By Commentary by 1st Sgt. Scot Cates, West Point Military Police CompanyOctober 2, 2009
You may have read the recent article about the housing crisis and where to go for help. Those are great resources, but first some of us have to get past the stigma many servicemembers have about asking for help with financial problems and thinking that asking will reflect badly on them as Soldiers.
This help is all confidential and you are definitely not the only one to have ever experienced a financial issue. In fact, with more Soldiers asking for help, the military is providing better services than it ever has before.
That\'s why Army Community Service has Army Emergency Relief, financial readiness and other agencies to help you, and their services are all confidential. Militaryonesource.com did not get started because no one needed it-military personnel needed help and were strong enough to ask.
The soft housing market of today brings to light some of the many benefits of being in the military. The government has a number of programs that help Americans deal with this soft market. In the military, we have those and some additional programs of our own.
The problem seems to be that financial matters are private and personal. The strong military mindset makes us want to be self-sufficient and deal with our own problems. What we need to acknowledge is that using the available programs is the way to help ourselves be successful. These benefits help servicemembers fix the temporary problems that we encounter in our lives.
You wouldn't turn down a $500 military discount when buying a new car' Would you' Then, why not use the valuable benefits offered by our services'
I know people who have PCSd to or from West Point, had problems selling or renting a house and didn't initially get help. Those finding themselves in that situation quickly realized that it can lead to money problems, which leads to Family disharmony, which can lead to divorce, depression and thoughts of suicide.
Don't let it happen to you. It can happen to people of any rank--private to general, but most often happens to fairly senior NCOs and/or mid-grade officers--they go to a duty station and it seems financially sound to buy a house.
Then the market changes, they move and are stuck with the property. They can't sell it or can't rent it for what they owe and are a long ways away from trying to be an absentee landlord. Getting help before you get over your head is the smart decision.
There are cases of Families being affected right here at West Point. A little over a year ago one of my friends PCSd here and had his house on the market. After a year, he had one offer to buy the home and on the day they were to close the deal, the buyer backed out for no reason.
During that time, he had to make the mortgage payment on the house while his BAH was, of course, paying for his Family to live here. He finally made the decision, after the Family's finances were hit hard, to rent the home.
He tells me that knowing about AER and the other military support programs available to him made the financial strain more bearable. Helping Soldiers is what these support systems are all about.
What can you do when you are on orders to PCS and can't sell your home' You could drop your price, consider renting the home out or, better yet, look to one of the many (professional) agencies that are there to help servicemembers and their Families.
You can learn about the Servicemembers' Civil Relief Act, the Homeowners Assistance Program, talk with the Housing Assistance office, or seek advice from militaryonesource.com.
By getting assistance for our problems, we can help ourselves and help others who may be in the same situation. It is not a sign of weakness, but rather of strength of character that you have the ability to admit you need some help and seek it to help you and your Family.