Congress Sees CUs As Vital In ImprovingFinances Of Armed Services

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WASHINGTON - (05/19/06) -- Congress, the Armed Forces andaffiliated credit unions and banks have gone a long way towardsimproving the financial lot of America's fighting soldiers sincethe 2001 invasion of Iraq, but a lot more can be done, lawmakerssaid Thursday during congressional hearings on the financial needsof the military and their families. And credit unions can play animportant role in ensuring that soldiers need not worry about theirfinancial needs at home or those of their loved ones while they arefighting for their country, several members of the House FinancialServices Subcommittee on Investigations and Oversight noted."Institutions like credit unions and private financial institutionswork hard to overcome these problems," said Rep. Sue Kelly (R-NY),chairman of the panel, of the stories of predatory lendingpractices and financial fraud plaguing many of the militaryinstallations in the U.S. Since the invasion of Afghanistan andIraq, Congress has raised military pay levels, increased combatpay, hiked family separation allowances, allowed reimbursement formilitary leave travel, and required personal financial managementtraining for all military personnel, contributing to a vastimprovement in the financial prospects of those deployed forcombat, according to a new study issued Thursday by the GeneralAccountability Office. In fact, military pay, on average, has risenfaster than civilian pay since 1999. As a result of all theseinitiatives, deployment status "does not affect the financialcondition of active duty servicemembers," the GAO found. In fact,servicemembers who were deployed at least 30 days reported similarlevels of financial health or problems as those who had notdeployed.

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