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Military reservists are entitled to a tax benefit for unreimbursed business expenses for drill mileage, lodging, meals and other incidental expenses -- but only if they or their tax preparer can figure out where to include it through their tax preparation software.

This tax break is not a deduction nor a credit, but rather an adjustment to income for expenses incurred for travel more than 100 miles from home to fulfill duties as a member of the Reserve Component. The Reserve Component is a technical term that includes National Guard and reservists. The Internal Revenue Service refers to this group collectively as "reservists."


How to get this tax break

These travel expenses go on form 2106-EZ, and are reported on line 24 of form 1040. Forms 1040EZ and 1040A can't be used if a service member has these expenses. It is crucial to note that line 24 is one of the adjustments to income, and these expenses are not an itemized deduction. Professional tax preparers frequently miss this or incorrectly assume it is an itemized deduction.

Typically, the most valuable expense adjustment for reservists is the "mileage" expense, using the standard mileage rate as opposed to actual cost. The standard mileage rate for 2016 was 54 cents per mile, and for 2015, it was 57 cents per mile. This rate changes annually based on the price of gas and is determined by the IRS. Taxpayers almost always will come out ahead using the standard mileage rate.

Claiming this adjustment can bring big savings to reservists. For example, if a member drove 150 miles one way to drill 11 times per year, 3,300 miles at the rate of 54 cents per mile would be an adjustment to income of $1,782. If the taxpayer's highest tax bracket was 15 percent, this would be $267 less federal income taxes that would be paid. In the 25 percent bracket, that would be a savings of $446.

Parking fees, tolls, ferry fares, train tickets and airfare also can be listed as travel expenses. It is not uncommon for National Guard members and other reservists to fly or take a ferry to drill.

The entire cost of these travel expense are allowed as an adjustment. The instructions to form 2106EZ even list telegrams as an incidental expense. Perhaps it's time for the IRS to revamp this antiquated and confusing form?

Service members also can list as an expense the amount spent on lodging, not to exceed the federal per diem rate. However, it would appear from the instructions that only service members who drive 100 miles or more one way can list this expense.

Meals also are an allowable expense on line 6 of 2106-EZ, which indicates 50 percent of meal costs qualify although, again, they are not to exceed the per diem rate. The instructions to form 2016EZ are somewhat unclear, as it is designed for individuals who work in private industry and also for reservists.

"If you qualify, complete Form 2106-EZ and include the part of the line 6 amount attributable to the expenses for travel more than 100 miles away from home in connection with your performance of services as a member of the reserves on Form 1040, line 24, and attach Form 2106-EZ to your return," the IRS instructions state. "The amount of expenses you can deduct on Form 1040, line 24, is limited to the regular federal per diem rate (for lodging, meals, and incidental expenses) and the standard mileage rate (for car expenses), plus any parking fees, ferry fees, and tolls. These reserve-related travel expenses are deductible whether or not you itemize deductions."

These expenses are frequently overlooked by tax professionals and by service members. This is attributable in part to the lack of clarity in the instructions and the fact that most, if not all, tax software would never take the taxpayer to the correct section unless these rules were known and understood to the preparer or taxpayer from the outset.

To add to the confusion, most tax software incorrectly categorizes unreimbursed employee business expenses as credits and deductions, which they are not.

The form itself is designed for many different categories of professions, and not all of the rules detailed apply to all of them. It would be helpful for National Guard and Reserve Component troops if the IRS made a form just for them instead of lumping them with civilians who work for businesses and have a different set of tax rules to follow.

How to get this tax break for past years

The good news is that tax returns can be amended for three years plus any time spent deployed to qualifying locations by eligible individuals. The 2013 return still can be amended all the way through April 15, 2017, as can the state returns.

Returns are simple for the original preparer to amend, and many tax preparation businesses have a guarantee and will go back beyond the three years. They won't be actually able to amend them with the IRS, but they can prepare the amendment and refund the amount that would have been received had the taxes been prepared properly.

It is more difficult to amend a return that was prepared by an individual. Once the year ends, amendments can no longer be prepared electronically and must be prepared manually. In some cases, it very well may be worth it to pay a preparer to amend the returns.

Before amending a return or following tax advice, it is smart to speak to a tax expert who is familiar with your particular situation. Guard, Reserve and active-duty service members can use free tax preparation and free tax counselors through MilitaryOneSource.mil to prepare their returns.

