In my life, I've "passed the hat" around asking people to put money in a hat for friends in need, neighbors in trouble, students needing help, military friends and families who were having a tough time making it from paycheck to paycheck or fix the family car.
To "pass the hat" around is a way to collect donations of money from people to help others.
While I was in the Marine Corps, we passed the hat around to help others in the same way that many others in our military have done over the years.
"Passing the hat" has everything to do with AAFMAA
Everyone who reads my blog knows that I love history, especially Old West History.
Well, come to find out, the AAFMAA was started as a result of a huge event in American Military History in the American West.
And yes, you'll probably be a little surprised at the connection.
Believe it or not, AAFMAA was actually founded in 1879 by a group of U.S. Army Officers in response to the aftermath of the Battle of the Little Big Horn or "Custer's Last Stand" in 1876.
In the Old West, during frontier times, when an soldier died, the remaining soldiers would literally "pass the hat" to raise money for the surviving family.
A dollar or two from the troops went a long way, at least for a while. And yes, a survivor could depend on the help of the other troops to help ease the burden and the loss.
But what took place at the Little Big Horn was not seen since the Civil War, an entire unit was wiped out.
In the solitude of the Western Frontier, for that unit, there was simply no one to pass the hat to for any sort of help.
That was really the moment in time when the soldier's system of passing the hat collapsed.
Along with Custer and his over 200 troops at the Battle of the Little Big Horn, another casualty of that battle was the ability for the survivors to fend for themselves.
There were simply too few survivors to pass the hat, thus leaving the deceased soldiers' families in need.
To remedy this situation, a group of U.S. Army officers stepped forward and established the association that today we know as the AAFMAA.
What started as the Army Mutual Aid Association, later evolved to include the Air Force, as in the Army Air Force Mutual Aid Association.
During its time, some of the notable AAFMAA members include:
• Gen. John J. (Black Jack) Pershing
• Gen. George C. Marshall
• President Dwight D. Eisenhower
• Gen. Carl A. (Tooey) Spaatz
• Gen. Omar N. Bradley
• Gen. William C. Westmoreland
• Gen. Creighton W. Abrams
• Gen. Walter T. “Dutch” Kerwin
• Gen. Michael S. Davison
• Gen. Norman Schwarzkopf
In 2013, the Army Air Force Mutual Aid Association name was officially changed to the American Armed Forces Mutual Aid Association (AAFMAA) as it is known today - and it included all branches of our military.
Since starting my small blog, I'm contacted from folks in the military seeking guidance about what to do for their families if they are affected by the draw down — big choices about life insurance, retirement benefits, survivor services and much, much more.
Many military members across our country face choices in the days ahead that could have a permanent impact on the security of their families. The costs of poor decisions could be high and they know it.
As a blogger, one who has made my own poor decisions in the past. I know first hand how poor decision making is usually a case of getting bad information.
Since I was asked to help our troops, our men and women in uniform, by informing them about their rights and their options, I'm proud to say that after a lot of research -AAFMAA could be the difference between a secure financial future and one that is not so secure.
I told the AAFMAA that I would help spread the word to members of our military - explaining to them that they have rights and a choice.
I know I speak for many when I say that if you served your country — if you put your life on the line for your country — then household budget issues like higher life insurance premiums should never stand in the way of family security.
So with us knowing that, where do we start?
Well, let's start by talking about the AAFMAA's stability
• As I mentioned before, AAFMAA was found in 1879 after "Custer's Last Stand"
• They have more than $1 billion in assets
• There are over 90,000 members
• And Membership Eligibility is your service to our nation.
The AAFMAA is open to all ranks of Army, Marine Corps, Navy, Coast Guard, and Air Force who are:
■ Active Duty (or within 120 days after separation)
■ Guard or Reserve (full or part time)
■ USMA, USNA, USMMA, USCGA, and USAFA cadets or midshipmen
■ ROTC contract/scholarship cadets
It's also available to Honorably Discharged Veterans residing in Connecticut, Florida, Hawaii, Maryland, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, or Virginia.
And how about "Low-Cost" Insurance
AAFMAA offers some of the lowest-cost insurance in the business.
The details of their plans, their costs and their benefits are considerably different than anything available in the commercial marketplace
But really, price should not be the only comparison.
All insurance policies are not the same and military families have to understand what they are getting for what they pay.
Many commercial plans have exclusion clauses that mean they don’t have to pay if the policyholder dies in battle, by an act of terrorism, or in an aircraft crash, for instance.
That's not the case with AAFMAA.
Not only are AAFMAA life insurance policies less expensive than the competition, they also have no exclusion clauses.
And yes, AAFMAA coverage is available up to $1,000,000 regardless of the dangers faced.
All AAFMAA Life Insurance Policies Include:
• Competitive rates for service members and military spouses
• Survivor Assistance Services for members’ spouses
• No war, terrorist or aviation clauses, exclusions or surcharges
• No coverage limitations based on deployment status
• Coverage available up to $1,000,000 ($800,000 term)
• Continuation after separation or retirement from the Military (as policy allows)
They also have Low-Cost Loans
Everyone knows the feeling of being stretched a bit too thin at times.
The AAFMAA offers low-cost loan program known as CAP, which dishes-up as much as $4,000 in cash at just 1.5% interest to help service members get through hard times.
