Additional Benefits Amid the COVID-19 Pandemic for Military Families

By Laura Royer

The Department of Veteran Affairs is releasing updated information with resources to mitigate the financial impact COVID-19 pandemic is having on military families. The following is a summary of a few other ways the VA is trying to assist during this state of emergency.

U.S. Soldier and family

For Existing Homeowners with VA Loans

The VA has asked lenders to give leeway to any veterans who have been financially impacted by the pandemic and help ease the financial burden they may be facing with mortgage payments. This measure includes:

  • Removing or reducing late fees
  • Suspending credit bureau reporting for any delinquent loans
  • Allowing veterans to remain in their homes during the national emergency.

The VA has also asked lenders to be more cooperative with any public laws that surround normal foreclosure proceedings to prevent foreclosure or any losses to the government. These measures include:

  • Several of the larger lenders that service VA loans have already agreed to work with veterans who may need assistance and are offering workout plans during this time.
    • These plans will include payment arrangements if needed.
  • Any veteran needing a workout plan should contact their lender immediately to discuss the circumstance of their specific situation and review options to help mitigate further payment fallouts.
  • It is strongly recommended that the veteran get any agreed-upon workout in writing and clearly understand any impact that it may have on future payments or increased cost of interest on the loan.

If for some reason the lender refuses to cooperate, the veteran may call the VA to determine if help is available directly through them. The service member should only escalate the case if the lender is not cooperating first.

For Existing Homeowners with Other Loans Under CARES Act

If a homeowner’s loan is secured by another federal government program such as FHA, USDA, Fannie Mae or Freddie Mae, the CARES Act has made provisions for assisting anyone financially impacted by the coronavirus. The CARES Act allows payments to be suspended temporarily through a forbearance or payment deferment if a borrower has experienced any financial hardships during this time. During this forbearance period, the borrower may suspend payments for up to 180 days and even request an extension for up to an additional 180 days. To do so, the borrower should contact his or her loan servicer to make a forbearance request. While fees, penalties or additional interest will not be added to the borrower’s account, regular interest will continue to accrue during the forbearance period.

Also, the forbearance will not erase what the borrower owes, so if they can continue making payments, it is advised that they do continue the payment. If the borrower decides to accept a forbearance option, it’s important to ask the loan servicer how the borrower will be expected to pay back the amount owed after the forbearance period is over. Either the borrower will have to pay the entire amount unpaid in a lump sum to reinstate the loan, pay a lump sum at the end of the loan term, or the loan term will be extended so that missed payments are added to the end of the mortgage. It’s also possible that the mortgage payments will be increased to make up for the missed payments until caught up on the loan. For more information about the loan relief programs under the CARES Act, go to https://www.consumerfinance.gov/about-us/blog/guide-coronavirus-mortgage-relief-options/

For Buyers Seeking to Use VA Loan

For any homebuyer seeking to use their VA loan guarantee benefit, the VA will allow for all meetings to be conducted by phone, rather than in person. Also, any paperwork that needs to be signed may be processed virtually if necessary. It is possible a meeting could be postponed if needed.

VA Extends Disability Benefit Deadlines

Under normal rulings, the VA usually has strict deadlines for all services concerning veteran’s disability applications for benefits or appeals. The VA has been permitted to apply leniency in extending deadlines where deemed possible in hopes to lessen the financial burden of military families.

VA Halts Debt Collection

The VA has temporarily suspended all debt collection efforts due to the financial impact of COVID-19. Any military household that has a Veterans Benefit Administration debt and has been impacted by COVID-19, and needs temporary financial assistance, is encouraged to contact the Debt Management Center at 1-800-827-0648 to request assistance.

Hardship Pay Available for Troops in Quarantine

The Pentagon has released information about a new hardship pay for military service members that have contracted the virus or have been separated from their family due to a Permanent Change of Station. The new fund is called Hardship Duty Pay-Restriction of Movement and is designed to help troops who have been ordered to quarantine but are unable to do so in government quarters or at home. The pay covers the cost of lodging, up to $100 a day for 15 days a month. If a service member qualifies, no receipts will be required and he or she must get approval from their commanders to authorize it.

Financial Assistance Available

For military families that have been financially impacted by the COVID-19, there are several options for financial assistance during this time. The military relief societies have set up options to support military families offering grants and zero-interest loans to help them get back on their feet.

To learn more or apply for assistance, go to:

Army Emergency Relief

Coast Guard Mutual Assistance 

Air Force Aid Society

Navy-Marine Corps Relief Society 

COVID-19 Emergency Financial Relief Program

The PenFed Foundation is accepting applications for a one-time grant of up to $1,500 to help veterans, active Military, Reserves and National Guard who have experienced financial hardship during the COVID-19 pandemic. The hardship must have been caused by a loss of income or increased expenses directly related to COVID-19. The money can be used to pay rent, mortgage payments, auto loan or lease payments, and utilities. The money will be sent directly to the creditor or landlord if the grant is approved.  To apply for assistance, go to https://penfedfoundation.org/apply-for-assistance/coronavirus-emergency-financial-assistance/

For additional information on any of the above-mentioned programs or assistance, check out these additional resources.

 

 

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