JOHNSON: Soldiers, vets deserve help with financesIt’s rarely discussed, but servicemembers face unique financial challenges. Members of our military know firsthand how quickly new orders can arrive that cause them to move across the country or across the world.
By: U.S. SEN. TIM JOHNSON, Guest columnist
It’s rarely discussed, but servicemembers face unique financial challenges. Members of our military know firsthand how quickly new orders can arrive that cause them to move across the country or across the world. Plans for education can change with the next deployment. Finances take on an added importance when you consider that something as vital as a security clearance is dependent on a servicemember’s credit score.
As Veterans Day approached, I recently held a Banking Committee hearing to highlight the unique financial situation facing servicemembers past and present, and the importance of helping them take control of their financial future.
Their financial challenges are immense and often unpredictable. Important milestones like buying a house, selling a car or getting an education can change in a heartbeat when a new deployment arrives. Such a mobile lifestyle makes the idea of the neighborhood bank impossible — they need banking services accessible throughout the country and around the world. This is all in addition to the enormous financial and emotional strain that families of servicemembers face every day when their loved one is away. The men and women who fight to defend our nation should not also have to go to battle with financial scam artists.
Our veterans and servicemembers should not face a tangled, complex web of financial decisions alone. They should have the tools they need to provide for themselves and their families. That’s why the work being done at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and local institutions in South Dakota is so important to our veterans, members of the military and their families.
As a military daughter, wife and mother, Holly Petraeus knows firsthand the challenges facing military families. Together with her husband, CIA Director General David Petraeus, who commanded troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, she faced many of the issues countless veterans and their families have also endured. She testified at the recent hearing, and outlined how her work as assistant director for the Office of Service Member Affairs at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is helping educate and empower members of the military and their families to make the best financial decisions for themselves. I supported the creation of this new agency in the Wall Street reform law.
At the hearing, Mrs. Petraeus also brought home the need to get a director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau in place to give this new agency the teeth it needs to regulate non-banks like private student lenders, online payday lenders and auto finance companies. This would level the playing field with community banks and credit unions. Unfortunately, Republicans have blocked confirmation of the president’s nominee, Richard Cordray, at every turn.
It’s important that quality resources are present at the local level as well. Our state is home to outstanding financial counselors who go above and beyond to make sure those who wear our uniform and their families have the resources they need. Bonnie Spain from the Consumer Credit Counseling Service, Rushmore Consumer Credit Resource Center, testified at my hearing about the work in Rapid City to provide airmen and their families stationed at Ellsworth with the best financial tools possible. I know similar efforts are being made in communities across our state.
Providing those who serve our nation with the right financial tools is a small step that lifts a heavy burden from their shoulders. It’s part of the larger responsibility we have to provide for those that defend our nation.
South Dakota is home to more than 72,000 veterans, and over 3,500 are currently serving at Ellsworth. As the parents of a soldier, Barbara and I know the incredible burden they and their families face every day. We owe a tremendous debt of gratitude to all of those that have served our nation, across all the branches of our military. As we pause this Veterans Day to recognize their sacrifice, I want to thank those who selflessly defended our nation.