Financial Counseling Available for Veterans, Military Members and Families
May is National Military Appreciation Month, honoring the services and sacrifices that current and former members of the military have made for the nation. They and their families face unique circumstances, and LSS Financial Counseling is here to meet those needs. One of the services we offer is CORE (Counseling and Case Management, Outreach, Referral and Education).
Challenges Facing Military Members and Families
Active duty personnel, veterans and their families encounter a host of issues related to military service, including:
- Deployment, redeployment and moves to different military stations.
- Reintegration with family and life after a tour of duty.
- Money management.
- Caregiving for loved ones injured during their service.
- Navigating the system of veterans’ benefits and services.
Military deployment can make service members and families more vulnerable to predatory lending and economic uncertainty. U.S. Department of Defense studies have shown a concentration of payday lending stores near military bases. In addition, moving from one military station to another can result in the loss of a spouse’s job, a decrease in the spouse’s income, changes in the cost of living or a delay in securing permanent housing.
These issues and circumstances, along with the COVID-19 pandemic, can create financial challenges. The National Foundation for Credit Counseling (NFCC) reported the following from its 2020 Military Financial Readiness Survey:
- 54% of servicemembers said in 2020 that “just getting by financially” describes them completely or very well, an increase from 43% the year before.
- 78% of active duty servicemembers reported financial impacts from COVID-19.
- 51% of active duty servicemembers and 38% of spouses report using the gig economy to earn extra income during the COVID-19 pandemic.
- 31% of active duty servicemembers took out a cash advance or payday loan in 2020; only 13% did so in 2019.
- 52% reported difficulty finding adequate loan options during the pandemic, which might have led to the rise in payday loan usage.
These challenges, in turn, can create mental stress. The NFCC 2020 Survey reports that:
- 86% of active duty servicemembers and 43% of veterans worry about their personal finances. Servicemembers’ biggest financial worry is credit; veterans’ biggest worry is saving enough.
- 51% of military spouses say they are very worried about the potential loss of income and job security resulting from the coronavirus pandemic.
- 27% of active duty servicemembers with personal debt do not feel confident that they can pay off that debt on schedule.
- 70% of servicemembers agree that they could benefit from advice and answers to everyday financial questions from a professional. Almost half of veterans (49%) wish they had more information about financial resources specifically for veterans.
Support for Veterans and Their Families
Lutheran Social Service of Minnesota’s (LSS) services for military members and their families include CORE, a partnership with the Minnesota Department of Veterans Affairs (MDVA). CORE offers caregiver support & respite, casework, housing assistance, mental health counseling and financial counseling to qualifying veterans and their families.
LSS Financial Counseling, a service of LSS, is part of the CORE team, providing trusted, compassionate and nonjudgmental support to veterans and their families wanting to gain control over their finances. As CORE team members, we work with veterans to meet the requirements for financial assistance from agencies like the MDVA. This includes reviewing the veteran’s finances, creating a budget, and making recommendations to help them stabilize their finances. We also equip veterans with the skills and tools to achieve financial goals, such as manage credit card and student loan debt, improve credit and prepare for homeownership.
We support military members and their families who do not meet CORE requirements. Our website has a complete list of our financial wellness services.
Our experienced, certified financial counselors are uniquely positioned to support all those who have served our country. Counselors have undergone PsychArmor training to better understand and meet the needs and circumstances of service members and their families.
CORE: One Veteran’s Success
Linda Summer, an Army veteran, fell behind on her bills and “was way down in the dumps about everything.” She reached out to several agencies but was told she either made too much or too little income to get assistance. An attorney friend gave her LSS’ phone number, and she was referred to the CORE program and our free financial counseling service.
She admitted that initially, “I was scared, but now I am glad I called.” We on the LSS CORE team and Dan Couture, the local CORE veterans case manager at the time, worked with Linda so she could gain control over her finances. With that support, Linda:
- Cancelled an expensive whole life insurance policy she no longer needed and received a cash payout.
- Qualified for a different life insurance policy through the Veterans Administration (VA) at no cost.
- Saved about $400 per month on her medical coverage through coordinating benefits provided by the VA’s health care program, Medicare and a Medicare supplemental policy.
- Switched to a more affordable cell phone plan.
“CORE was a real lifesaver for me,” Linda said. “I feel good about everything. I have extra money now to afford a few basic things that I need. My finances are in the black!”
If you are a veteran and you and your family would like to gain more control over your finances, call our CORE service at 844.577.2673. If you are an active servicemember or family member, call toll-free 888.577.2227, or get all your support online. Our services are free and confidential.
Bryan Brown is a Certified Financial Counselor with LSS Financial Counseling, He specializes in supporting military members and their families