-- Jennifer Lear, JD, AFC(r), is an attorney and accredited financial counselor residing at Fort Knox, Kentucky. She has been an Army spouse for more than 20 years and has worked with military populations in various capacities throughout that time. She can be reached at learjen@gmail.com.



Your Credit Is About to Get Better by Liz Weston

The three major credit bureaus, and one forward-thinking debt collector, are making changes that could allow millions of people to get loans they’ve unfairly been denied.

Equifax, Experian and TransUnion plan to remove civil lawsuit judgments — where a creditor has sued and won in court — and many tax liens from people’s credit reports starting July 1. Striking those public records could improve the scores of as many as 14 million people, some by enough to qualify for mortgages and other loans that are currently beyond their grasp.

Meanwhile, leading debt collection company Encore Capital Group has shortened the time it reports paid collections from seven years to two. The company, which owns Midland Credit Management, Midland Funding, Asset Acceptance and Atlantic Credit & Finance, also promises not to report new collection accounts to the bureaus if debtors start making payments within 90 days after Encore notifies them of the debt.

The moves are long overdue, because the system for reporting serious black marks has been broken for years.

Why debt reporting is broken

Credit-scoring companies have long known that people who settle their old debts are a much better risk than those who don’t — but credit scores typically don’t reflect that fact.

The latest versions of FICO and VantageScore ignore paid collection accounts, and FICO’s newest score treats unpaid medical debts less harshly than other overdue bills. But most lenders still use older versions of credit scores that count collections against consumers, which can prevent people from getting loans and credit cards, or cause them to pay higher interest rates. The problem is particularly acute in mortgage lending, where mortgage buyers Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac require lenders to use FICO scores that are several generations out of date.

Stripping collections from reports ensures they can’t be factored into credit scores, which are based entirely on credit bureau data.

The bureaus have already agreed to kick other types of collections to the curb. As part of a massive settlement with 31 state attorneys general two years ago, the bureaus promised to stop reporting collections resulting from traffic tickets, library fines and other mishaps that didn’t stem from a credit account or consumer agreement to pay. The bureaus also vowed to remove paid medical bills, and medical debts now have a 180-day “waiting period” to allow insurance payments to be applied.

Public records such as judgments and tax liens are another source of problematic data, since many aren’t properly verified or updated, and correcting errors can be tough. Civil court judgments are particularly fraught, since many people don’t know they’re being sued. Creditors are typically granted default judgments, which means they win  — even when they sue over debts that are technically too old or that aren’t even owed — because the debtor didn’t show up.

The number of lawsuits has soared as debt buyers snap up delinquent bills for pennies on the dollar and then turn to the courts for judgments. The costs of filing are so cheap that in some states creditors sue over bills as small as $60, according to a ProPublica investigation.

Small improvements for many

To be reported after July 1, a public record must have minimum identifying information, including name, address and Social Security number or date of birth, and the data must be updated every 90 days. Experian estimated that 96% of civil judgments and about half of all tax liens wouldn’t meet the new enhanced public record criteria.

Credit scoring firm FICO recently analyzed what would happen if the bureaus dropped all judgments and any tax lien that couldn’t be verified, using 30 million consumer records purged of that data that were provided by the bureaus. The credit scoring company found 6% to 7% of roughly 200 million consumers with FICO scores had such records, and that scores rose a median 10 points, says Ethan Dornhelm, vice president for scores and analytics.

Most people who have judgments and liens have other credit problems, which limits how much their scores can rise. That’s also the reason the change would have “no material effect” on FICO scores’ ability to predict risk, Dornhelm said. But the changes could be enough to allow people who just miss lenders’ credit score cutoffs to qualify for loans. To get a conventional mortgage, for example, borrowers typically need a minimum 620 credit score, while getting most FHA loans require a 580 score.

Clearing the garbage data from credit reports would affect more than credit scores, of course. Credit information is used by insurers to set premiums, landlords to grant apartments and employers to hire and promote. Making sure credit report data is accurate — and relevant — helps people save money and live better lives.

Liz Weston is a certified financial planner and columnist at NerdWallet. Email: lweston@nerdwallet.com. Twitter: @lizweston.




