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The Top Ten Financial Benefits for Military Families

benefitts

By Debbie Gregory.

Are you taking advantage of some of the best financial benefits afforded to military families? A quick review of the following list will help you answer that question:

  1. Tuition-free college-Thanks to the Post-9/11 GI Bill, the cost of in-state tuition and fees at public colleges are covered for up to 36 months, or up to $21,970 per year for private colleges and foreign schools. Another added bonus is the housing stipend and money for books and supplies. Choosing a yellow ribbon school will stretch the benefit even farther.
  1. Veterans Administration loans – VA loans allow you to buy a house with no money down, and without having to purchase private mortgage insurance.
  2. Tax-free BAH- The monthly subsidy covering all or part of your monthly rent or mortgage payment as long as you’re in the military is tax-free.
  1. Low interest loans- Each branch of service has its own emergency-relief fund that offers small, interest-free loans for emergencies.
  1. Low-cost life insurance- Servicemembers’ Group Life Insurance costs a mere 7 cents per $1,000 of coverage/ month. This totals $336 a year for the maximum $400,000 coverage.
  2. Legal protection- The Servicemembers Civil Relief Act provides special legal benefits, including an interest-rate cap of 6% on any loans you took out before you were called to active duty and the right to terminate a lease due to PCS.
  3. Guaranteed return- The military’s Savings Deposit Program lets deployed servicemembers invest up to $10,000 in the program each time you are deployed. You receive 10% annual interest, compounded quarterly; the program lasts for up to three months after your return.
  1. Tax-Free Roth IRA- Servicemembers who are receiving tax-free combat-zone pay can deposit up to $5,500 into a Roth IRA, tax-free, and earnings come out tax-free as well.
  1. Low-cost retirement savings plan- The Thrift Savings Plan charges an annual expense ratio of just 0.029% of assets — whereas annual fees and expenses for 401(k) plans average between 1% and 2%.
  2. State tax breaks- If your legal residence is in a state that has no income tax, you can be shielded from taxes if you move to another state while on active duty.

Military Connection salutes and proudly serves veterans and service members in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, Guard and Reserve,  and their families.

Banks Forced to Do the Right Thing: Military Connection

forclosed

By Debbie Gregory.

JP Morgan Chase, Wells Fargo, Citi, GMAC Mortgage and Bank of America will be paying out more than $311 million to over 2,400 servicemembers as compensation for wrongful foreclosures on those servicemembers’ homes.

The payments are a result of the Servicemembers’ Civil Relief Act portion of the 2012 settlement known as the National Mortgage Settlement.

Servicemembers will receive $125,000, plus any lost equity in their property and interest on that equity.

The violations occurred between January 2006, and April 2012.

Servicers were in violation due to the fact that they either foreclosed on homes without a judicial proceeding of servicemembers who originated their mortgages before their period of military service, or they obtained a default foreclosure judgment without filing a proper affidavit with the court stating whether the homeowner was in the military.

The settlement also provides compensation for troops who notified their mortgage servicers that they had entered active military service, but were denied the full benefit of the SCRA provision that caps interest rates on pre-service mortgages at 6 percent. Those servicemembers will be identified in the coming months, Justice officials said.

Borrowers should use the following contact information for questions about SCRA payments under the National Mortgage Settlement:

  • Bank of America borrowers: Call Rust Consulting Inc. toll-free at 855-793-1370 or write to BAC Home Loans Servicing Settlement Administrator, c/o Rust Consulting Inc., P.O. Box 1948, Faribault, MN 55021-6091.
  • Citi borrowers: Call Citi toll-free at 888-326-1166.
  • GMAC Mortgage borrowers: Call Rust Consulting Inc. toll-free at 866-708-0915 or write to P.O. Box 3061, Faribault, Minnesota 55021-2661.
  • JPMorgan Chase borrowers: Call Chase toll-free at 877-469-0110 or write to P.O. Box 183224, OH-7160/DOJ, Columbus, OH 43219-6009.
  • Wells Fargo borrowers: Call the Wells Fargo Home Mortgage Military Customer Service Center toll free at 877-839-2359.

Payments made to servicemembers and co-borrowers for foreclosure violations will be reported to the IRS.  But just because a payment is reported to the IRS does not mean that it is taxable.  Your tax treatment will depend on your particular facts and circumstances.  Payees should contact a professional tax advisor or other qualified financial counselor with any questions concerning taxes.

Officials expect more servicemembers who were victimized will be identified in the coming months. Servicemembers and family members who believe their SCRA rights have been violated may contact an Armed Forces Legal Assistance office.

Military Connection salutes and proudly serves veterans and service members in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, Guard and Reserve,  and their families.

Is the Servicemembers’ Civil Relief Act Working? Military Connection

Military Connection: civil

By Debbie Gregory.

Federal law may guarantee military student loan deferments, but more reports to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) are indicating that many loans are either being denied or mishandled by financial institutions.

Protections should be in place for borrowers under the Servicemembers’ Civil Relief Act. The bill states that lenders cannot charge more than six percent interest on any pre-service debt to anyone on active duty. Additionally, it states that additional charges cannot be added when the service person is no longer on active duty.

The bill also protects borrowers from eviction during their deployment. Considering the number of reports filed with the CFPB, it would seem that these provisions have been bypassed, evaded, or simply ignored by a number of lenders, despite a recent non-compliance group settlement.

Holly Petraeus, assistant director to the CFPB, has stated that some non-compliant lenders are not identifying their reasoning for either denying or refusing deferments. When one borrower deployed to Afghanistan reported a denied request for deferment, the lender offered little basis for their decision.

“Instead of clearly explaining the reason for the denial,” explained Petraeus, “the borrower’s servicer merely listed the various criteria used to determine eligibility, without indicating which of the criteria he failed to satisfy.”

Eventually, with the efforts of the CFPB, the lender in this case reversed their decision. The fact that it took pressure from the bureau to correct their determination is what remains most frustrating.

What does a borrower in the military with a student loan do if they are faced with a less-than compliant lender? Review the resources at regulations.gov for more information pertaining to your situation. Contact the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau for support. Be aware that defaulting on a loan affects your credit, which could affect your ability to obtain or maintain your security clearance. Know your rights and seek the support you need to assure your loans are handled within the provisions of the SCRA, and in your best interest.

Military Connection proudly serves those who serve in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, Guard and Reserve, Veterans and their families. We are the go-to site for Veteran Employment and information on Veteran education. Militaryconnection.com provides Veterans with and Directory of Employers, a Job Board, information on the Post-9/11 GI Bill, and a blog that offers Veterans boundless information. Be sure to visit Militaryconnection.com, the go-to site.

Is the Servicemembers’ Civil Relief Act Working? Military Connection: by Debbie Gregory