smart spending

Financial help for military members

The Homeowners' Assistance Program

The Homeowners' Assistance Program was expanded as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. It offers financial help to members of the military who are ordered to permanently relocate and are unable to sell their homes, or who must sell at a loss.

"Basically, it allows payments to help service members and eligible family members who are required to move and because of the drop in the housing market cannot sell their homes or rent them for an amount that will allow the service members to continue to make the mortgage payments," Shumake says.

Eligibility is extended to active and former service members; civilian employees of the Department of Defense, Coast Guard and nonappropriated fund activities; and surviving spouses of service members and civilian employees.

Financial counseling for the military

Members of the military also can receive general help with their finances, according to Dave Julian, director of the Office of Personal Finance for Department of Defense.

"If service members live on or near a military installation, they or their family members can go to the family support center (for assistance)," says Julian, who notes that each branch of the service has its own unique name for this type of support center.

Family support centers have accredited financial counselors with whom troops and families can meet to discuss financial issues, develop strategies and determine the best ways to reach their financial goals.

Julian says service members who are "geographically isolated from a military installation" or prefer not to go to a family center can go to the Department of Defense Military OneSource website.

Through this site, members can be connected to a financial counselor, financial planner, or tax consultant by telephone or in face-to-face counseling sessions with financial counselors near their location. Members are eligible for 12 free sessions per year, Julian says.

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