More Financial Tidbits for Military Families, as reported by National Military Family Association (NMFA) citing Donna Miles (American Forces Press Service, 8/15/2008):
The economic downturn that has hit many Americans appears to have had less impact on service members, partly because of the nature of military service and partly due to the vast network of programs and services available to help them. The latest annual Defense Department status of forces survey conducted in April by the Defense Manpower Data Center supports this assessment. The full results of the survey have yet to be published.
There’s no question that service members and their families feel the pinch of spiraling gas, grocery and other prices. However, because service members have secure full-time jobs, commissary and exchange privileges, free to low-cost medical care, and allowances for housing, they are less likely to be as financially stressed as some of their civilian counterparts. In addition, service members on deployments benefit financially from tax-free earnings in combat zones, hazardous duty pay, and if married, family separation pay.
Three-quarters of service members who live off base rent their homes, so they’re not as hard-hit by the depressed housing market. Additionally, as discussed last week in the Government and You E-News, the recent change to the Joint Federal Travel Regulation (JFTR) authorizes the military to pay for local moves when a landlord defaults and the military tenant is forced to relocate to new housing.
One segment of the military population likely to be hardest hit by the housing downturn is the twenty-five percent of service members who own their homes. If individuals are unable to sell their houses for what they owe and can’t get enough rent to cover the mortgage, they’re likely to feel the pinch. This is especially true for service members moving from a high-cost housing area to a lower-cost housing area. Another provision in the JFTR offers a protection for service members. They can elect to leave their family at their old duty stations as they move to a lower-cost area and continue to draw their housing allowance at the higher rate where their family lives. It is not an ideal circumstance, but it could be a lifesaver to some families facing a financial crisis. Each service Secretary may determine the circumstances that authorizes/approves a housing allowance based on either the dependant’s location or the old duty station. This discretion is left to the service Secretary for each branch.
NMFA would like to take this time to remind service members and their families of the myriad of financial services that are available to help at no cost to service members. Personal financial counselors, legal assistance staff and aid societies are available for one-on-one sessions. If you are not comfortable with a personal meeting, take advantage of financial counseling over the telephone through Military OneSource by calling 800-342-9647.
Wow, only 25% of service members own their own home? I didn't realize the number was so low. Perhaps, that's actually high. Whatever the case, the above news is a bit daunting. We are due to PCS in the next couple of years and since we own, I'm getting worried. Fortunately, we could always do the GEO thing. I guess we will just play the wait and see game.
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