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'USA Cares' Helps Military Families in Financial Need

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, May 27, 2004 – Deployments can put unexpected financial hardships on military families sky-high telephone bills, unanticipated travel costs, loss of income for Guardsmen and reservists called to active duty for extended periods, among them.

USA Cares, a nonprofit organization run entirely by volunteers, is committed to helping families who've run into financial troubles while their family member serves the country.

Farrah Overman, one of the group's volunteers, said the help provided runs the gamut, from advice about where to go for assistance to outright payments for housing, food, vehicle repairs or other necessities.

For a military wife whose husband was wounded in Iraq, USA Cares paid for a round-trip plane fare so she could be by his side during surgery in Germany something the military couldn't do because his injuries weren't life- threatening. The group paid for another military wife's hotel room while her husband was being treated for inoperable cancer diagnosed while he was on a National Guard deployment. Before USA Cares stepped in to help, the wife had spent three nights sleeping in her car in the hospital parking lot.

And for another National Guard soldier, a truck driver in civilian life, USA Cares helped to stop foreclosure on his truck after his unit was deployed in support of the war on terror.

While helping military families put food on the table and keep a roof over their head when there is seemingly nowhere else to turn, Overman said USA Cares is "basically here to give information," referring families in need to existing support networks. "We do a lot of research to find out what's out there," she said.

USA Cares helps to direct families to military and other charitable organizations or corporate sponsors looking for ways to support American troops, Overman said. Sometimes the group acts as an intermediary, getting landlords or bill collectors to agree to reduced payments during the deployment or helping the family get a loan to cover expenses. "We either help them or help them find a way to help themselves," Overman said.

USA Cares has 10 outstanding requests from needy military families that it hopes to support as funding becomes available, she said.

For more information, call (800) 773-0387 toll-free or visit the organization's Web site.

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