Unique services available for service members

This was originally published on Monday, May 26, 2014, in the Pacific Daily News.  Click here to subscribe to the PDN.

It is Memorial Day, Guam. I would like to dedicate this article to military members, past and present. Although I am not as familiar with military living, I received many inquiries and feel it’s a good topic to cover. I sought assistance from military personnel. Thank you to all that helped with the information.

The military offers many benefits. Here are a few:

• Saving Deposit Program (SDP): The SDP is a military savings account that’s available only during combat deployments, which offers ten-percent interest. The military member must be in the combat zone for at least thirty days and receive Hostile Fire Pay or Imminent Danger Pay. All active-duty and activated Guard and Reserve members are eligible for SDP. There are other eligibility requirements, visit the Defense Finance and Accounting Service (DFAS) website,www.dfas.mil, or contact your personnel support office.

•  Thrift Savings Plan (TSP): Federal employees and members of the uniformed services have the benefit of this retirement savings and investment plan. TSP offers some of the same types of benefits that most private companies offer with their 401(k)s. TSP offers both traditional and Roth accounts. Learn more about TSP atwww.tsp.gov.

• The Montgomery GI Bill: The benefits of the GI Bill aren’t just for active duty and retirees. Reservists and the National Guard are also eligible. The GI Bill can be used to pay for college, certification testing and job training. Some of these benefits can even be shared with your spouse and children. Learn more atwww.benefits.va.gov.

• Life insurance: The Service Group Life Insurance (SGLI) is a low-cost term life insurance plan. Active-duty members and members of the Ready Reserve or National Guard are eligible. Spouses and dependents are eligible for the Family Servicemembers’ Group Life Insurance (FSGLI). To see if you are eligible, go to www.benefits.va.gov.

• The Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA): This act provides special legal benefits and protection from civil actions against Active-duty service members, Reservists and members of the National Guard while on active-duty status. It can help lower interest rates on loans you took out before being called to active duty or help terminate a lease. Eligibility for SCRA benefits begins on the date entering active duty and expires thirty to ninety days after discharge from active duty. Learn more atwww.dmdc.osd.mil.

• Free financial counseling: All branches of the military have a service center that can provide free budget counseling. Military members must stay in relatively good financial health because certain clearances depend on it. Contact your personnel support office for more information.

• Service centers: All branches of the military have service centers that offer a wide range of services at no cost. The services you would usually find are relocation assistance, job assistance, new parent support, deployment and reunion assistance, stress and anger management, transition assistance, and some even offer free counseling and much more. There’s an online website that offers the same services,www.militaryonesource.mil. All Department of Defense active-duty service members (excluding Coast Guard), National Guard and Reserves (regardless of activation status) are eligible for this online service. Spouses and dependents of those previously mentioned also are eligible. Family members who are taking care of the affairs of those mentioned also are eligible.

These are just some of the benefits our service members can utilize. You make many sacrifices to keep us free and you have earned these benefits. Don’t forget about your local USO! Take full advantage of the available services. Dangkulu na si’ yu’us ma’ase to all those that serve, past and present, and their families.

Michael Camacho is president and chief executive officer of Personal Finance Center. He has more than 20 years of experience in retail banking and at financial institutions in Guam and Hawaii. If there is a topic you’d like Michael to cover, please email him at moneymattersguam@yahoo.com and read past columns at the Money Matters blog at www.moneymattersguam.wordpress.com.

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