Help For Military Families During COVID-19 Pandemic

help military families covid19

Organizations Supporting Military, Veterans and Their Families During The COVID-19 Pandemic

During this time, many military families might be struggling either emotionally or financially. A spouse might have lost their job, they might need to spend more money on childcare, and regular resources could be limited. The good news is that there are different programs and organizations that can help.

Financial Needs

Military Relief Societies

The military has relief societies for each branch of the military. Here is what they are doing during this time:

  • Army Emergency Relief (AER)– They are allowing people to request relief by email instead of meeting with someone in person. They are also allowing Army Reserve and National Guard soldiers to apply on a case-by-case basis.
  • Air Force Aid Society – They have stated that they will be still conducting business, even if the base is “shut down.”
  • Navy-Marine Corps Relief Society– They have a Quick Assist Loan that offers up to $500 in a zero-interest loan as well as other programs and loans to help military families.
  • Coast Guard Mutual Assistance– They will allow you to request assistance online, and offer loans of up to $6,000 for loss of pay by a spouse, child care needs, and other costs. They also are offering limited grants for change fees that aren’t being waved.

The Independence Fund

The Independence Fund has set up Independence@Home in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. It is an emergency program to directly support its catastrophically disabled veterans, caregivers, and their families. They are assisting with costs such as mortgage or rent, utilities, childcare, transportation service, home WiFi services, household cleaning, and upkeep, grocery and medical product delivery and streaming services for work and learning.

USAA Helping Those Affected By COVID-19

USAA is going to be returning $520 million to its members. This is because of data that shows their members are driving less because of stay-at-home and shelter-in-place guidance across the country. Every member who had an auto insurance policy as of March 31st, 2020, will receive a 20% credit on two months of premiums in the coming weeks.

How do you get this credit? It will automatically be deposited into your account. You don’t have to call or do anything else. In addition to that, USAA is also helping its members in other ways.

USAA President and CEO Wayne Peacock stated that, “We understand the impact this pandemic is having on our country, and especially our military community and their families, many of whom also are working on the front lines of the crisis. Returning premiums provides timely help for our members.”

In addition to returning premiums, they will also be:

  • Offering special payment arrangements to members who are experiencing financial difficulties.
  • Expanding auto insurance coverage to those using their personal vehicles to deliver food, medicine, and other goods for commercial purposes.
  • Offering special payment assistance programs, such as a 90-day credit card payment deferral.
  • Offering special payment arrangements on life and health insurance policies.
  • Waiving and reimbursing deductibles and copayments for coronavirus-related testing on or after February 4, 2020, for those with the USAA Medicare Supplement plan.
  • Reducing managed portfolio fees 50% effective April 1st through May 20th, 2020.

They have also enabled all 35,000 employees to work from home and have committed $4.4 million to help military-focused and other non-profits respond to the pandemic. Here is the press release with more information from USAA.

Navy Federal

Navy Federal is offering loan extensions, deferred payments, a pandemic relief loan, and more.

You can apply for a Pandemic relief loan, with terms up to 24 months.  The APR for this loan is currently 6%.

You can request forbearance and deferment on you mortgage, student loans and auto loans.

Navy Federal wants you to contact them directly or sign into your online banking account to apply for any of the programs they are offering.

If you are a small business owner, you can apply for a Paycheck Protection Program loan through Navy Federal.  Though, you must be a Navy Federal business member, on or before Feb 15 2020, to be able to apply.

For more information, you can check out their COVID 19 FAQ page.

PenFed Foundation

The PenFed Foundation is offering grants to military members that are struggling financially due to COVID-19.  If you are approved for assistance, they will pay your creditor or landlord directly.

At the time of this article, the PenFed Foundation had exhausted all of their funding.  They are trying to obtain more donations from their donors. They do offer other programs that aren’t related to the virus and are worth checking out regardless.

For more info, please visit PenFed’s site.

Wounded Warrior Project’s $10 Million Commitment During Covid-19

Wounded Warrior Project – On April 9th, the Wounded Warrior Project (WWP) announced that they were committing $10 million to assist those Wounded Warriors who needed financial help during this unprecedented time in our country.

They are offering a grant of $1,000 to help pay for groceries, rent, utilities, or any other essential expense. They reached out via email to all warriors who were registered with them on or before April 8th, 2020. If you fall in this category, check your email or reach out to them directly at 877.TEAM.WWP (832.6997).

DAV Assisting Qualified Unemployed Veterans During Covid-19

Disabled American Veterans – This nonprofit organization has been around for 100 years, serving America’s disabled veteran community. Now, in the face of COVID-19, they are extending their disaster relief program to offer assistance with Covid-19 relief.

Any veteran with a service-connected disability, who has lost employment as a direct result of the pandemic, is eligible to apply. This includes those who are self-employed or small business owners. You do not have to be a registered member with the DAV. They have an online application which will gather some demographic information and allow you to upload documentation proving your disabled status. If you don’t have that readily available, you can head over to the VA’s eBenefit website. They will also ask for employment verification to show that you were employed before the quarantine.

