Military families have more moves than most people. In the chaos of moving, things like utility deposits, security deposits, 401Ks for the civilian spouse, final pay checks, newspaper subscription balances and more can be left behind. After 3-5 years this money gets turned over to the state. You can check any state you’ve ever lived in by going to www.Unclaimed.org. If you own or owned your own business be sure to look for the business name also. The states are holding nearly $42 billion.
However, if you had a foreign address when serving overseas then the money gets turned over to the state where the holder (the company that owes you the money) is incorporated. This could be a state you never even visited.
If you left a traditional pension behind you can check with the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation. Some of these listings are for bankrupt companies like Enron and Eastern Airlines. The designated beneficiary or heir may be able to claim the balance if the owner is deceased. There’s $280 million waiting to be claimed for 38,000 people.
Veterans’ service organizations such as Viet Nam Veterans of America, Veterans of Foreign Wars, Paralyzed Veterans, Military Order of World War and others also have unclaimed property listings. When searching, the less you enter, the broader the search. For example, enter just Disabled or Paralyzed for the maximum amount of listings for the Disabled American Veterans or Paralyzed Veterans of America. Use shortened versions such as VFW. Look under both Viet Nam and Vietnam Vet.
All branches of the military including many military bases have unclaimed property listings on the state sites. The Department of the Navy has more than $3.6 million held in the Treasury Department.
Military medals are sometimes found among the contents of safe deposit boxes that have been turned over to the state. Some states hold the medals indefinitely, trying to work with veteran organizations to return them to the hero or the family. Other states put them up for auction holding the proceeds until the rightful owner comes forward. Search under the name of the person that might have had the safe deposit box in the state they lived in.
Savings Bonds were a way to support the war effort. There are more than 40 million savings bonds that have stopped earning interest and should be cashed in and reinvested. To search for lost savings bonds, go to the Treasury Department. The estimated value is $16 billion.
Thrift Savings Plans are the federal government’s equivalent of a 401K. If you or a deceased family member participated in a plan, check for any available balance by going here or call 877-968-3778.
Life insurance offered through the military never gets turned over to the state. This can include payouts to a beneficiary that can’t be located as well as insurance premium refunds and dividends. Check the Veterans Affairs web site. Remember to keep your beneficiary contact information current.
Survivor aid and benefits for families can be found through the VA.
Foreclosure If you had equity in your home and it foreclosed for more than you owed, the excess belongs to you. Check with the clerk of court in the county where the foreclosure took place. The same thing applies to storage units. Check with the company where the storage unit was.
Viet Nam Veterans diagnosed with a disease recognized as being related to exposure to Agent Orange may be eligible for service-connected compensation.
The Radiation Exposure Compensation Act (RECA) This program is limited to the atmospheric nuclear testing program conducted by the US after World War II. The compensation is only provided for an individual that has contracted a related cancer following their exposure. It may apply to 3 populations:
- · Uranium miners, millers and ore transporters
- · Onsite participation at atmospheric nuclear weapons tests
- · Individuals who lived downwind of the Nevada test sites (Downwinders)
Further details are available through the Department of Justice.
The fire in St. Louis in 1979 at the National Military Personnel Records Center destroyed many of the records that showed the military member’s participation at the site. But the radiation film badge records are available. The request needs to be filled out on form NV-192 and mailed to:
US Department of Energy
ATTN: Dosimetry Research Project, M/S CF 401
PO Box 98521
Las Vegas, NV 89193-8521
If the participant is deceased, surviving family members can complete the Surviving Relative Affidavit. This, the previously mentioned form and the Privacy Act form that you’ll also need are available throughAngel Fire or by calling (800) 729-7327. The Angel Fire web site provides help for some of the problems you are likely to encounter. Do not try to go through the Veteran’s Administration as that is the wrong agency.
The following information pertains to vets but has nothing to do with money. I included it because some things have no appropriate monetary value.
In an article on CNN last year, it was estimated that the suicide rate among vets, especially the younger ones, was more than 22 a day. Help is available.
- The National Suicide Prevention Hotline is available 24/7. 1-800-273-TALK (8255).
- Vets4Warriors is a peer-to-peer counseling service geared toward members and veterans of the National Guard, but is available to all branches of the military. It is staffed by veterans trained as counselors. Call 1-800 VET-TALK (838-8255) or online at www.Vets4Warriors.com.
- Coaching Into Care is for family members that provides assistance to family members and friends trying to encourage their veteran to seek health care for possible readjustment and mental health issues. It’s a national phone service that places priority on linking veterans to benefits and services available in their own community. If you think you veteran family member or friend could benefit from readjustment counseling, please call Coaching Into Care at 1-800-823-7458 or email CoachingIntoCare@va.gov.
Mary Pitman is the author of “The Little Book of Missing Money: A Quick and Easy Guide to Finding Money that is Rightfully Yours.”Much of the content in this article was taken from her book. Used with permission. To book Mary to speak to your organization or for interviews email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.