Policy Highlights
  • The Fiscal Year 2016 Nation Defense Authorization Act created a new military retirement system that blends the traditional legacy retirement pension with a defined contribution to Service members’ Thrift Savings Plan account. The new Blended Retirement System goes into effect on January 1, 2018.
  • All members serving as of December 31, 2017, are grandfathered under the legacy retirement system. No one currently-serving will be automatically switched to the Blended Retirement System.
  • Though they are grandfathered under the legacy retirement system, Reserve Component Service members who have accrued fewer than 4,320 retirement points as of December 31, 2017, will have the option to opt into the Blended Retirement System. The opt-in/election period for the Blended Retirement System begins January 1, 2018, and concludes on December 31, 2018.
  • All Service members who enter the military on or after January 1, 2018, will automatically be enrolled in BR

To take the Opt-In Course:

CAC: https://jkodirect.jten.mil/html/COI.xhtml?course_prefix=J3O&course_number=P-US1332

Non-CAC: http://jko.jten.mil/courses/brs/OPT-IN/launch.html

For more information: http://militarypay.defense.gov/BlendedRetirement/


Financial readiness key for Guard members; financial counselors, resources available for help

By Tech. Sgt. Erich B. Smith | National Guard Bureau | February 08, 2017

ARLINGTON, Va. – For National Guard members, maintaining strong personal and family financial health is one of many ways to ensure they're mission ready. But for those Soldiers and Airmen who may find themselves in financial distress, there are resources available that provide financial counseling and education services.

"We can create a better environment for Soldiers and Airmen [by] getting them as financially fit as we possibly can," said Robyn Mroszczyk, a family support specialist at the National Guard Bureau.

She said Guard members who may need assistance with financial matters can visit personal financial counselors, who are available at many military installations and offer no-cost services to Guard members and their families.

"Every single person deserves to have somebody on the sidelines rooting for them," said Mroszczyk, adding that personal financial counselors provide that "voice" of support and guidance.

Though they run the gamut of financial services – including tax planning, debt repayment options and general consumer awareness – personal financial counselors can also provide referrals if more significant intervention or specialized assistance is needed, according to Mroszczyk.

For some Soldiers and Airmen, a weak financial posture can be tied to a lack of financial planning and poor spending habits, said Mroszczyk.

Making simple changes like tracking expenditures, she said, can help Guard members achieve a strong financial footing.

"Sometimes we don't know what we spend," she said. "Once you have it on paper you can't fib the numbers. It's concrete."

She also recommended that as Guard members progress in their careers, they live at a pay grade below their current one – a move that would allow greater "wiggle room" for financial planning and budgeting.

"Not relying on that added income [allows] you to put it away for emergency savings, future purchases and for fun things," Mroszczyk said.

Additionally, she said that planning for retirement should also be on the forefront of every Guard member's financial blueprint.

"It is imperative to pay your bills, but we have to take care of ourselves so that we will have a future," said Mroszczyk, who recommended that Guard members take advantage of available employer-sponsored retirement plans, the Thrift Saving Plan or other retirement savings plans. Some of these plans, she added, involve matching contributions from the employer.

The important part, said Mroszczyk, is having a plan.

"Everything comes full circle when it comes to finances," she said. "It determines how you are going to live your life."

For more information on resources in their area, Guard members can contact Military OneSource at 1-800-342-9647 or log onto www.militaryonesource.mil.



(Many thanks to John Stanton, Military OneSource Consultant, and Jennifer Lucero (CA SFPD) for sharing this information!)

One of the most popular Military OneSource benefits has launched -- and with a new name. The free online tax filing and tax consultations service is called MilTax. See attached information.

Military OneSource tax counselors can assist you by locating and referencing specific tax definitions, helping you to make an informed decision about your tax situation. Knowledge of the unique tax requirements and issues related to military personnel and their families will be incorporated into counseling sessions when applicable.

Military OneSource tax counselors can:

•review IRS regulations/state tax regulations and forms to locate the definition or information related to your questions •locate and reference military-specific tax information •help you figure out which numbers should be entered into which fields of particular form(s) •provide electronic copies of needed IRS or state tax forms •explain additional tax services available to the military community such as VITA Clinics on base •review options for utilizing a refund—savings, paying down debt •connect you to other Military OneSource provided non-medical counseling or work-life services

Military OneSource tax counselors cannot:

•answer technical questions related to the online tax filing service •answer questions related to Trusts and LLCs (other "tax shelter" options) •prepare or file your state and/or Federal taxes for you •provide advice or "directives/declarative statements" to you, i.e., "you should do....."; "you must do..."

Don’t put your tax filing off to the last minute. Take advantage of the resources available for military families that can make tax time stress-free. If you have questions about filing your tax return, please call 800-342-9647 and ask to speak with a Military OneSource tax counselor. Trained tax counselors are available Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. ET year-round, and with extended hours during tax season: 7 days a week from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m., ET

Attached - instructions and general information about Military OneSource

Please feel free to pass this information to anyone who is in the Active Duty, Reserves, National Guard, IRR, and separated service members with honorable discharge that was discharged less than 180 days (6 months).

