Tag Archives: budget

FAQ Series: Military commissary questions

Grocery-Store-Shopper

You have questions, we have answers. This week we respond to your frequently asked questions about the commissary benefit.

Q: If commissary goods are sold at cost, why do I see an additional “surcharge” on my receipt?

A: Commissary shoppers buy goods “at cost” meaning the commissary does not generate a profit from sales. Shoppers pay a 5% surcharge. The surcharge is calculated on the total before coupons are deducted. The surcharge goes back into the stores to pay for new construction, renovations, repairs, and equipment. The surcharge does not decrease commissary savings because it is included in the savings calculations.

Q: How much should I tip the commissary baggers?

A: Baggers are not commissary or government employees and are paid solely by the tips they receive from commissary shoppers in exchange for bagging/carryout services. Baggers are self-employed, and work under a license agreement with an installation commander. The amount you tip is up to you. Some folks suggest twenty-five cents a bag; others tip a flat rate between $5 – $10.

Q: I am deploying and my children will stay with someone who does not have a military ID. Can the caregiver shop at the commissary for our children?

A: The caregiver will need an agent letter to shop at the commissary for the children. The caregiver does not have to be an authorized commissary shopper; however only the installation commander can authorize agent privileges. It is recommended that you contact the commissary store director near the caregiver’s location and request contact information for the installation office that prepares agent authorization. It may be helpful to ask what documentation an agent needs to gain access to the installation. You can find a list of commissaries here.

Q: Do I really save more money by shopping at the commissary?

A: Shoppers save an average of more than 30 percent on their purchases compared to commercial prices – savings that amount to thousands of dollars annually when shopping regularly at a commissary. In addition to lower costs on products, the commissary also accepts coupons and uses a rewards card program to help increase your savings. While savings may vary from location to location, it’s important to remember that profits made by commissaries contribute to family readiness and enhance the quality of life for service member’s and their families. Those profits also cover the costs of building new commissaries and modernizing existing ones.

What interesting information have you learned about the Commissary? Share it in a comment!

Send your questions or comments to PR@militaryfamily.org and don’t forget to follow our blog, Branching Out, for our next FAQ series.

Source: http://www.commissaries.com/documents/contact_deca/faq.cfm

KatieBy Katie Savant, Government Relations Information Manager

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Military Advance Pay – It’s not a Payday loan

Money in JarA little known provision of military pay is called “advance pay.” Advance pay is neither an entitlement nor a guarantee, but may be an option your service member can request before or shortly after a PCS (permanent change of station) if there is a need. Advance pay is a type of pay that is used to help offset the cost of the move and cover extraordinary expenses such as, loss of a spouse’s income, down payment on a home, or cost of maintaining two households. Advance pay is just that – an advance of your service member’s basic pay.

DoD Instruction 1340.18 provides the nitty, gritty details about advance pay. A service member may be eligible to apply for 1 – 3 months of advance pay. The repayment period ranges from 12 – 24 months. A service member can make a request to receive advance pay 30 days prior to a PCS or 60 days after a PCS. The service member’s administrative department can help process the necessary paperwork, form DD 2560.  A service member must be able to demonstrate why the funds are needed and a shopping spree or a new pool does not count as an unmet need. For example, the service member may be asked to complete a budget or financial worksheet outlining the additional costs related to the move. The service member must also be able to show that other pay entitlements do not cover these additional out-of-pocket costs of the move. If the service member requests more than one month of basic pay, the request will need to be reviewed by the service member’s immediate command. Likewise, if the service member requests a repayment period exceeding 12 months, the service member must justify the extended payback period.

Cautionary notes:

  • Advance pay is an interest-free advance of the service member’s basic pay and must be repaid. This means the service member’s pay will be reduced each month during the repayment period.
  • Advance pay must be repaid even if the service member voluntarily or involuntarily separates from the service. You borrowed against your future earnings and must pay it back.
  • Your advance pay is taxable income and may impact your income taxes. Be sure to consult with a tax professional to review your specific situation.

Personal stories from families who have applied for advance pay suggest having your justification and supporting paperwork ready. Many families are able to receive one month of basic pay with a 12 month repayment period. Anything beyond one month of pay and a 12 month repayment may not only involve the service member’s command but may also require financial counseling. Be sure to fully understand the cautionary notes before you request this benefit.

Have you requested advance pay? How did it impact your family’s budget?

