Military Appreciation Month: Seven Financial Wellness Tips for Veterans
LSS Financial Counseling thanks all who serve or have served in the armed forces. Like many Americans, veterans and active duty service men and women are concerned about financial wellness. We are available to help address the specific financial circumstances that come with military service.
Whether you are active duty, preparing for civilian life, or are a veteran, here are some helpful tips to build a strong, lasting financial foundation.
1) Track your expenses
It is always helpful to know what you spend on a monthly basis, especially when it feels like money runs short before the month ends. Write down all your expenses and determine which are high priority, versus expenses that may need to be put on hold temporarily. Knowing what expenses aren’t necessary can help you establish savings for emergencies, if you haven’t started that already.
2) Take advantage of military discounts
MilitaryBenefits.info lists dozens of companies and stores that give veterans a financial break on products, including autos, auto parts, insurance, health and beauty, computers, education and internet service. The site also has discounts available throughout Military Appreciation Month.
3) Build and maintain good credit
Go to www.annualcreditreport.com to request a copy of your free credit report. Review your credit report annually to make sure there are no errors, especially if you were deployed for a period. Make debt payments on time, use only a small amount of your credit card limit, and pay it off in full each month. Having good credit will allow you to get the lowest interest rates on car and home loans, saving you money in the long run.
4) Be aware of financial scams
Veterans are twice as likely to be victims of financial fraud. According to the Federal Trade Commission, the median loss for military scam victims in 2019 was $894, nearly triple that of the rest of the population. Find out ways to protect yourself and increase your awareness at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s website.
5) Use benefits and services available to veterans
In Minnesota, each county has a County Veterans Service Officer (CVSO) to ensure all veterans and their families receive the benefits and services they deserve. Find your CVSO at www.macvso.org, or call 1.888.LinkVet (1.888.546.5838). For those outside of Minnesota, visit the national website.
Currently, Minnesota veterans are eligible for one-time financial assistance grants if they experience financial difficulties: the Special Needs Grant and the Disaster Relief Grant. Each program also has one-time grants specifically for veterans who are economically harmed due to COVID-19. Contact your CVSO to apply.
6) Apply for private assistance when facing financial challenges
Your branch’s relief organization provides aid to veterans who struggle financially:
- Air Force Aid Society
- Army Emergency Relief
- Navy-Marine Corps Relief Society
- Coast Guard Mutual Assistance
The last three organization have special programs if your financial hardship is due to COVID-19.
- The Red Cross collaborates with military relief societies to provide financial assistance. Active duty personnel, their immediate family members, veterans and their spouses are eligible. Go to the Red Cross’ website to see what information you need to start your application, then call 1.877.272.7337.
- Operation Homefront has a Critical Financial Assistance program. The eligibility requirements are fairly broad.
- The Gary Sinise Foundation has launched “Emergency Covid-19 Combat Service,” a campaign providing financial assistance to service members, veterans, first responders and healthcare workers and their families.
- The Wounded Warrior Project also has a COVID-19 Relief Program, which is available to certain qualified members who were registered prior to April 8, 2020 and face a financial hardship.
- PenFed Foundation has a Military Heroes Fund for wounded, ill and injured post 9-11 combat veterans who experience an unexpected short-term financial setback.
7) Contact us: We provide special support for veterans
Lutheran Social Service of Minnesota partners with the Minnesota Department of Veteran Affairs to offer C.O.R.E. (Counseling and Case Management, Outreach, Referral, and Education). The first of its kind in the nation, this program offers FREE confidential services for eligible veterans, including behavioral health and financial counseling. Veterans can receive ongoing coaching sessions tailored to meet their specific needs. This program has helped many veterans begin their path towards a stable financial future. Call 1.844.577.2673.
LSS Financial Counseling has certified financial counselors to give you individualized support. They receive special training to meet the unique needs and circumstances of veterans and their families. Our counselors will review your situation with you and provide practical advice.
Call us at 888.577.2227 for your free, confidential session, or get all your support online.
Kim Miller is a Certified Financial Counselor with LSS Financial Counseling.