Military OneSource Website Logging in at Tax Time_2017.pdf




written by: Jennifer Lear, JD, AFC

Form 2106EZ is the form on which Reserve Component Service members subtract from income the unreimbursed business expenses in connection with serving in this capacity. Mileage is subtracted from income at the rate of .54/mile for 2016 for anyone who drives at least 100 miles one way from home to the location of their drill. For 2015, it was .57/mile. The rate changes annually based on the price of gas.

All trips at least 100 miles or more in connection with your duties as a member of the Reserve Component qualify.

This is an unreimbursed employee business expense, and it is frequently overlooked by tax professionals.

Please take note of line 24 on form 1040, which is where the adjustment to income goes. Drill mileage in excess of 100 miles one way, that is unreimbursed is NOT an itemized deduction. It is an adjustment to income ABOVE the LINE; it is an employee business expense. That is the mistake I frequently see. Tax preparers and CPAs are used to this being an itemized deduction for everyone else. As a practical matter, only the Reserve Component can avail themselves to this special rule.

The instructions to form 2106EZ lay this out very clearly. The drill mileage would not be commuting miles, they would be business miles. Commuting is a term reserved for driving from home to the location of full-time employment (not drill).

It does not go on form 2106, another mistake that I frequently see when service members go back to their preparers for the amendments to be done. That form is far more complex and is meant for a very different set of circumstances for those who are self-employed or who receive partial reimbursement.

Please feel free to use this information for a tax preparer or CPA who might be unfamiliar with this form. Many tax professionals simply are not well versed in this adjustment to income, as they might not really understand what it means to be a Reserve component service member. The only population in America who would use this are those who serve in the Guard or Reserve.

Also keep in mind that when you had your taxes prepared, you gave a w-2 for your full-time job, and a w-2 with DFAS as the employer, the Department  of Defense. It is not the responsibility of the service member to know the tax laws. The tax preparer or CPA is a subject matter expert.

Other expenses can be listed on Form 2106EZ, including 100% of hotels not to exceed the GSA per diem rate, tolls, ferries, plane tickets, bus fair, and 50% of food. None of these expenses kick in unless the service member drives at least 100 miles one way to drill. For those living less than 100 miles, the expenses would have to be an itemized deduction and would have to meet the minimum threshold to be deducted.

Written proof needs to exist, but need not be attached. It is the honor system. Written proof of the mileage would be an LES or drill record.   I would encourage taking pictures of all hotel and food receipts and keeping them for 3 tax years along with tax returns.

Tax returns can be amended for 3 years plus any time that was spent deployed overseas; the 2013 return can be amended all the way through April 15, 2017, as can the state returns. I would encourage anyone who has had their taxes prepared by a paid preparer to return to that paid preparer with this narrative, along with form 2106EZ and ask that their returns be amended. The good news is that it is very simple to amend for the original preparer.  Many tax prep business have a guarantee and will go back beyond the 3 years. They can’t amend them, but they can prepare the amendment and refund the amount that would have been received had the taxes been prepared properly.

It is more difficult to amend a return that was prepared by an individual. Once the year ends, amendments can no longer be done electronically and must be done manually. In some cases, it very well may be worth it to be a preparer to amend the taxes, as it is not an easy task.


Going forward, I would encourage any Guard, Reserve, or active duty Soldier to use Military One Source Free tax prep and free tax counselors to prepare their returns as they are certified to assist with the return and they are well educated in military specific deductions like the drill mileage. In most software, it is under adjustments to income, following the income section. Tax counselors are available through MOS and can walk the service member through this line by line.


Other software lists this under deductions and credits, which is incorrect. Service members who routinely drive more than 100 miles can not only take advantage of free tax prep services offered by MilitaryOneSource.mil, but also the tax counselors who are also free and well versed in assisting with the drill mileage adjustment to income.


CFPB Sues Nation's Largest Student Loan Company Navient for Failing Borrowers at Every Stage of Repayment: Navient, Formerly Part of Sallie Mae, Illegally Cheated Borrowers Out of Repayment Rights Through Shortcuts and Deception (www.consumerfinance.gov)

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) is suing the nation’s largest servicer of both federal and private student loans for systematically and illegally failing borrowers at every stage of repayment. For years, Navient, formerly part of Sallie Mae, created obstacles to repayment by providing bad information, processing payments incorrectly, and failing to act when borrowers complained. Through shortcuts and deception, the company also illegally cheated many struggling borrowers out of their rights to lower repayments, which caused them to pay much more than they had to for their loans. The Bureau seeks to recover significant relief for the borrowers harmed by these illegal servicing failures.

