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Michigan veterans to get free financial counseling

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Michigan military veterans and their families now have access to free financial counseling through a state pilot program, the Michigan Veterans Affairs Agency announced today.  

The MVAA’s Michigan Veterans Trust Fund (MVTF) recently approved a 15-month agreement with GreenPath Financial Wellness Inc., a nonprofit financial counseling organization, to provide the service to Michigan veterans. 

The financial counseling pilot program, which starts today, can help the many veterans who are struggling to manage their finances or overcome crippling debt. The goal is to help veterans gain financial stability, said Lindell Holm, director of the MTVF, a state entity that provides emergency grants to eligible veterans.

“GreenPath has a long history of educating consumers – including veterans – and helping them achieve a healthy financial situation,” said Holm, a Marine veteran. “They offer practical financial education that can help our veteran population to better understand personal financial issues such as credit scores and loan terms.”

Veterans interested in the free financial counseling can call the MVAA’s Resource Center at 1-800-MICH-VET (642-4838) or visit www.michiganveterans.com

The holistic financial counseling consists of a one-on-one session that typically takes an hour and can be done over the phone or at a GreenPath branch office. Each veteran receives a custom budget and financial action plan.

Additional free financial counseling for veterans includes:
•    Housing counseling, in which renters and homeowners learn to avoid delinquencies and explore options to avoid foreclosure and eviction.
•    Credit report review to help veterans understand credit reports, credit scoring and how to manage their credit score.
•    Financial wellness tools, including webinars, a digital education course, an online support community and a digital journaling tool.

Veterans may qualify for a Debt Management Plan, which is separate from the free financial counseling. Under the plan, clients deposit a set amount to a trust account based on their income, and GreenPath uses this account to pay their creditors directly. As a benefit, GreenPath works with creditors to lower interest rates, stop late and over-the-limit fees and reduce monthly payments. The plan has a monthly fee ranging from $0 to $75, which is minimal considering the amount clients typically save in waived fees and reduced interest charges.

David Flores, director of client services at GreenPath, said nationwide GreenPath manages payments for more than 44,000 people on a Debt Management Plan. The nonprofit organization also understands the issues faced by military families.

 “In 2018, we served more than 1,500 Michigan veteran and military households, and over 80 percent of them who responded to a survey indicated an improvement to one or more element of their financial well-being,” Flores said.

The MVTF Board of Trustees has approved an initial agreement with GreenPath to run through Sept. 30, 2020. The Board will decide whether to the renew the program for each fiscal year (Oct. 1-Sept. 30) starting in September 2020.