Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Tips for Handling the Government Shut Down if You're in the Military

What will happen to your military pay when the government shuts down? If you or your spouse are currently on Active Duty, possibilities are you’re nervous about the next two days. Unless lawmakers come to some sort of an agreement, or at least approve a measure to cover military pay until an agreement is reached, the likelihood is your pay will be short on April 15th. Here are some things you need to know if that happens.

FIGURE OUT HOW MUCH YOU’LL BE PAID

On April 15th, you’ll be paid for the first eight days of the month (from April 1st until the shut down on the 8th). The only way to begin figuring out how handle your bills is to first get a general idea of what you’ll be paid. There’s an easy way to do this! Look at last month’s LES (Leave and Earnings Statement) to see what you were paid on the 15th then divide that amount by 15. This roughly tells you how much you make each day. Then, multiply that number by 8 (the number of days you’ll get paid for).

Here’s an example:

G.I. Joe got paid $963.83 on March 15th.

$963.83 divided by 15 = $64.26

$64.26 multiplied by 8 = $514.08 (the approximate amount G.I. Joe will receive on April 15th)

TALK TO YOUR CREDITORS & BILL COMPANIES

The people you owe money to are more than likely going to be aware of this situation. They probably have a television… and hopefully they have a heart. But, assuming they’re going to automatically know why you’re not paying or let your bill slide is not a good idea. Besides, sticking your head in the sand only makes for a hot and dirty head :).

Instead, go ahead and call all of the companies that you will be late paying. Explain to them that when lawmakers finally reach an agreement, you will receive back-pay for everything you are owed. Ask them if late fees and penalties can be waived, grace periods can be extended, smaller payments can be made, a payment can be skipped, etc., etc. Be honest and upfront about your situation and do not let your frustration about the shutdown spill over onto the person you’re talking to. Make sure you write down the name of the person you talk to and the date you spoke with them and, if at all possible, get them to mail or e-mail you something that confirms the details of whatever agreement you reach.

The idea here is to push back as many bills as possible so that you free up the remaining money for essentials like food, gas, utilities and housing. You'll be able to catch up those you have pushed back as soon as you receive back pay.

FOOD

This is the time to think like you’re getting ready to PCS and need to use up all of the random food in your cabinets! The very first thing you need to do is go through your cabinets, refrigerator, freezer, and pantry and make a written inventory of what you have. Then, figure out how many meals you have in the house.

Next, call your installation’s Family / Community Center and ask if there is a food pantry on base and if there are any food pantries close by. Even if you don’t plan to use this option, you need to have the information just in case you need it! Besides, the most important thing is to get your family through this situation with food on the table until it is resolved.

Another great option for inexpensive food that few people know about is Angel Food Ministries. They are a non-profit, faith-based organization that operated in 45 states. Through them you can order discounted, high quality food (normally at about half-price). Their website is http://www.angelfoodministries.com. Be aware, though, that you’ll want to go ahead and order as soon as possible. Typically, there is one delivery point and day in your area and orders cut-off around the 15th of the month. We used this service while waiting (forever!) on VA benefits. I was always impressed with the quality of the food and the kindness of the volunteers. And, there is no paperwork to fill out, no income requirements, etc., so it’s a pretty painless process.

GAS

Carpool, carpool, carpool… and did I say, CARPOOL. The 8 little days of pay you get on the 15th needs to last as long as possible. But, if you live near base or on base, if have one huge benefit in this situation. Everyone else around you is trying to make their tiny paycheck last, too! Set-up a carpool with people in your building or neighborhood. Ideally, you’ll want at least 4 people (maybe 5) – the idea is to get as many people as it takes to max out the smallest car in the group. Then, rotate who drives each day. Spouses who don’t work outside of the home should consider drastically limiting their use of the car. And, they may also be able to use the carpool idea!

UTILITIES

Call your utility company at the same time you are calling your other creditors and service providers. Explain to them what is going on and ask what your options are. Most utility companies have some sort of emergency payment plan in place (after all, life happens!).

HOUSING

Of course, at this point, you know the first thing I’m going to say… call your landlord or mortgage company. They may be willing to work with you. If so, wonderful, my work is done :).

If not, you need to go immediately to your service’s financial aid / assistance organization (you’ll find a complete list at the bottom of this post). The roof over your head is not something you want to play with and while, in most states, eviction proceedings take at least 60 days (and in most places 90+), it’s better not to head down that road. The various aid organization are in place for exactly such times as this! More than likely, you will receive an interest free loan which you’ll be able to pay back as soon as the government pays you back! (Which is much better than putting your rent or mortgage on a credit card and paying interest on it… no one is going to pay you back for that interest!)


HOW TO CONTACT FAMILY / COMMUNITY SERVICES

Airman and Family Readiness Centers (Air Force) - Search online for the website for your installation and then for your local office.

Army Community Services – Search online for the website for your installation and then for your local ACS office.

Coast Guard Community Services - http://www.uscg.mil/mwr/hqrec/UnitMWRWebSites.asp

Marine Corps Community Services - http://www.usmc-mccs.org/installation/

Navy Fleet & Family Services –

http://www.cnic.navy.mil/CNIC_HQ_Site/WhatWeDo/FleetandFamilyReadiness/FamilyReadiness/FleetAndFamilySupportProgram/CNICD_A065580


HOW TO CONTACT SERVICE AID / ASSISTANCE ORGANIZATIONS

Air Force Aid Society - http://afas.org/

Army Emergency Relief - http://www.aerhq.org/ Coast Guard Mutual Assistance - http://www.cgmahq.org/

Navy – Marine Corps Relief Society - http://www.nmcrs.org/


CURRENT ARTICLES ABOUT THE SHUT DOWN

http://www.stripes.com/news/official-troops-pay-would-be-withheld-until-shutdown-is-resolved-1.140090

http://www.executivegov.com/2011/04/dod-engaged-in-prudent-planning-ahead-of-possible-government-shutdown/

http://www.vancouversun.com/Congress+still+billions+apart+budget+deal/4568624/story.html

http://www.csmonitor.com/USA/Politics/2011/0405/Government-shutdown-How-might-this-time-be-different-from-1995

4 comments:

  1. I've been out all day so I haven't had time to look into any of this, will this affect veterans who receive VA Disability and Comp? The next payments are due until next month but I am unsure exactly what is going on, I need to do some reading.

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  2. No, it will not affect VA Disability pay. It will only affect those paid by DFAS (the Defense Finance Accounting Service) like members of the military and civilian military employees.

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  3. Great article! Does anyone know if it will affect GI Bill payments? (monthly stipend)

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  4. Holly, GI Bill Payments / Benefits will not be affected.

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