"For years, Navient failed consumers who counted on the company to help give them a fair chance to pay back their student loans," said CFPB Director Richard Cordray. "At every stage of repayment, Navient chose to shortcut and deceive consumers to save on operating costs. Too many borrowers paid more for their loans because Navient illegally cheated them and today's action seeks to hold them accountable."

Formerly part of Sallie Mae, Inc., Navient is the largest student loan servicer in the United States. It services the loans of more than 12 million borrowers, including more than 6 million accounts under its contract with the Department of Education. Altogether, it services more than $300 billion in federal and private student loans. Named in today’s lawsuit are Navient Corporation and two of its subsidiaries: Navient Solutions is a division responsible for loan servicing operations; Pioneer Credit Recovery specializes in the collection of defaulted student loans.

Servicers are a critical link between borrowers and lenders. They manage borrowers’ accounts, process monthly payments, and communicate directly with borrowers. When facing unemployment or other financial hardship, borrowers rely on their student loan servicer to help them enroll in alternative repayment plans or request a modification of loan terms. A servicer is often different from the lender, and borrowers typically have no control over which company is assigned to service their loans.

Starting in 2009, the vast majority of federal student loan borrowers gained a right to make payments based on how much money they earn by enrolling in repayment arrangements known as income-driven repayment plans. These plans are part of the federal government’s effort to make student loans more affordable. For borrowers who meet certain income and family-size criteria, these plans can offer monthly payments as low as zero dollars. Another important benefit of income-driven repayment plans is that for the first three years after enrollment, many consumers are entitled to have the federal government pay part of the interest charges if they can’t keep up. All federal student loan borrowers enrolled in these plans may be eligible for loan forgiveness after 20 or 25 years of monthly payments.

In today’s action, the Bureau alleges that Navient has failed to provide the most basic functions of adequate student loan servicing at every stage of repayment for both private and federal loans. Navient provided bad information in writing and over the phone, processed payments incorrectly, and failed to act when borrowers complained about problems. Critically, it systematically made it harder for borrowers to obtain the important right to pay according to what they can afford. These illegal practices made paying back student loans more difficult and costly for certain borrowers. Specifically, among the allegations in today’s lawsuit, the Bureau charges that Navient:

  • Fails to correctly apply or allocate borrower payments to their accounts: As soon as a borrower begins to pay back their loans, student loan servicers are supposed to take a borrower’s payment and follow instructions from the borrower about how to apply it across their multiple loans. Navient repeatedly misapplies or misallocates payments — often making the same error multiple times over many months. The company all too often fails to correct its errors unless a consumer discovers the problem and contacts the company.
  • Steers struggling borrowers toward paying more than they have to on loans: When borrowers run into trouble repaying their federal student loans, they have a right under federal law to apply for repayment plans that allow for a lower monthly payment. But the Bureau believes that Navient steers many borrowers into forbearance, an option designed to let borrowers take a short break from making payments. But interest continues to add up during forbearance. Certain consumers with subsidized loans end up paying a heavy price because they could have potentially avoided those interest charges. From January 2010 to March 2015, the company added up to $4 billion in interest charges to the principal balances of borrowers who were enrolled in multiple, consecutive forbearances. The Bureau believes that a large portion of these charges could have been avoided had Navient followed the law.
  • Obscured information consumers needed to maintain their lower payments: Borrowers who successfully enroll in an income-driven repayment plan need to recertify their income and family size annually. But Navient’s emails and annual renewal notice sent to borrowers failed to adequately inform them of critical deadlines or the consequences if they failed to act. Navient also obscured its renewal notices in emails sent to borrowers that did not adequately alert them about the need to renew. Many borrowers did not renew their enrollment on time and they lost their affordable monthly payments, which could have caused their monthly payments to jump by hundreds or even thousands of dollars. When that happens, accrued interest is added to the borrower’s principal balance, and these borrowers may have lost other protections, including interest subsidies and progress toward loan forgiveness.
  • Deceived private student loan borrowers about requirements to release their co-signer from the loan: Navient told borrowers that they could apply for co-signer release if they made a certain number of consecutive, on-time payments. Even though it permits borrowers to prepay monthly installments in advance and tells customers who do prepay that they can skip upcoming payments, when borrowers did so, Navient reset the counter on the number of consecutive payments they made to zero. So borrowers who tried to get ahead of their loans and prepay would have been denied co-signer release and had to start over.
  • Harmed the credit of disabled borrowers, including severely injured veterans: Student loan payments are reported to credit reporting companies. Severely and permanently disabled borrowers with federal student loans, including veterans whose disability is connected to their military service, have a right to seek loan forgiveness under the federal Total and Permanent Disability discharge program. Navient misreported to the credit reporting companies that borrowers who had their loans discharged under this program had defaulted on their loans when they had not. This potentially caused damage to their credit reports.        

