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Consumer Watch: Homeowner help

Banks, credit unions that account for military realities

Jul. 19, 2012 - 04:13PM   |   Last Updated: Jul. 19, 2012 - 04:13PM  |  
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We've heard from many military homeowners in gut-wrenching quandaries after getting orders to move to a new duty station in recent years, but in only a few of those cases have homeowners mentioned a military-affiliated bank or credit union.

So what's the difference? We asked some of the larger military-affiliated financial institutions what they do to help troops facing permanent change-of-station orders or upside-down mortgages. The common theme: They understand the issues military families face when they are ordered to move and go the extra mile to find solutions:

Armed Forces Bank: "I've been at Armed Forces Bank for seven years and have never been forced to foreclose on a military family," said Robert Dixon, senior vice president and consumer loan department manager. "Armed Forces Bank has always worked with military homeowners who may have difficulty making their payments or may be underwater and need to sell their house to move."

Fort Sill National Bank: "We have almost no foreclosures because we do not make loans if the customer cannot afford the loan," said James Cerrone, vice president of retail operations. Foreclosures that do occur are usually due to death or divorce, he said. "If a customer is having a problem making mortgage payments, we work with them on an individual basis. Possible solutions include everything from reducing the payment amount or interest rate to assisting the customer in finding a buyer."

Navy Federal Credit Union: While Navy Federal does sell mortgages on the secondary market, it retains the servicing rights on all mortgage loans for their duration, said spokeswoman Jeanette Mack. "This way, the member has one point of contact, and we're able to personally tend to their mortgage needs." As for troops with PCS orders, "We have found that every member's situation is different especially our active-duty members," she said. "We encourage all of our members experiencing financial difficulties to contact us so that we can take a look at their specific situation."

Pentagon Federal Credit Union: "During a PCS move, if they are financially unable to make payments and request assistance, we will ask for a financial hardship application to be completed where income, debts and assets are considered when determining the best solution," said spokesman Steve Troxel. "The government also has programs to help when orders are issued and service personnel are facing a gap between value and amount owed."

USAA: Since the financial crisis began in 2008, USAA has worked with several hundred thousand members experiencing hardship who have asked for adjustments on their loans, said spokesman John Hancock. "Our Member Assistance Program team steps in to work one-on-one with the member within applicable laws and regulations to arrive at a solution," looking at other issues affecting the financial situation. USAA may modify payments, such as reducing interest, extending payments or allowing skipped payments, to help reduce the member's monthly expenses.

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