Debt of Gratitude: How Can We Repay Those Who Selflessly Serve?
Advocacy The men and women who serve in the military and who are fearlessly defending our freedom may not have access to a computer or phone, so managing finances can be that much more challenging.
The Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA) was created to provide our nation’s heroes with some peace of mind that their finances will be in order upon their return. SCRA is a federal law that provides military members with certain rights as they enter active duty. For example, a service member has the ability to reduce the interest rate on consumer debt—including mortgages, student loans, auto, credit cards—to 6 percent. This applies to debts and mortgages that were entered into prior to active duty.
Protect and serve
Many financial institutions are following suit, designing programs aimed at addressing the unique challenges faced by service men and women—particularly those serving overseas. Sallie Mae, the well-known financial services company that specializes in education loans, has implemented various programs to “protect and serve” the financial interests of men and women in the military.
“These brave men and women perform an extraordinary service for our great nation,” says Mike Maier, a senior vice president at Sallie Mae and a U.S. Navy veteran. “I understand firsthand the special burdens that members of the military may encounter trying to meet financial obligations while serving our country. We salute their service and are committed to ensuring they succeed.”
Education is key
“We know our servicemen and women are faced with an abundance of challenges and transitions while deployed and upon returning to civilian life…We want to redouble our efforts to ease their transition and provide them with educational opportunities, resources and the ongoing support they have earned,” says U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan.
Sallie Mae has heard the call—and they are answering it. Last year, they launched a customer service team to assist military customers and to address their specific questions. Since establishing the program, their military customer assistance team has received more than 60,000 calls.
The financial institution also worked with the Department of Education and other federal loan servicers on publishing a brochure to help military personnel have a clearer understanding of the benefits that they are entitled to under SCRA. In addition, it created a website to help military families learn these and other benefits, such as income-based repayment, public service loan forgiveness and military service deferment.
“Knowing that Sallie Mae has a dedicated team for this now, has made my homecoming so much better to look forward to,” says Sgt. Christopher Gonzalez, who is serving in the U.S. Air Force.
Knowledge is power
Known for providing loans to students to finance their education, Sallie Mae is doing something even more important by arming military men and women with the knowledge that they need to surmount their financial obstacles and to truly be all they can be.
Sgt. Christopher Connors, who recently returned home to Delaware after a nine-month deployment to Afghanistan, was able to secure a lower rate on a credit card.
“It was a relief to get an interest rate reduction on my credit card and other consumer debt during my deployment,” he says. “It can definitely be a challenge to take care of the bills away from home. When companies provide online resources and knowledgeable service, that’s a huge help. It definitely helped me.”
We owe these returning troops a debt of gratitude. The Servicemembers Civil Relief Act is just one, simple way of thanking them.