Once your application is submitted, they will verify your documents. Once an approval decision has been made, you will be notified via email. Within two weeks from that notification, you’ll receive your check in the mail.

The gift amount is up to $250.

Federal Student Loans

Okay, so this last one isn’t geared towards the military.  But odds are good that you, your partner, or your children may have student loans.  Right now, federal student loan payments have been suspended through September 30th 2020.  This should be done automatically by your lender.  Definitely check with them to make sure they suspended your payments.

VA to Suspend Collections From Veterans

During President Donald Trump’s April 2nd new conference, he announced directed Secretary Wilkie to suspend debt collections. “At my direction, Secretary Wilkie will use any authority at his disposal to extend deadlines for benefits and suspend debt collections.”

The VA’s Debt Management Center states that if you are affected by COVID-19 and need financial relief, to contact them at 1-800-827-0648 to request assistance.

VA.GOV

The VA is administering COVID-19 tests at all of their VA facilities.  They are asking that you call before showing up to one of their clinics.

If you are a veteran, you really should sign up with them.  Even if you don’t plan on using their healthcare services, it is worth it to at least know what they can offer you.

For more info, please visit here.

TRICARE

Pharmacy Changes due to COVID-19

With the onset of COVID-19, many aspects of our lives have changed out of necessity. My six kids are now homeschooled, our doctor and dental appointments have been cancelled for the next few months, and teleworking is now the norm. While these circumstances are relatively mild, there are many in the military community who may be impacted by possible changes in the use of military pharmacies, namely switching to TRICARE Pharmacy Home Delivery services, or switching prescriptions to TRICARE retail network pharmacies.

At the end of March, TRICARE announced on their website that some military pharmacies may close or offer decreased services because of limitations due to COVID-19. The acting chief of the Defense Health Agency’s (DHA) Pharmacy Operations Division (POD), Col. Markus Gmehlin indicated in an interview that the changes and limitations are intended to protect the teams who are providing care and medications to all beneficiaries. Colonel Gmehlin is urging patrons who use military pharmacies to either switch to home delivery options or to have their medications filled at off-post in-network pharmacies.

The home delivery option is probably the best since you can get up to a 90-day supply on most medications. The downside is that there are co-pays for both of those options, with home delivery being the cheapest overall. If your prescription is for 14-days or less, consider using a retail pharmacy in the TRICARE network. TRICARE offers a cool tool to help estimate costs of copayments and cost-shares.

TRICARE offers the following recommendations:

  • Contact your pharmacy

If you do not know the number for your local military pharmacy, use this locator.

  • Contact Express Scripts, Inc.

Express Scripts can be reached at 877.363.1303, or on their website, and request a home delivery of your medications.

  • Contact a Retail Network Pharmacy

My family and I use Walgreens to fill our  prescriptions, but that may not be the same in other parts of the country. You can also use the Express Scripts website to locate an in-network pharmacy near you.

Please note that you must have refills remaining in order for the home delivery service or retail pharmacy to fill your prescription. If you have no refills remaining, please contact your medical provider.

Emotional Needs

Military One Source

At Military One Source, they have added a few new programs to their website. This is what they will be doing in addition to what they already provide:

  • They will have a section on their website to provide us with resources, updates, and information about the impacts of COVID-19 on the military community that will be updated regularly.
  • As of March 24th, 2020, they will be offering non-medical counseling video sessions for children and youth. This can help your children if they are having a difficult time right now.
  • They will be going live on Facebook, Monday through Friday at noon ET, highlighting resources for military families.

The USO

The USO is offering programs and activities for military families. You can find these through the different USOs both here in the US and overseas. Some of what they are offering is:

  • Digital scavenger hunts
  • Movie trivia online
  • Live streaming storytimes
  • Workshops for military spouses online
  • Virtual “Coffee Connections Live” series
  • Virtual creative arts programs
  • Free DIY workout routines online
  • Holiday fun online

Blue Star Families

Blue Star Families, in partnership with the Association of Defense Communities, is launching COVID-19 Military Support Initiative (CMSI) to establish a clearinghouse for vetted, official information both to and from military and veteran families about benefits, as well as updates during the pandemic. They will provide resources and expertise with daily updates through a newsletter, host virtual town halls, bring military community, family organizations, and experts together to identify and advance best practices and policy solutions and create a repository to capture and document best practices and lessons learned.

The longer this pandemic goes on, the more relief and help might come out to help military families as well as civilian ones. This isn’t an easy time and if you do need that extra help or support, make sure to look into these programs and organizations to find relief.

States Helping Military and Veterans Affected By Covid-19

Different states might have their own relief funds.

  • The Indiana Department of Veterans Affairs has a Military Family Relief Fund COVID-19 Special Application that is available to submit now. This fund will provide undisrupted assistance to veterans and their families during this crisis.
  • Your own state– Keep an eye on what your own state or city might be offering.

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About the author

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Julie Provost is a freelance writer, blogger, and owner of Soldier's Wife, Crazy Life, a support blog for military spouses. She lives in Tennessee with her National Guard husband and three boys.