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‘Military Saves Week’ Brings Troop-Assistance Groups to Pentagon

By John J. Kruzel
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Feb. 28, 2008 – When a military father learned his daughter had been accepted at a costly Ivy League school, the happy news came bundled with fears of financial burden.

Click photo for screen-resolution image
A Pentagon staffer learns about a troop-assistance organization Feb. 28, 2008. Several programs that support troops and their families with financial and other services disseminated information at the Pentagon in conjunction with Military Saves week. Photo by John J. Kruzel

(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.

“He was willing to liquidate his assets to send her there,” said Mary Sakowitz, standing inside the Pentagon concourse in front of a kiosk lined with pamphlets about the troop-assistance program she represents.

“But instead, he called Military OneSource,” Sakowitz said of the military father, “and his daughter received a packet of information that included all the scholarships for which she was eligible.”

After the prospective Ivy Leaguer qualified for several of the scholarships she discovered through Military OneSource, her father ended up paying a reduced tuition of $4,500.

The message being spread by Sakowitz and others during Military Saves Week, which began Feb. 24 and runs through March 2, is that similar financial boons and other assistance is possible for servicemembers who tap into the vast financial counseling and troop-support network available to them.

The Military Saves campaign is a growing network of organizations and individuals committed to helping and supporting military members and their loved ones build personal savings arsenals to provide for immediate and long-term financial needs, according to the Military Saves Web site.

At a separate kiosk inside the bustling corridor, uniformed servicemembers and Pentagon staffers looked at photographs and fact sheets describing the Better Business Bureau’s Military Line. Army Sgt. Maj. Rose Matthews serves as military liaison for the organization, which offers free consumer services and materials to military personnel, retirees, Defense Department civilians and their families.

Matthews said one of the most valuable services the organization offers is a free workshop that educates troops and families about financial responsibility. In the past several years, some 7,000 servicemembers have participated in workshops offered at nearly 60 BBB training centers in the United States.

The sergeant major said that without proper financial education, irresponsible spending can result in disastrous consequences in servicemembers’ personal lives or careers.

“Financial irresponsibility can be like a volcano.” Matthews said. “It simmers, until one day it’s going to blow when the creditors come in.

“The Better Business Bureau workshop is part of maintaining military readiness,” she added.

Matthews’ colleague, Katie Leiva, project coordinator for the Better Business Bureau’s Military Line, said one of the functions the watchdog organization performs is to help donors make informed decisions about which troop-assistance organizations to support.

“There are a lot of charities popping up these days trying to help the troops, because who doesn’t want to help the troops?” she said. “But how many of those charities are for real and actually putting their money where their mouth is, and how many of them are just paying off their (chief executive officers)?”

Other organizations on display here were the Thrift Savings Plan, a federal government-sponsored retirement savings and investment plan; and Military Money, which publishes a quarterly finance and lifestyle magazine, and offers other services to troops and their families.

“We’re presenting some of the free educational tools and resources that we provide to military members and their families,” said Ed Koziol, manager of Military Money publication partnerships. “Our organization took it upon itself years ago to serve the underserved, so we went down the military path.”

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Related Sites:
Military Saves
Military OneSource
Better Business Bureau Military Line
Thrift Savings Plan
Military Money

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