DOD had limited data on the rate of bankruptcies among active duty
military personnel. Responses to DOD's 1999 active duty survey--the
most current data available--show that 1.2 percent, or about 16,000, of
the 1.3 million active duty members in the survey population said that
they had declared personal bankruptcy during the 12 months preceding
the survey. This compares with a total of approximately 1.3 million
personal bankruptcies filed in the United States in 1999. From 1999
through 2003, the number of personal bankruptcies increased from
approximately 1.3 million to over 1.6 million for the U.S. population.
The 23.6 percent increase in personal bankruptcy filings for the U.S.
population may not readily translate into a comparable rate of increase
for active duty military personnel. Loss of employment and medical-
related problems (e.g., medical costs and loss of income during illness
or accident) are among the major causes that contribute to personal
bankruptcies in the U.S. population, but unemployment and catastrophic
medical expenses are factors not confronted by active duty military
personnel. In addition, Congress has authorized increased cash
compensation--increases in basic pay, housing allowance, and special
pays--for active duty military personnel since 1999. For example,
average annual military basic pay increases have exceeded average
private-sector wage increases for fiscal years 2000 through 2004. DOD
has also identified a need to improve the financial literacy and
responsibility of military members. And in May 2003, DOD formally
launched a financial readiness campaign to address military members'
poor financial habits and increase financial management awareness,
savings, and protection against predatory practices.