By Christopher Johnston
Serving in the military is rarely an easy task, especially for those who endure combat duty and suffer injuries seen or unseen. Fortunately, there are many programs available to assist active-duty service members, veterans and their families, should they run into financial or credit problems.
Based in Radcliff, Kentucky, USA Cares assists post-9-11 military personnel and veterans of all branches, all ranks who are experiencing a financial crisis because of a military-related hardship. To qualify, they must be behind on at least one bill. The agency’s mission is to assist those who served in getting the treatment or financial support they need in order to transition back into the workforce and recover financially.
According to Jennifer Robinson, director of assistance for USA Cares, roughly 65 per cent of the people they assist are National Guard or Reservists, since there aren’t as many resources available to them, and they often give up a job to serve. USA Cares offers three basic programs. One provides assistance with housing and basic quality of life needs, if the person gets behind on rent, car payments or insurance, for example, or needs money for food or gas. The advocacy program assists veterans diagnosed with an injury by covering their essential payments, including mortgage and utilities, while they are in an inpatient treatment program.
Last summer, the agency initiated a jobs training program to help veterans in need of employment. Most of the programs are in construction trades (e.g., plumbing, electrical, welding), and USA Cares partners with commercial construction companies who need trade skills and labour. The agency also helps the trainees pay for the gas they need to get to the job, or if they land a job interview in another state, they provide the travel funds to get them to the interview.
USA Cares even helps qualified individuals who are experiencing non-military-related problems, perhaps because of a divorce. “We can’t assist them directly in those instances,” Robinson explains. “But we partner with other organisations who meet their demands for education or finance or whatever they need.”
[Resource: Understanding Your Debt Collection Rights]
A lot of service people or veterans are afraid to ask for help for fear of being embarrassed, often unaware that all transactions are confidential.
“Sometimes, by the time they come to us for help, they’ve gotten so far into debt or trouble that it’s hard to get them out of their situation,” Robinson says. “So at the first sign of financial need, they shouldn’t be afraid to ask for help from anybody.”
Rather than actively avoiding creditors trying to reach them, she advises aggressive response to creditors, who are usually willing to work out a payment plan or give the person a break, if they show a willingness to communicate.
Image: U.S. Army, via Flickr.com
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