Serving those who serve our country is a deep commitment to proudly serve our nation’s military, veterans, and their families. It is a commitment every credit union in the United States shares as military members are included in virtually all fields of membership. The Defense Credit Union Council thanks each of you for your steadfast commitment to these members.
However, we need your help in reaching many of our nation’s “unbanked” veterans. While there are many root causes and thought experiments on the growing number of “unbanked” veterans, this article is simply a call to action. It is a call for all U.S. credit unions to participate in a new VA program aimed at these veterans.
The United States Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) exists to provide many benefits and services for our nation’s veterans in return for their service in defending our country. One of the more obscure programs is the VA’s Direct Express card. This card is essentially a prepaid debit card payment option for federal benefit recipients who don’t have a bank or credit union account.
The good news is, these cards allow unbanked veterans the ability to make purchases at stores, pay bills, purchase money orders, and even obtain cash from an ATM or financial institution. The VA’s Direct Express program mails thousands of these cards each month. In addition, the VA spends millions of dollars distributed through this means.
Unfortunately, there is also a high level of fraud, identity theft, denial of access to their accounts, oppressive fees, and extended call center waiting times that accompany the issuance of these cards. For many veterans, there is not a good backup plan in place and therefore, they are unable to use this benefit. As a result, the Veterans Benefits Administration (VBA) was directed to search for alternative ways to distribute monetary benefits to these veterans.
After some deliberation, the Veterans Benefits Administration recently launched the Veterans Benefits Banking Program (VBBP). This program is intended to identify financial institutions that can provide veterans safe, reliable and inexpensive ways to receive and manage their VA monetary benefits. As such, the Defense Credit Union Council met with the Veterans Benefits Administration late last month to discuss how to open this program to all credit unions around the country.
This program allows credit unions to offer a “mainstream” financial product – a checking account – that both meets the needs of these veterans as well as avoids the problems they are encountering with pre-paid debit cards. It also furthers the credit union mission to serve the underserved.
What the program asks of any joining financial institution:
- You must accept direct deposits
- A promise to work with any veteran who walks in or calls your credit union to try to make them eligible for membership
If your credit union would like to join the VBBP, here is what we need from you to get started:
- Your verbal commitment to serve veterans to the best of your ability, especially those who may not qualify automatically
- Your high-resolution logo
- A short description of your credit union and its commitment to the military/veterans
- The landing page for your link on Veteransbenefitsbanking.org
For further details on this program and if you would like your credit union to be included, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org to get started.