The Bureau also alleges that Navient, through its subsidiary Pioneer, made illegal misrepresentations relating to the federal loan rehabilitation program available to defaulted borrowers. Pioneer misrepresented the effect of completing the federal loan rehabilitation program by falsely stating or implying that doing so would remove all adverse information about the defaulted loan from the borrower’s credit report. Pioneer also misrepresented the collection fees that would be forgiven upon completion of the program.

Today’s lawsuit alleges that Navient has been in violation of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, the Fair Credit Reporting Act, and the Fair Debt Collections Practices Act. The suit seeks redress for consumers harmed by Navient’s illegal practices. The CFPB is also seeking to keep Navient from continuing the illegal conduct described in the complaint, and to prevent new borrowers from being harmed.

The complaint against Navient Corporation, Navient Solutions, and Pioneer Credit Recovery is available at: http://files.consumerfinance.gov/f/documents/201701_cfpb_Navient-Pioneer-Credit-Recovery-complaint.pdf 

This action comes as the Bureau takes steps to ensure that all student loan borrowers have access to adequate student loan servicing. In 2015, the Bureau released a report outlining widespread servicing failures reported by both federal and private student loan borrowers and also published a framework for student loan servicing reforms. As part of this work, the Bureau has continually raised concerns around illegal student loan servicing practices. The Bureau has called for market-wide reforms and prioritized taking action against companies that engage in illegal servicing practices.

Student loans make up the nation’s second largest consumer debt market. Today there are more than 44 million federal and private student loan borrowers and collectively these consumers owe roughly $1.4 trillion. In a study last year, the CFPB found that more than 8 million borrowers are in default on more than $130 billion in student loans, a problem that may be driven by breakdowns in student loan servicing. Students and their families can find help on how to tackle their student debt on the CFPB’s website. Student loan borrowers experiencing problems related to repaying student loans or debt collection can also submit a complaint to the CFPB.

More information is available at consumerfinance.gov/students.

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is a 21st century agency that helps consumer finance markets work by making rules more effective, by consistently and fairly enforcing those rules, and by empowering consumers to take more control over their economic lives. For more information, visit consumerfinance.gov.


 NMFA Scholarships + Career Funds


NMFA awards an average of $500 for career funding and $1,000 for degrees. Up to $2500 is available for clinical supervision towards licensure in the mental health profession. Spouses are also eligible for funding, typically $1,000, to build their own businesses. This includes entrepreneurs, LLCs, direct sales, franchises, contractors, and other for-profit ventures. Non-profit organizations, please check back in our May application round. Any spouse with a valid military ID is eligible. Apply from October 1st through January 15th, and May 1st through June 30th.


Scholarship Eligibility

You can apply for a spouse scholarship if you:

  • are a military spouse with a valid military ID
  • are married to an active duty, reserve, guard, retired, medically retired, wounded or fallen service member (must be a service-related wound, illness, injury or death that took place after September 11, 2001)
  • are a dual service military spouse
  • are a divorced spouse, but ONLY if you receive 20/20/20 benefits or 20/20/15 benefits
  • are married when we ask for verification paperwork, usually a month after the applications close

For more information: http://www.militaryfamily.org/spouses-scholarships/scholarships.html



                                                Our Military Kids

What is this organization about?

Founded in 2004, Our Military Kids, Inc. is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization providing support and recognition to military children. This includes children, ages 5-18, of deployed National Guard and Reserve service members, as well as children of wounded warriors from all service branches. The grants pay fees associated with athletic, fine arts, and tutoring programs.

Why does this program exist?

Nearly 2 million children have been affected by wartime deployments since 9/11; one out of three is at high risk for behavioral and psychological issues, such as anxiety and depression.

