- requires lenders to charge no more than 6 percent interest on credit cards and other loans you had before military service or activation. The cap does not apply to student loans.
- protects you and your family from eviction from housing due to nonpayment of rents that are at or below a set amount ($2,720.95 in 2007).
- entitles you to end residential housing and business property leases, and personal or business car leases.
- entitles you to be reinstated in any health-care plan you had the day before your active duty began if that insurance was terminated because of your service.
- delays civil court actions, such as bankruptcy, foreclosure, or divorce proceedings.
- allows you to defer income tax payments for up to six months after discharge.
- protects your life insurance from being canceled for nonpayment of premiums.
- permits you to postpone payments on pre-service professional liability insurance.
To learn more about SCRA, contact your unit judge advocate or installation legal assistance officer. You can also find information here: Protecting your Finances
A Few Common Scams that Target Families of Our Military;
Red Cross "phishing" scam
A caller, claiming to work for the Red Cross, notifies an individual that their family member has been injured while on duty. To get immediate aid to the injured service member, the caller says, paperwork must be completed, and personal information must be verified. This scheme is a variation of "phishing"-a technique identity thieves use to get personal or financial information from unwary consumers. The identity thief claims to represent a trusted source-a bank, a government agency, or in this case, The American Red Cross-to get someone to divulge their personal information. The FTC urges military family members not to give out personal information on the phone if they are contacted by an individual they don't know-or via the Internet if the message comes via e-mail.
Families of fallen soldiers targeted
A "phishing scam" targeting the families of fallen soldiers reportedly has con artists promising compensation in exchange for information that might aid them in identity theft. The scam artist pretends to be from the Defense Finance and Accounting Office or the Army Human Resources Command, according to an Army G3 Information Paper. The families of deceased soldiers are informed that they are entitled to monetary compensation in excess of $12 million that will be available to them in one week of responding to the request for additional information. Don't fall for this scam--do not share your personal information.
Nigerian Counterfeit Cashier's Check Scam
Service members and their families have reported a recent outbreak of the Nigerian Counterfeit Cashier's Check Scam. The scammer will reply to an ad and ask if he can pay for the merchandise using a check. Then, the scammer concocts a reason for writing a check for more than the purchase price, and asks the seller to wire back the difference after he deposits the check. The scammers often target consumers who sell high-priced items through classified or online auction ads. Service members who receive suspicious checks or have questions regarding these scams should contact their local legal assistance office.
Families of Iraq-deployed soldiers targeted
A current scam involves a phone call from someone claiming that the family's service man or woman was on his/her way home on leave from Iraq, but was stalled because their wallet and military identification card was lost or stolen. The targeted family is then asked to supply personal information and send money. Remind family members not to fall for this!
Read more here: Scams targeting Military families
Interested in finding an organization that helps support our troops and their families? Here are just a few links to an array of sites that you might find of interest;
The Virtual Wall Vietnam Memorial
- The Virtual Wall Vietnam Veterans Memorial publishes photographs, poems, letters, and citations remembering those who died in the Vietnam War.
- In an effort to give back StudentLawns.Org requires it's members to provide free lawn maintenance to a senior citizen or United States military veteran. Student Lawns is an Austin, Texas based Lawn Service Company. We mow lawns and provide basic yard maintenance services at a reasonable rate.
- The Freedom Alliance Scholarship Fund honors the bravery and dedication exhibited by Americans in our armed forces who have sacrificed life and limb by providing educational scholarships to their children.
- Citizen Soldier Family Support Foundation, Inc. is a 501 (C)(3), non-profit established in early 2005. Our primary purpose is to serve citizen-soldiers and their familiies in need of financial, residential, vocational and transitional assistance.
- Operation First Response mission is to assist the wounded military and their families with personal and financial needs who are serving our country during Operation Iraqi Freedom and forward.
Armed Services YMCA
- The YMCA has provided educational, recreational, social and religious support to the military since 1861 and continues that effort with the Defense Department through the Armed Services YMCA headquarters in Alexandria, Virginia.
Operation Gratitude - OPGratitude.com
- OPERATION GRATITUDESM, together with the California Army National Guard, 746th QM BN, Van Nuys, seek to lift troops' morale, and bring a smile to their faces by sending Care Packages to service members overseas. OPERATION GRATITUDESM Care Packages contain food, toiletries, necessities, entertainment items and personal letters of appreciation, all wrapped with good wishes of love and support.
