YOKOSUKA NAVAL BASE, Japan — Families suffering hardship after the injury or death or a servicemember can seek a delay in mortgage payments under a program the Pentagon and secondary market mortgage lender Fannie Mae announced this week.

Eligible homeowners may obtain a forbearance for up to six months on their mortgage, Fannie Mae and Army officials said at the Pentagon on Monday, according to a news release.

If a homeowner’s mortgage lender agrees, the forbearance reduces or suspends payments. It also suspends any adverse reporting to credit bureaus about the homeowner.

Fannie Mae, a government-sponsored company worth about $870 billion as of 2009, does not lend money directly to homeowners but provides billions to banks and mortgage lenders.

Homeowners should contact their lender to determine whether they are eligible for the forbearance.

“It’s a great option for people if they happen to be in situation where you can’t make a mortgage payment,” said Michael Spiltener, financial educator at Yokosuka Naval Base’s Fleet and Family Support Center. However, Spiltener added, “it’s not a forgiveness, it’s a forbearance.”

Anyone who accepts the forbearance will eventually have to pay back the full amount of the mortgage.

The forbearance is the latest in a slew of state and federal programs designed to help servicemembers and civilians retain their homes through mortgage payment relief.

The Homeowners Assistance Program reimburses some servicemembers and Defense Department civilians who were forced to sell their home at a loss due to a change of station. The federal Home Affordable Modification Program allows homeowners and participating lenders to change the original terms of the mortgage.

There are also several state programs available, particularly in states hardest hit by the real estate market crash, Spiltener said.

Homeowners who owe more than they can afford on their mortgages should talk with a financial counselor or their mortgage lender to find out what program works best for their situation, Spiltener said.

People with questions about the forbearance program can call 877-MIL-4566 or visit

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