Financial issues among our military members is detractor to the overall readiness of the force, and is a major concern for Leaders and Commanders who care about their Soldiers’ well-being.

Mr. Andrew Cohen, Director, Office of Financial Readiness, Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness, addressed the issue during a recent DOD/VA Suicide Prevention Conference. His office is responsible for overseeing the DOD training and counseling program across the department in addition to directing several programs to support department wide efforts in education counseling.

“Every year we do the Status of Forces Survey that’s required by law to include questions on financial literacy and preparedness and well-being, he said. We see within the results a Force that is generally better off in some cases in terms of literacy preparedness than the population as a whole.”

However, he also sees parts of the military population that have problems and not doing so well in terms of certain financial behaviors, such as missing car payments, credit card payments or bouncing checks, according to Cohen.

During the past four to five years, the Department has built a robust capability to provide financial literacy, training and counseling while working to move the topic and stigma from being a reactive issue to being more proactive and building resilience.

“By law the department is required at various points across a member’s career to provide financial literacy training and counseling,” said Cohen.

This is typically done through a standard set of learning objectives  that address topics such as basic budgeting, saving and investing for retirement, estate planning and personal milestones such as  marriage, divorce, or birth of a child. The counseling addresses  how these events contribute to financial stress while serving in the military.”

“We have an extensive network of 730 financial counselors worldwide,” said Cohen.  “The Services have about 400 of those counselors at DOD Installations worldwide.”

The counselors are nationally accredited and help provide coverage to places that may not be near an installation, such as members of the Guard and Reserves or active duty members who might be remotely deployed like those on recruiting duty.  In addition, 24/7 resource access counselors are available through MilitaryOne Source at (800) 342-9647.

“Help is never more than a phone call away for those who need it,” said Cohen.

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