-The Foundation's communications network offers soldiers more than 8,000 miles away the opportunity to participate in milestone family events such as births, birthdays, weddings and school graduations. It will soon include installations at military hospitals here in the United States, to enable soldiers to interact with their newborn children and loved ones who have become ill with video conferencing. One project, "Bracelets Across America" are a vinyl wristband with a reusable metal snap.
Helping Our Heroes Foundation
- Our Mission provides funding, services, and volunteers to augment the support of our military injured in either Operation Enduring Freedom (Afghanistan) or Operation Iraqi Freedom, and runs parallel to the initiatives identified in the Disabled Soldiers Support System (DS3).
56th Brigade Phone Card Drive
- In January 2005, the Texas Army National Guard 56th Brigade Combat Team will be sent to Iraq in the largest overseas deployment of the Texas National Guard since World War II. In addition to thanking these men and women for their service by attending the deployment ceremony at 2 p.m. Jan. 1 in Floyd Casey Stadium, Baylor University and other Central Texas organizations are asking you to support our troops by helping them stay in touch with their families and loved ones while serving in Iraq. We intend to send every member of the Guard off to Iraq with a prepaid "phone card" in their pack.
- "Support Our Troops Fund" is a 501(c)(3) organization. Donations are tax deductible. Due to some hard work by a great man, he has managed to get donations to "VVA 100 Support Our Troops Fund" tax deductible. VVA100 is a 501(c) (19) Fraternal NPO and the State Charter Numbers are #61 62 60, all donations sent to Support Our Troops are 100% tax deductable.
-Wounded Warriors was started by the soldiers, sailors, airmen, civilians and Marines of the U.S. European Command to purchase quality-of-life items for those soldiers, airmen, sailors and Marines wounded or injured in Iraq and Afghanistan and evacuated to Landstuhl Regional Medical Center, Germany.
- The Injured Marine Semper Fi Fund helps Marines, sailors, and their families meet their financial needs during difficult times. The Fund works closely with the Marine Corps, the Navy, and hospitals nationwide to identify and assess the needs of specific families.
- Operation Uplink is a unique program that keeps military personnel and hospitalized veterans in touch with their families and loved ones by providing them with a free phone card. Using contributions from supporters like you, Operation Uplink purchases phone cards and distributes them to servicemen and women who are separated from those they care about.
- Show your support for the Troops in a very official way.
- The great intangible of America's wars beyond logistics, beyond strategy, beyond wonder weapons and Generals, is the spiritual force of its fighting men and women - and that is the force that the USO so magnificently serves...
- We are mothers who have or have had children serving in the military . We are a non-profit 501(c)3 service organization supporting each other, our children and promoting patriotism .
- The Soldiers' Angels was started by a self-described "ordinary mother" of an ordinary young man turned hero, Corporal Brandon Varn. Brandon was deployed in Iraq and has since honorably completed his mission and has returned back to his proud and loving family.
- The Wounded Warrior Project was founded on the principle that veterans are our nation's greatest citizens. The Project seeks to assist those men and women of our armed forces who have been severely injured during the conflicts in Iraq, Afghanistan, and other hot spots around the world.
- My Soldier is a program that puts politics aside and lets U.S. soldiers know that someone back home cares. Sgt. Juan Salas, who served for 14 months in Iraq, established the program with the help of his school, Manhattanville College, when he returned from the war.
- Operation Military Pride is a volunteer organization with a wide range of activities-all of which are to boost the morale of our troops deployed overseas. We not only send cards, letters and care packages ourselves, but also distribute troop names and addresses to patriots wanting to send cards, letters or care packages directly to troops. We are one of the very few groups that allow direct contact with a service member, eliminating the "middle man" and expenses.
- Operation Troop Support, a 501c3 non-profit organization, aims to help soldiers and their families. Our group supplies deployed soldiers with needed items that are difficult to obtain overseas, and locally, we provide support to the family support meetings and to the food pantry.
All For Our Military
- An email or pen pal project designed to send correspondence to troops who do not receive large amounts of mail. Information, commentary, and related links.
eMail Our Military
- Free service providing encouragement, motivation, and support to the United States military via email and postal mail.
Letters From Home
- Volunteer-based program that supports military personnel through letters and calling cards.
Military Support Group for Our Homefront Heroes
- Provides support for service men and women, and their families. Access for hard to find web sites with military support information. Based in Grand Junction, Colorado. Information, events, and links.;
Operation Holiday Stockings is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit founded by family members of the United States Armed Forces. Every year they knit, pack, and ship hundreds of Christmas stockings to our brave troops overseas.
Support our Military Families!
Get in touch if you have an organization you want others know about.