With reports of service men and women losing their homes here as they fought in Iraq or Afghanistan, Fannie Mae and the U.S. Army were at the Pentagon Sept. 27 to announce some help.

Service members or their surviving spouses can ask their lenders for up to six months’ forbearance and get it after approval from Fannie Mae, which owns or insures many of the nation's mortgages. The "military forbearance" is targeted at soldiers whose active-duty injuries led to problems paying mortgage or families whose military members have died.

Under forbearance, monthly payments can be reduced or entirely tacked onto the end of the mortgage period or be paid back later, at a specified date. Federal officials said reports to credit bureaus during the six months will be suspended so the homeowners' credit record won't be hurt further.

Also, a special hotline has been set up for military families to find more information on this and other options to forestalling foreclosure. It's 877-MIL-4566. Fannie Mae also has information on its knowyouroptions.com/military page.

"The men and women of our Armed Forces have shown extraordinary commitment to our country while facing unique challenges as a result of their service," said Jeff Hayward, senior vice president of Fannie Mae's National Servicing Organization. "No family impacted by a death or injury in the line of duty should have to face the additional burden of foreclosure as a result of the hardship."

Katherine Hammack, assistant secretary of the U.S. Army, said the initiative recognizes military families' sacrifices: "The initiative between Fannie Mae and the lending community recognizes their sacrifice and demonstrates our gratitude for those who face economic hardships as a result of their service. We are profoundly grateful for this heartwarming response from the lending community as they become partners in designing and implementing this initiative."

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