Research shows that activity counteracts stress. Grants from Our Military Kids allow children to choose activities they enjoy, while their parents are away or recovering from wartime injuries. As a result, they experience higher self-esteem and a chance to achieve. Additionally, the grants allow entire families the chance to rest, recover, and improve morale.

How much are the grants?

Each grant may be up to $250 and cover up to six months of activity per child.

How established is this program?

Since April 2005, Our Military Kids has delivered more than 56,000 grants, totaling over $22 million, to children of service members from throughout the United States, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin islands, and Guam. Currently using private donations with no government funding, Our Military Kids has provided at least one grant for each eligible applicant. For every dollar donated, 93 cents directly supports each child.

How do I know this program works?

In October 2016, Our Military Kids surveyed 1104 families who received grants that year.

-87% reported a decrease in the child’s stress and anxiety.

-72% indicated improvement in the child’s academic performance.

-94% noticed enhanced recovery of the service member/veteran.

-97% believed the program enhanced overall family well-being.

Our military kids 2016-Flyer-and-FAQs.pdf

For more information: http://ourmilitarykids.org


         Saving for Tomorrow Starts Today: Tax Time Saving with myRA


Many people think about their finances during tax time, and IRS data shows that about three out of four tax filers receive federal tax refunds. It's the perfect time to encourage people to use that refund, often the single largest sum of money they will receive all year, to save. myRA, a starter retirement savings account brought to you by the U.S. Department of the Treasury, makes tax time saving easy.



Just in time for tax season, we'll be hosting a second tax webinar on Tuesday, January 10, from 3 to 4 p.m. ET.

Join us for an informative session that will focus on myRA as a tax time savings vehicle. Discussion topics will include the variety of resources available to tax professionals on the myRA website; the Saver's Tax Credit; and the steps for call-in account opening processes, such as those associated with Individual Taxpayer Identification Numbers (ITINs).

Register Today at https://myra.gov/newsletter/img/register_today.png



As a trusted advisor, you're in a unique position to encourage saving at tax time, and myRA offers numerous resources to equip you with helpful information you can share with your clients.

Check out the tools at myRA.gov/taxpro

Customer Service 855-406-6972 between the hours of 8 a.m. and 8 p.m. ET, Monday through Friday. From January 28 to March 4, representatives will be available from 8 a.m. to 11 p.m. ET, Monday through Friday, and from 9 a.m. to 11 p.m. ET on Saturdays.


Saving at Tax Time with myRA: Using Tax Refunds to Boost Savings https://www.webcaster4.com/webcast/page/584/18092 >

Early tax filers may not receive tax refund until after Feb. 15

FORT MEADE, Md. (Defense Media Activity) -- Some taxpayers plan their holiday shopping and other purchases on the assumption they will get their tax refund from the Internal Revenue Service in January.

In 2017, that may no longer be the case.

The Protecting Americans from Tax Hikes, or PATH Act, signed into law December 2015, requires the IRS to hold tax refunds that include earned-income tax credit and additional child tax credit until Feb. 15, 2017.

This law requires the IRS to hold refunds until mid-February in 2017 for people claiming the earned-income tax credit or additional child tax credit. Also, new identity theft and refund fraud safeguards by both the IRS and individual states may mean some tax returns and refunds will face additional review.


Beginning in 2017, the IRS must hold the entire refund -- even the portion not associated with the earned income credit or additional child credit -- until at least Feb. 15. The IRS says this change will ensure taxpayers get the refund they are owed by giving the agency more time to help detect and prevent fraud.

''This is an important change, as some of these taxpayers are used to getting an early refund," said IRS Commissioner John Koskinen. "We want people to be aware of the change for their planning purposes during the holidays. We don't want anyone caught by surprise if they get their refund a few weeks later than in previous years."

As in past years, the IRS will begin accepting and processing tax returns once the filing season begins. All taxpayers should file as usual, and tax return preparers should submit returns as they normally do.

Although the IRS cannot issue refunds for some early filers until at least Feb. 15, the IRS reminds taxpayers most refunds will be issued within the normal timeframe: less than 21 days, after being accepted for processing by the IRS.

The Where's My Refund? tool on IRS.gov and the IRS2Go phone app remain the best way to check the status of a refund.