Military Advance Pay – It’s not a Payday loanby Katie Savant, Government Relations Information Manager

Infographic: sequestration + military families

Throughout the process of anticipating and now feeling the effects of sequestration, military families have had many questions and concerns.  Our Association staff has worked hard to address a lot of the rumors around the situation, but another way to speak out is to continue to talk about the way our leaders’ hesitance will cut military families to the core.

We’ve written open letters to the President and to Congress, but one of the most effective ways we’ve spread this message is our online community sharing important facts with their own networks of military and civilian friends.

Here are all our infographics in one place. Let’s continue to share these startling facts and keep the conversation going. We won’t stop talking about it until our leaders reach an agreement and keep the promises made to military families and we hope you won’t either!

government enemy

dod budget

army flight hours

civilian workforce

navy maintenance

TRICARE shortfall

NG medical

Military Saves: Set a Goal. Make a Plan. Save Automatically.

Military Saves: Set a Goal. Make a Plan. Save Automatically.The theme for Military Saves Week 2013 is more than just a theme; it’s the essence of a sound approach to savings, designed to help individuals take financial action. Set a Goal. Make a Plan. Save Automatically. Knowing what you want to save for, how to achieve it, and then automating the savings process will allow you to reach your savings goal.

Set a Goal

You can save more by having a specific goal in mind. Visualizing what you want to save for gives your savings a purpose. You may be tempted to spend your savings if it has no purpose. But once you have a goal in place, you know that taking money out of your savings is taking away from that ultimate goal. So what are you saving for? An emergency fund, a home, retirement, a car? Go viral with your savings goal! Take a photo of your goal and post it on our Association’s Facebook page or tweet it using the hashtag #MSW2013.

Make a Plan

Once you have your goal in place, make a plan of how you are going to save. To start, cut down on your spending and reduce high-cost debt. Next, keep track of what you spend and make a budget. Once you know where your money is going each month, you can cut down on unneeded spending and save the difference.
Don’t forget to keep your savings safe, secure, and growing. Banks, credit unions, and even the government offer a variety of financial products that can help you save.

Save Automatically

It can be hard to put aside money for savings. But there is an easy way to save money without ever missing it. Once you know how much you can save, make saving automatic. Use an allotment or automatically transfer a portion of your paycheck into a savings account.

We want to hear from you! Have you already set a goal? Made a plan or budget? Do you save automatically? Share what has worked for your family.

ccPosted by Christine Gallagher, Government Relations Deputy Director at the National Military Family Association

Military Saves Week: Starting to save

Military Saves Week: Starting to saveI remember when my husband and I made our first concerted effort to save. He had just left for his first deployment and I decided I wanted to sign up for the Savings Deposit Program (SDP). Fresh off a pre-deployment brief, I wanted to put my newly found knowledge to good use and take advantage of this great savings opportunity.

A military member can deposit funds into a SDP account once he or she has been deployed for 30 days. The military member must be receiving Hostile Fire Pay. A total of $10,000 may be deposited during each deployment and will earn 10% interest annually. This sounded like an attractive option for us.

Although my intentions were good, we didn’t get a chance to set up the account before my husband deployed. I went to our local finance office and learned I would need a special power of attorney to set up the SDP account on my husband’s behalf. (My general power of attorney wouldn’t work.)

I didn’t let this setback derail us from our long-term savings plans. Instead, I researched products available through military banks and credit unions and settled on a money market account. Every other week I would take my paper paycheck (yes, I worked for a small employer who did not use direct deposit) and deposit half of my paycheck into our new money market account. I calculated that about half of my paycheck was the additional funds we received while my husband was deployed, which included the family separation allowance, hostile fire pay, and tax benefit.

By the end of the deployment, we had a good savings foundation! The most valuable lesson we learned was about financial discipline and how to save money. We successfully accounted for savings in our budget. It was no longer an afterthought, but a regular habit.

During Military Saves Week I encourage you to take the saver’s pledge and put that pledge into action.

My husband and I are faithful savers today. I look forward to the messages I receive from the Military Saves campaign in order to help find new ways to save and to stay on track.

What helped your family start to save?

katiePosted by Katie Savant, Government Relations Information Manager at the National Military Family Association and blogger at www.MilitaryFamilyCents.com, where this post originally appeared

5 Easy Ways to Get Involved in Military Saves Week and Save Successfully

5 Easy Ways to Get Involved in Military Saves Week and Save SuccessfullyMilitary Saves Week (February 25 – March 2, 2013) is a chance for individuals to evaluate their saving status, take financial action to reach goals, and become part of a supportive environment of military savers. Everyone can take the Military Saves pledge, and if you’ve pledged in the past, you can renew your pledge and commitment to saving. Studies reveal that having a savings plan with specific goals can have beneficial financial effects, regardless of income level.