These loans are for AAFMAA members who are on Active Duty, including Guard and Reserves in pay grades E5-E9, WO1, CW2 and 01-03. There are other requirements which may apply, but I'm not going to go through all of the what have you here.
The point is that help is available without costing anyone an arm and a leg in interest.
I made the mistake of getting a loan when I was in the Corps. Yes, they had loans back in the Stone Ages!
I needed it to help my folks who were having a tough time at home. The interest rate was huge and I ended up learning the hard way from that horrible experience.
I can only hope that that doesn't happen to you.
And how about "Spousal Services"
One of the reasons that some of the guys who I knew in the Corps who never got married was their not wanting to leave a widow behind with no support and maybe a child to raise.
Today, while the loss of a loved one is still the greatest challenge a military family will face - there are ways of preparing that simply weren't available years ago.
Dealing with these decisions is hard enough, and making life-long choices in a time of anguish can be overwhelming.
AAFMAA Survivor Services is there with sound and caring advice and a steady hand in navigating the maze of benefits and entitlements.
Survivor Assistance Services is included with all member policies.
Losing a loved one is never easy. AAFMAA’s Survivor Assistance Services Team helps with immediate, personal and knowledgeable assistance.
• Notify DFAS of the member’s passing and assist widows and widowers with all necessary forms
• Initiate the life insurance policy death claim and discuss settlement options
• Notify the Veterans Administration of the member’s passing and assist with all necessary claim forms when applicable
• Claims Initiation and continuous follow-up
Anyone who has been in the military knows that we are more than a collection of individuals.
When you serve, your families serve as well. And yes, I've said it before and I'll say it again, military families are the true backbone of our military.
Those left at home to worry and wait, all while taking care of home and family with money and other pressures - they are our warriors at home.
They don't have it easy! And yes, they have my respect and admiration.
From the information that was sent to me by the AAFMAA, I gather only AAFMAA offers SpouseLink.org
This is an invaluable online tool connecting and strengthening the broad network of military spouses who hold these families together.
For advice, the latest news from the military community or just a sympathetic ear, SpouseLink.org is the place for military spouses.
So what are the Member Benefits?
As one of the AAFMAA family, you have access to a range of services to help you through every stage of life — in the military and beyond.
AAFMAA Member Services Team offers expert guidance on military benefits and entitlements.
AAFMAA Survivor Assistance Services Team offers compassionate and caring assistance in difficult times from the moment of death notification through the surviving spouse’s entire life.
Premier Services (Only $5.95 per month)
•Digital & Physical Vault Document Storage
•VA Disability Claims Coordination
•Military Benefits Analysis and Transitions Readiness Assessment
For over 134 years, AAFMAA has had the best interests of its members at heart.
Their Wealth Management experts work closely with you to develop and implement a plan appropriate for your — and your family’s — specific financial situation and goals.
As for Financial Planning
Buying a home. Saving for college. Retirement planning. We all have financial goals we want to achieve.
From financial road maps and cash flow analysis to retirement and estate planning, the AAFMAA may be able to help you plan for a secure future.
Managing and growing your hard-earned money is key to a secure future.
Their experts can help determine your optimum investment strategy, define and manage a portfolio customized for your goals in a way that suits your needs.
A well drawn trust manages and distributes assets on behalf of its beneficiaries.
As your trustee, AAFMAA Wealth Management and Trust works to ensure that your wishes are carried out.
Their attitude is "Members First, Always"
Commercial insurance companies often keep proceeds from death benefits in separate bank accounts held in a general corporate investment account.
These accounts earn investment income for the insurance company, while survivors receive uncompetitive rates.
AAFMAA does not have retained asset accounts. All funds are always invested for the benefit of members or their survivors at competitive rates.
The AAFMAA invests settlement amounts for the survivors, as well. All income after expenses is returned to the members or their survivors.
AAFMAA is based on the principle of “mutual aid.”
It is this "all-for-one, one-for-all" spirit that means military men and women know that someone else always has their back, no matter what the circumstances.
If you would like to look them over, just click AAFMAA
For me, I like the folks at AAFMAA.
Most of this information comes from the information that they made available to me. I checked most of it out and so I felt comfortable about posting it here.
As a matter of full disclosure, I am making absolutely no money for writing this blog about AAFMAA.
AAFMAA is not paying me to write this blog, nor are they paying me to "advertise" their organization by way of this article.
In fact, the AAFMAA does not advertise with me on the American Cowboy Chronicles at all.
Fact is, I was contacted and simply asked if I could take a look at their organization and write an honest evaluation of what they have to offer - all in an effort to help our troops.
"Members first always," tells me a lot about them.
As a former Marine, as a disabled veteran, I really wish I had these sorts of services available to me back when I was serving - and later when I was ready to get out.
If there were something like AAFMAA actually available at the time, I didn't know it. And yes, that's why I am writing this blog today.
Besides telling Kara, the rep for AAFMAA that I would do this, this blog post is to help you, my brothers and sisters in the military.
This is being provided to you so that you can take a look at AAFMAA in the future. You might find that it fits your needs, and the needs of your family.
If by chance you are one of my readers in the military right now, I hope and pray that you don't mind me saying how much I appreciate your service.
I am proud of who you are. I admire and respect your sacrifice. I believe with all my heart and soul that you are the hope of America.
And yes, you are my heroes!
American Cowboy Chronicles