The Blended Retirement System for National Guard and Reserve

Watch the webinar recorded on Tuesday 18 October 2016


Webinar Viewing Instructions:

  • Download and uncompress the two zip files below (Part I and Part II of the recorded webinar).
  • To playback the recording, double click on the "index.html" file in the player folder, or right click and open in an HTML5 compatible browser.  HTML5 browsers include Internet Explorer 9.0 and higher, Google Chrome 40 and higher, and Firefox 35 and higher.
  • In the browser window, click the play icon in the lower left hand corner of the window.
  • A PDF version of the slides is saved within the player folder.  A PowerPoint version is appended below.






The Uniformed Services Blended Retirement System

Policy Highlights

  • The Fiscal Year 2016 Nation Defense Authorization Act created a new military retirement system that blends the traditional legacy retirement pension with a defined contribution to Service members’ Thrift Savings Plan account. The new Blended Retirement System goes into effect on January 1, 2018.
  • All members serving as of December 31, 2017, are grandfathered under the legacy retirement system. No one currently-serving will be automatically switched to the Blended Retirement System.
  • Though they are grandfathered under the legacy retirement system, Active Component Service members who entered the military after December 31, 2005, and Reserve Component Service members who have accrued fewer than 4,320 retirement points prior to January 1, 2018, will have the option to opt into the Blended Retirement System or remaining in the legacy retirement system. The opt-in/election period for the Blended Retirement System begins January 1, 2018, and concludes on December 31, 2018.
  • All Service members who enter the military on or after January 1, 2018, will automatically be enrolled in BRS.


Find out more here: http://militarypay.defense.gov/BlendedRetirement/


A Survivor's Story

Survivor Angela Powell-Woulfe tells her story of how she overcame adversity after her father, a Michigan Army National Guardsman, made the choice to end his life. Her powerful story serves as a beacon for others to connect to as she has been courageous enough to share her story of how she fought through the tragedy of suicide to become a remarkable survivor.

Video Shot and Edited by SSG Adam Fischman



The National Guard Financial Management Awareness Program (FMAP) provides training and education, counseling/consulting, and information and referral to commands, to Service members, and to their Families.

FMAP assists Service members and their Families in increasing personal and family financial knowledge and readiness, and thereby, the program contributes incrementally to the operational readiness of the National Guard.

Focusing initially on first term Service members, the mission of FMAP is to impart knowledge and skills in all facets of basic financial management to include managing monthly income, expenses, savings credit, and consumer rights and protections, with the goal of the Service member achieving important individual and family financial goals and objectives.

In addition, FMAP provides Service members knowledge and insights in the basics of purchasing or leasing a car, renting or buying a home, managing personal risks through insurance products, understanding the potential for return and risk in investments, and the financial implications of transition to civilian life.

FMAP is especially sensitive to the situations and needs of the Service member experiencing financial hardship. FMAP is well-integrated with other key programs in the Family Program operations, specifically in the areas of, Readiness; Transition Assistance; Family Member Employment; Children, Youth and Teens; Exceptional Family Member Program and Educational and Vocational Programs.

Personal Financial Management

It doesn’t have to be complicated

FMAP is the National Guard’s program aimed at helping Service members and Families achieve their financial goals. Assistance, resources and planning solutions provided by FMAP can help guide and explain financial matters to individuals and families and help set realistic financial goals. Smart financial management starts with smart choices. Learn More

Financial Readiness

The Financial Management Awareness Program is here to help you alleviate financial distress so you can be “Always Ready, Always There”. Learn More

Connect with Valuable Resources

To reach your local Personal Finance Counselor, contact the FMAP National Program Manager

Find the latest web resources, feeds, and videos with strategies and news for your financial health.

Military Community & Family Policy

Use the web and social media to connect with and learn about the programs and policies available to the military community, including links to Military Community & Family Policy, Military OneSource, Spouse Employment Opportunities and the Healthy Base Initiative. Learn More (PDF)


The Personal Financial Management Staff strengths lie in basic individual and family economics. Core proficiencies are teaching and analyzing income, expenses, use of revolving and installment credit, savings, and basic investments and investing. Core proficiencies also include consumer awareness and protections, car buying, housing options, education funding, basic insurance, banking and financial services, debt management, and financial planning for active duty contingencies (an impending PCS move, deployment of a spouse and family separation, planning for transition, and other major life events while on active duty). The staff has basic but not advanced proficiencies in individual taxes and retirement planning. While the staff is conversant with legal affairs such as wills and powers of attorney, all such questions, as well as DUI, contracts, divorce, wills and trusts are referred to the Legal Assistance office.


All information shared during these meetings is covered by the Privacy Act and is treated to the strictest confidence. Information is NEVER released to a third party without a request from and the signed consent of person whose information is requested.

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