By Chris Mandia
A disconnect between veterans and the general population is nothing new. It’s an obstruction that dates back to the Revolutionary War. Veterans of the Continental Army, some hundreds of miles away from home, were treated poorly upon discharge and besieged by debt. Many found themselves jobless. The mounting hardships culminated in rebellion.
History remembers that dissent as Shay’s Rebellion (eerily similar to today’s Occupy Wall Street movement). But this time around, friendly faces and numerous government benefits welcome veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan home. Yet despite a warmhearted reception, the current state of the economy seems to have affected active duty service-members and veterans rather harshly.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, this maelstrom of economic hardships has contributed to veterans having an unemployment rate 2.6 percent higher than the general populace. Combined with personal obstacles endemic to modern warfare, post-traumatic stress disorder and certain emergency needs, it’s no surprise that a portion of military members are in need of special assistance.
They’re not broken, rundown or destitute, but simply in need of financial support. Thankfully, the Navy-Marine Corps Relief Society is there to help.
Founded in 1904, the Navy-Marine Corps Relief Society (NMCRS) is a non-profit charitable organization. Supported by the Department of Navy and manned in part by volunteers, it’s come a long way since it’s humble birth over one hundred years ago.
Beginning with seven good samaritans, the organization has blossomed into 3,600 trained volunteers. They serve Sailors, Marines and their families ashore and afloat every year. Their mission, as per their website:
“to provide, in partnership with the Navy and Marine Corps, financial, educational and other assistance to members of the Naval Services of the United States, eligible family member, and survivors when in need; and to receive and manage funds to administer these programs.”
The bulk of these programs are funded by charitable contributions.
NMCRS is specifically authorized to serve active duty and retired Navy and Marine Corps personnel and their family members. They also manage to help Navy and Marine Corps personnel who died on active duty, reservists on extended tours and indigent widows.
Non-emergency situations, recreational funds and tax relief are not covered by the Society. For those interested in money management tools, the Navy and Marine Corps Relief Society offer workshops and personal reviews of individual budgets.
One of the most utilized services involves interest free loans or grants. Furnished to those who qualify, the program covers a plethora of needs, including: Emergency transportation; funeral expenses; medical/dental bills; food, rent and utilities; disaster relief assistance; childcare; vehicle repairs and unforeseen family emergencies. To take advantage of this service, contact the nearest NMCRS location.
In addition to emergency financing, the Society offers several educational loans and assistance funds. The Vice Admiral E. P. Travers Loan Program, namesake of the NMCRS’s eleventh President, offers interest-free loans to qualified children of active duty and retired Sailors and Marines. Annual scholarships range from $500 to $3,000.
The Admiral Mike Boorda Loan Program also provides no-interest loans similar to the Travers program. Granted to active-duty students enrolled in the Marine Enlisted Commissioning Education Program (MECEP), Medical Enlisted Commissioning Program (MCEP) and Marine Meritorious Commissioning Program (MCP).
In terms of scholarships, NMCRS Gold Star Program offers grants to eligible children and un-remarried spouses of deceased Sailors and Marines. Monetary disbursements are based on need.
A recent addition to the Society’s educational programs is the Pentagon Assistance Fund (PAF). Created specially for children of deceased Sailors and Marines who died as a result of the terror attacks on the Pentagon on September 11, 2001 or died in hostile fire while conducting missions in Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF).
Lastly, one of the more innovative services offered by NMCRS is the Visiting Nurse Program. With 27 locations across the globe, NMCRS Registered Nurses (RNs) contact over 40,000 patients each year.
Available for hospital and home visits, the RNs will see patients of any age. Eligible clients include all Navy and Marine Corps members–active duty or retired–and their family members/survivors. As with all Navy and Marine Corps Relief Services, the Visiting Nurse Program is obtainable free of charge for those approved.
For more information on loans, scholarships and the Navy-Marine Corps Relief Society, visit www.nmcrs.org.