Military pay faces uncertain future; troubling for financially strapped families


Maj. Gen. David Petraeus, center, commanding general of the 101st Airborne Division, kisses his wife, Holly, second left, as his son, Stephen, left, and daughter, Anne, look on. (Christopher Berkey/AP)

As federal workers around the country worry about the impending payday that may not come, one group has reason to worry. Military families are particularly susceptible to financial strain and predatory payday lenders. With the government shutdown threatening an end to paychecks, military families have taken to social media sites to protest what could have a devastating financial effect.

“I am an army wife. We have a three year old and an almost five year old. We are living paycheck to paycheck like most American families,” writes one woman on a Facebook page “Ensuring Pay for Our Military Act of 2011.”More than 650,000 people have signed the Facebook petition on the page.

“There are thousands of husbands and wives (daughters, sons, mothers, fathers, etc.) who are putting their lives on the line every day to protect our country. Call your representative today!”

In 2008, Defense Department reports found many military personnel suffer from great financial burdens, particularly due to high-interest lenders that target service members. This past January, Holly Petraeus, the wife of Gen. David Petraeus, was nominated to Office of Servicemembers' Affairs in the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Her nomination brought renewed attention to the difficulties faced by service members. “The thing with the military is the paychecks aren't large, but they're absolutely guaranteed twice a month,” Holly Petraeus told the Huffington Post in January, leading to good targets for credit lenders. If those paychecks do not come, and the loans go unpaid, it could not just lead to financial ruin, but also “outstanding debts or bad credit can lead to a revocation of security clearances, because a service member could be viewed as susceptible to bribes from foreign government,” the Huffington Post reports.

Military pay has become the talking point in the battle of the budget deal, with the submission of a “troop funding bill” Thursday. A Republican bill introduced Thursday would provide a stopgap, funding the Defense budget for the rest of the fiscal year, but it includes as series of riders the White House said it could not accept. The House Democrats have submitted their own series of troop funding bills, but all three bills have been voted down.

In a speech Friday, House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) emphasized the need to pass a troop funding bill, but said little about what that bill would entail.

There is some hope for support for active duty members. Navy Federal Member Bank said it would offer a pay advance to its members who have direct deposit, giving active service members a week of wiggle room.

Also stirring up anger is the news that while federal employees will not be paid during the shutdown, elected officials will still be paid.

“I’m already sacrificing time away from my family here in Afghanistan. I don’t need to be sacrificing my money, too,” another woman writes on Facebook. “Congress will be getting paid. Their money won’t be touched. They don’t know the hardship we go through as soldiers.”

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