While courageous members of the military have faced conflicts on front lines around the world, a new survey suggests that many are confronting financial battles at home, too. Thankfully, there is a growing awareness of the needs our returning veterans face with medical, employment, and family reintegration issues. However, service members and their families need help for financial stresses.
A study of service member families by the National Foundation for Credit Counseling (NFCC) found they have fewer tangible assets and a higher level of debt than the average American family. Unsecured debt balances for members of the military averaged 7.1% higher, and tangible assets were 16.2% lower. In addition, the very nature of military deployment creates changes in financial realities, and exposure to predatory lending, targeted marketing and consumer fraud.
Darryl Dahlheimer, program director for LSS Financial Counseling, observed that “Department of Defense studies have shown a concentration of payday lending stores right near military bases. While there are some legal protections available under the Military Lending Act, many service members remain unaware of those rights, and end up in a debt trap of loan after loan. We can do better for our veterans.” He added that in Minnesota, the average payday loan borrower takes 10 loans each year.
LSS Financial Counseling recognizes that debt, credit, and money management are matters of common concern among civilians as well. But special challenges for military families include frequent relocation, deployment, transition to civilian life and employment for military spouses.
LSS Financial Counseling offers free financial counseling for veterans and their families. Becky Pakarinen, Financial Counseling Director at LSS, noted that veterans often wonder who to trust and appreciate nonprofit, local resources to help them with the challenges of reintegration, including financial issues. “We just worked with a veteran who was going through a divorce and the financial counselor helped him sort which debts he’d still be responsible for, and make a realistic budget based on just his income,” she said. “Like many we serve, that task had seemed overwhelming and it was a huge relief to have someone non-judgmental to help him find solutions. We help people make action plans and conquer their credit card debt and student loan repayment every day.”
There is help. As we remember and give gratitude for our veterans, let’s recognize the financial challenges that many veterans and their families experience and make sure they know about local, free, and trustworthy resources.
Lutheran Social Service provides financial counseling in-person at 10 offices in Minnesota and also by phone or online. Veterans and their families can access financial guidance and debt management by calling 1.888.577.2227 or online by clicking the button below.