Story & photo by S.J. Grady
USAG Stuttgart Public Affairs Office
The day after the Justice Department announced it had reached a $60 million settlement with the Sallie Mae Bank to resolve allegations of charging service members excessive rates on student loans, Holly Petraeus was in Stuttgart to educate the community about the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.
The settlement affects approximately 60,000 service members and is the result of a joint effort with the CFPB, where Petraeus serves as the assistant director in charge of the Office of Servicemember Affairs, the Department of Education and the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation.
During an informational briefing and town hall held in the Panzer Chapel last month, Petraeus, who was on a 14-day tour of U.S. military bases in Europe, told the audience the Office of Servicemember Affairs makes sure that military personnel and their families have a voice at the CFPB.
Following the financial crisis in the U.S. from 2007-2009, Congress established the CFPB to protect consumers by carrying out federal consumer financial laws.
Petraeus said her office is chartered with three missions.
The first is to ensure that “military families get the financial education that they need so that they make better informed consumer decisions.”
As an example, Petraeus said her office looked at how financial training was delivered. Basic training, she said, was not the ideal time to educate young troops on finances. So the Office of Servicemember Affairs developed an online curriculum for Delayed Entry Program participants to familiarize recruits with the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act, and teach them to make sound financial decisions in certain areas, such as buying a car.
The Office of Servicemember Affairs also monitors complaints from the military community that come into the CFPB. When a consumer files a complaint, they are asked if they are military. This allows Petraeus’ office to track the complaint, Petraeus said. “We’ve had about 14,000 military complaints so far. I’m happy to say through those complaints we’ve gotten over $1 million back for service members.”
The final mission, Petraeus said, is to work with other federal and state agencies on consumer protection measures on behalf of service members. As a result, she said, there are several new rules regarding mortgages that bring new rights and protections to service members.
Petraeus said she also travels to military installations to conduct town halls to learn about service members’ concerns and issues. Throughout the brief, Petraeus peppered her discussion by recounting the financial stories of military personnel she has met on her travels.
Petraeus concluded by taking questions from service members regarding student loans, credit cards and mortgages.
For more information on the CFPB and how it works to protect the military community, visit www.consumerfinance.gov/servicemembers. CFPB looks out for service members’ financial interests