When my husband Brian, a staff sergeant in the U.S. Army, deployed to Iraq last August, we knew it was going to be difficult. We spent the months prior preparing as best we could. We had our living wills and a power of attorney drawn up, went over our bank accounts and insurance documents, and set up IRAs.
However, just days before Christmas, Brian became one of the more than 400 troops seriously injured that month by improvised explosive devices, or IEDs.
More than 18,000 U.S. military troops have been wounded in Iraq and Afghanistan since 2003. Brian, though his injuries were serious, was fortunate. He was less than two feet from the IED when it was detonated, causing his abdomen, chest, right leg, and right arm to take the brunt of the blast. He sustained no severe head or spinal trauma, and thankfully doesn't remember the first days after he came out of his coma. He made it through multiple procedures on his leg and stomach, and has started to put the memories of that horrible day behind him. In twelve months he'll be back to his old self.
There are, however, numerous wounded warriors who weren't so fortunate and have a much longer road ahead of them. Brian and I were at Walter Reed Army Medial Center in Washington for only three months, but there are countless families that will spend close to two years there as their loved ones recover. While the military covers all medical costs for the injured soldier and covers the family's food and lodging, families can struggle financially.
Recently a new program called TSGLI was created under Servicemembers' Group Life Insurance (SGLI), which provides automatic traumatic injury coverage of up to $100,000. TSGLI provides injured soldiers with a large sum of cash in a very short period of time, and many of these servicemen are taken advantage of. "You don't want to see someone who was a target in the Middle East come home and become another target," says FPA President Dan Moisand. "Once the TSGLI checks go out, it's like putting a bull's-eye on their backs. And the FPA wants to put a stop to it."
To assist the wounded at Walter Reed, the FPA has partnered with Army Community Services (ACS) to offer pro bono planning services. Through monthly meetings and individual counseling sessions, servicemembers can discuss their financial goals and receive education on planning basics with a pre-screened, qualified advisor, explains Cindy Deavel of the FPA's National Capital Area chapter. "There is a lot of mistrust in the military community because of unscrupulous sales practices," she says. "We have to earn their trust, and constantly be there to provide true pro bono advice."
So far there have been 30 volunteers working with soldiers are Walter Reed, but Deavel says it doesn't have to stop there. If you would like to offer pro bono financial advice to wounded military at Walter Reed or locally, contact your FPA chapter president or anyone on FPA's national staff.
Two days after I spoke with Ms. Deavel, we received a letter from ACS at Walter Reed offering us free financial planning advice under the FPA program. Brian and I will always be grateful to everyone at Walter Reed including all of the wonderful volunteers. Keep up the good work.
Megan L. F. Robert is a freelance journalist and former Investment Advisor staff editor. She can be reached at MLFR@magwriter.com.
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