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What should I know about financial or legal issues?

Whether it's a disagreement with your family about household finances, a potential foreclosure or bankruptcy, or a lawsuit or arrest, money issues and legal problems can be very stressful.

Some Veterans may face financial problems because they are out of work — perhaps due to medical conditions associated with military injuries, a lack of job openings, or not knowing how to present their military job skills in the civilian world. Other Veterans may have large debts as a result of not budgeting properly or from unplanned expenses, such as hospital stays or other emergencies. Relationship disputes or arrests for illegal activities can also lead to legal or financial problems.

“It just didn’t make sense to me that the entire time I was serving overseas, I was also falling deeper and deeper into debt. I was in denial for way too long, and it wasn’t until I addressed my financial issues the same way I would an operation in the military that I got things turned in the right direction.”

Financial and legal problems can go hand in hand. Although doing so is ineffective, some people turn to illegal activities as a way to solve their money problems. People in trouble with the law or involved in a lawsuit may have difficulty paying their legal expenses.

If you are having financial or legal problems, you may feel embarrassed and wonder what other people will think. Perhaps you have made mistakes, kept the problems to yourself, or made hasty decisions in order to cover up what you’re going through. You may feel as if you don’t know what to do or where to turn for help. No matter the reason for your legal or money problems, you should reach out for support.

What financial or legal-related issues should I keep an eye out for?

Even the most responsible person can run into financial or legal problems. If you are dealing with money issues, your first impulse may be to borrow more money — but be aware that the additional debt and terms of some loans can quickly put extra strain on your finances and may lead to even more serious financial trouble.

Some Veterans are dealing with physical or emotional issues that may be related to financial or legal problems. You may lose sleep or feel severe stress because of the money or legal issues you are facing. Alternatively, your physical or emotional issues may be contributing to your financial or legal problems. For example, some people may gamble, spend money, or buy things because they think that doing so will make them forget about their other issues, but later they regret these actions.

What can I do about financial and legal issues?

There are steps you can take to help improve and better cope with your financial or legal situations. Try to remember to:

  • Develop a budget for your expenses.
  • Avoid quick fixes to debt, such as short-term loans or maxing out your credit cards.
  • Be cautious of scams that sound “too good to be true.”
  • Let trusted people or reputable organizations help you avoid financial or legal trouble.
  • Avoid drinking too much alcohol, especially when making financial decisions.
  • Take medications only as directed by your doctor, and do not use illegal drugs.
  • Be open to changing your behavior and habits.

It’s important to be aware of the resources available to you in order to overcome your financial or legal problems. As a Veteran, you have access to information about legal services and financial guidance from reliable sources such as VA, Vet Centers, and accredited Veterans Service Organizations. In some states, there are special courts available for Veterans with mental health needs, including issues related to substance use. If you are facing criminal charges, you may want to see if your community operates a Veterans Treatment Court.

Take the next step: Make the connection.

Every day, Veterans who served in the Army, Marine Corps, Navy, Air Force, and Coast Guard connect with resources, services, and support that effectively address the issues affecting their lives. If financial or legal issues are interfering with your health and well-being or are getting in the way of your relationships or daily activities, you may want to reach out for support. Consider connecting with:

  • Your doctor. Ask if your doctor has experience treating Veterans or can refer you to someone who does
  • A mental health professional, such as a family therapist or counselor
  • Your local VA Medical Center or Vet Center. VA specializes in the care and treatment of Veterans.
  • A spiritual or religious adviser

Explore these resources for helping Veterans address legal and financial issues.

Learn more about what you can do if you are experiencing specific concerns related to financial and legal issues, such as alcohol or drug problems, gambling, homelessness, and posttraumatic stress.

VA Loan Program
This website provides information on the VA Loan Program, which offers trustworthy loans to qualified Veterans, and the VA Regional Loan Centers, which have technicians available to conduct financial counseling to Veterans in serious financial trouble.
www.benefits.va.gov/homeloans

Moving Forward: Overcoming Life’s Challenges
Moving Forward is a free online educational and life-coaching program that teaches problem-solving skills to help you better handle life’s challenges. While it’s designed to be especially helpful for Veterans, Service members, and their families, Moving Forward teaches skills that can be useful to anyone with stressful problems.
www.startmovingforward.dcoe.mil

Vet Center
If you are a combat Veteran, you can bring your DD214 to your local Vet Center and speak with a counselor or therapist — many of whom are Veterans themselves — for free, without an appointment, and regardless of your enrollment status with VA. In addition, any Veteran who was sexually traumatized while serving in the military is eligible to receive counseling regardless of gender or era of service.
www2.va.gov/directory/guide/vetcenter_flsh.asp

VA Medical Center Facility Locator
VA provides world-class health care to eligible Veterans. Most Veterans qualify for cost-free health care services, although some Veterans must pay modest copays for health care or prescriptions. Explore your eligibility for health care using VA's Health Benefits Explorer tool and find out more about the treatment options available to you.
www2.va.gov/directory/guide/home.asp?isflash=1