Monday, January 26, 2015

Veterans, service members reach out for assistance

From page C17 | March 01, 2013 |

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WASHINGTON, D.C — The Pentagon Federal Credit Union Foundation (PenFed Foundation), a nationally recognized nonprofit organization working to meet the unmet needs of military personnel and their families, saw a record year in 2012 for veterans and service members requesting help through its programs including emergency financial assistance, child care services, first-time home-buyer grants, and interest-free loans. Last year, the PenFed Foundation provided close to $2 million in grants and loans to assist 30 percent more current and retired military than in years past.

“With the end of the conflict in Iraq and the war in Afghanistan drawing to a close, we’re seeing a lot of veterans return to lives they had put on hold,” said Kate Kohler, chief operating officer of the PenFed Foundation who is a former Army captain. “They need help with their finances, child care, and even buying a home. It’s a reminder that just because the wars aren’t so much in the headlines anymore, veterans see the impact of war every day.”

Through its Military Heroes Fund, last year the foundation provided over 525 grants totaling over $650,000 in emergency financial assistance and child care to wounded warriors and their families, a 50 percent increase for grants over years passed.

According to 2011 statistics from the Department of Veterans Affairs, more than half of America’s former service members who served in Iraq and Afghanistan need to be treated for medical and mental problems when they returned home, which is an unprecedented number. Kohler added this would likely explain the 50 percent increase she saw last year through the foundation’s Military Heroes Fund, which provides assistance to wounded warriors and their families.

Last year, the foundation also provided nearly 1,200 interest-free loans through its Asset Recovery Kit (ARK) program providing a total of over $500,000 in lending to service members and veterans as a safe alternative to payday lending. The loans saved our troops nearly $1 million in fees and interest from the predatory loan industry. The foundation also partnered with two new credit unions in 2012, expanding its reach to more active-duty military members to meet the increase in demands for the ARK program, which continues to grow at a double-digit rate.

And through its Dream Makers program, the foundation provided a record number of grants in 2012 totaling $823,000 to help service members and veterans who were first-time home buyers with down payments and closing costs purchase their first home. This was more than a 300 percent increase over the year before.

“We are thankful for the increased support we’ve received from our donors and the community-at-large,” said Kohler. “Because of their help, we’ve been able to meet the growing need among those who selflessly defend our nation to ensure our freedom.”



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