Financial help for military families is available from a variety of sources. Most of the help is available only to military families whose service member has been called to active duty from reserve status or is a member of the regular military on active duty. As with any other family, military families can fall on hard times due to the inability of a spouse to work, layoff of a spouse, or, in the case of reservists, the need to leave a higher-paying job behind when the service member is called to active duty. In addition, financial hardships for military families can reflect the economic situation in society at large as sources of second incomes dry up.
Sources of Financial Help
Financial aid for military families is available from both public and private sources. The website Military.com provides an exhaustive list of organizations that assist service members and their families with financial emergencies. They also include references to financial counseling services for families that find they are living beyond their current needs.
Financial Help from Government Sources
All of the benefits listed below apply to active duty military. Some of these benefits are also available to reservists and veterans who meet certain criteria:
- State benefits - these benefits vary state by state. They may include tax breaks, educational benefits, home-buying assistance, and many other services for military families.
- Military Family Assistance Centers - when a reserve unit is mobilized, a military family assistance center is normally launched by the state area command structure. These centers provide a variety of assistance programs, including referral to sources of financial assistance. They can also refer military families for financial counseling to help them with credit issues and debt resolution.
- Life insurance - the VA provides Service Members Group Life Insurance (SMGLI), an extremely low-cost life insurance program for members of the military. This insurance program also includes protection for traumatic injury.
- Memorial and burial benefits -the VA pays up to $2,000 dollars towards burial of an active duty service member
- Military education - the Department of Defense provides benefits for service members to continue their education. State programs and private sources may provide educational benefits to military family members as well.
- Legal matters - military personnel and their families have access to free legal assistance, including will preparation, power of attorney, and many other civil matters.
- Survivor benefits - when a service member dies during active duty, the surviving family members are provided with a variety of death benefits, which should be investigated quickly following the service member's death.
- VA home loans - active duty military personnel typically qualify for these low-cost home loans. Certain eligibility requirements need to be met.
- WIC - a federal nutrition problem that aids low income mothers, infants and children
Financial Help from Nonprofit Organizations
A number of organizations provide emergency financial help for military families in need. A few of these organizations are:
- Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) - offers two programs:
- Operation Uplink provides free telephone service to active duty military and hospitalized veterans so they can keep in touch with their families.
- Military Assistance Programs provide more than $3.7 million in grants toward emergency financial aid for military families.
- American Red Cross - provides financial assistance in the following forms to members of the armed forces:
- Casualty travel assistance - flies two family members to the bedside of an injured active duty service member
- Referral to other sources of assistance for military service members and their families
- Air Force Aid Society- dedicated to assisting Air Force members and their families in financing their educational goals
Availability of Financial Help for Military Families
Financial aid for military families is available, but it may take some time to locate the most appropriate resources. As soon as help is needed, a good place to begin the search for assistance is the local family assistance center or the American Red Cross. Both organizations can make referrals to a large network of other, more specialized organizations, that may be able to provide the help you need. You can also contact any of the sources above directly; a representative can quickly evaluate whether or not you or your family is eligible for the financial aid that they provide to military personnel and their families.