By Scott Prater
FORT CARSON, Colorado – Unforeseen emergencies often seem to happen at the most inopportune times – the furnace goes out on the first cold night of fall; the family car broke down shortly after a soldier left town on deployment. Perhaps a soldier new to the military is having issues with basic salary or housing allowance and has reached a deadline to produce rent or mortgage payment.
Deployments often result in increased emergency needs for remaining spouses and family members: home and auto repairs, replacement of appliances, food and clothing, for example.
As the 1st Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, prepares for an upcoming deployment, the Army Community Service (ACS) Financial Readiness Program (FRP) at Fort Carson hopes to make Soldiers, spouses and members of the family aware of the help available for those experiencing temporary financial difficulties.
“Really, deploying a unit doesn’t change how the FRP and Army Emergency Relief (AER) work,” said Fred Lewis, AER officer at Fort Carson. “ACS Financial Readiness provides services to families before deployment, during deployment and after deployment. What soldiers need to know, however, is that in order for an Army spouse to receive AER funds, the military must file a special power of attorney that specifies the AER.
Obtaining a special power of attorney can be done through the Fort Carson legal office, but Lewis said filing the special power of attorney is something many soldiers don’t think about prior to deployment.
“We are trying to get the word out to unit leaders and soldiers,” he said. “Our FRP team organizes pre-deployment briefings with many units. At the same time, we understand that some people may be reluctant to seek financial assistance due to the embarrassment or stigma associated with seeking help.
AER provides approximately $ 70 million in grants and zero interest loans to over 40,000 military families per year, but this is just a resource service offered through FRP.
“Many soldiers, for example, may be the primary financial person in a household, but when that soldier is deployed, paying the bills and managing the accounts is the responsibility of the spouse,” Lewis said. “Sometimes spouses, and soldiers for that matter, may have to deal with debt issues, but we have financial advisers who can help reform a budget or negotiate a debt.”
Mary Braxton, manager of ACS’s financial readiness program, said the FRP also conducts reintegration briefings for units that are redeploying.
“We are proactive when it comes to financial reintegration training,” she said. “If a unit leader thinks a unit might find a briefing helpful or even if a particular soldier needs a one-on-one financial counseling session, we can provide it.”
To learn more about the services and resources available through the ACS Financial Readiness Program, contact ACS at 526-4605.