Here are 5 easy ways to get involved in Military Saves Week:

1. Take the Military Saves Pledge 
Pledge or re-pledge today! Those with a savings plan are twice as likely to save for emergencies and retirement as those without a plan. Join over 310,000 people who have already committed to save.

2. Assess Your Savings
Find out if you are saving in all the right places with this 12 step savings assessment.

3. Test Your Savings Knowledge
Take this savings quiz to reveal how much you understand about the realities of saving in America.

4. Share Savings Tips and Advice with Family and Friends
On Twitter and Facebook? Share your pledge and your best savings and financial tips with your family and friends. On Twitter, use hashtag #MSW2013. Get everyone to become a saver!

5. Share Your Savings Goal
We want to hear from you! What are you saving for? Post or tweet a photo of you with your savings goal to Facebook or Twitter. Download the “I’m Saving For…” sign and share your photo and savings goal today!

Military Saves Week is coordinated by Military Saves and is part of the Department of Defense’s Financial Readiness Campaign. Started in 2007, Military Saves Week is an annual opportunity for organizations to promote good savings behavior and a chance for individuals to evaluate their own saving status.

ccPosted by Christine Gallagher, Government Relations Deputy Director at the National Military Family Association 

We fight for military families: the Association’s 2013 priorities, Part 3

We fight for military families: the Association’s 2013 priorities, Part 3This is Part 3 of a series explaining the National Military Family Association’s legislative priorities for 2013. Read Part 1 and Part 2 here.

Some issues affecting military families can only be taken care of through Congressional action. We see most of the work on these issues being addressed through the House and Senate Armed Services Committees in the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which sets the laws and regulations for Department of Defense (DoD) and the Services to follow. The funding of this legislation comes through the House and Senate Appropriations Committees with the Defense Appropriations bill and the Military Construction and Veterans Affairs Appropriations bill.

Congress did not pass the Appropriations bills for Fiscal Year 2013 (FY13), which began on October 1, 2012. They passed a Continuing Resolution or CR, which forced DoD to work on 2013 missions, projects, and programs with 2012 levels of funding. The current Continuing Resolution will expire March 27. While military paychecks are protected for 2013, essential services could shut down if the CR is allowed to expire. This isn’t the first year we have had the threat of a government shutdown.

Pass the NDAA FY14

This is why our first “ask” for Congress is to pass the National Defense Authorization Act for FY14 and the bills that fund this legislation by October 1 in order to eliminate the uncertainty faced by the military community.

Increase Impact Aid

If you have children attending public schools, you should be aware of how important Impact Aid funding is to local school districts that educate large numbers of military children. We’re asking Congress to increase the level of Department of Education Impact Aid funding to meet the Federal obligation to support school districts educating military children and continue to fund the DoD supplemental impact aid and grant program. Impact Aid funding has not kept pace with rising education costs.

Protect surviving spouses

Survivors of service members who have died on active duty or from a service-connected disability are unfairly penalized by having their Survivor Benefit Plan (SBP) annuity offset by the Department of Veterans Affairs Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (DIC) payment. Under current law, survivors who are eligible for both SBP and DIC must forfeit a dollar of their SBP annuity for every dollar of DIC received. Often the offset eliminates the SBP annuity altogether. We ask Congress to end the DIC dollar for dollar offset of SBP payments for surviving spouses. For more details on this issue, visit the Survivors section on our website.

Ease transitions for the whole family

DoD does not always need Congressional approval to improve or change policies. We are asking DoD to address the informational needs of military families transitioning out of the military by expanding the opportunity for spouses to attend transition classes with service members and tailor information to address family transition issues.

Support families with special needs

It can often take DoD a long time to implement programs mandated by Congress. In the NDAA FY13, Congress charged DoD to start a pilot program to provide therapy for some families with special needs. We want DoD to implement the new pilot program to provide Applied Behavior Analysis to ALL eligible TRICARE beneficiaries.

If you have questions about our priorities for 2013 or would like to provide us with information about how these issues will affect you and your family, please leave a comment below. As I mentioned in the beginning of this blog series, we are sharing your stories, your experiences, and your suggestions to improve the quality of life for military families.

These are not the only issues we will be advocating for. When a new challenge surfaces that affects military families, we will make sure it is brought to the attention of the policymakers who can make a difference. We are listening to you and for you. We are your voice.

kathyPosted by Kathleen Moakler, Government Relations Director at the National Military Family Association