Michael, an Iraq and Afghanistan veteran, left the military with service-connected disabilities from injuries sustained while on active duty, and little knowledge of how finances work in a non-military world.
“I had no idea what a housing security deposit was,” Michael said. “The fact I had to pay vehicle taxes was a complete shock and the thought of investing in my financial future was foreign to me.”
For Michael, like many other veterans, transitioning back to civilian life while living with a disability was a challenge.
Twenty-five years ago this month, Congress passed the Americans with Disabilities Act to ensure that every American could participate fully in public life regardless of a disability. Despite much progress, Americans with disabilities continue to face significant obstacles when working to become financially secure.
According to recent studies , Americans with disabilities disproportionately live in poverty; are more than twice as likely to use nonbank financial services such as payday loans and check cashing; and 80 percent have no emergency savings to absorb a financial shock.
Michael is one of 57 million Americans living with a disability. They are our heroes, friends, neighbors, relatives, and coworkers. Americans with disabilities, like all consumers, have the right to fair treatment in the financial marketplace and access to tools that can help them improve their financial lives. Many people living with disabilities who are working or transitioning into the workforce can benefit from financial counseling services to improve their financial lives.
The CFPB was created to protect and empower consumers in America. That’s why we launched the ROADS (Reach Outcomes. Achieve Dreams. Succeed) to Financial Independence Initiative . This first-of-its-kind national initiative provides participating consumers with financial counseling services to help them improve their credit scores, reduce debt, and increase personal savings.
I had the pleasure of meeting Michael and other individuals with disabilities at our ROADS launch last month. Listening to their personal stories inspired me, and made me see the importance of providing consumers with tools, resources, and support to help overcome financial obstacles.
Today, Michael serves as a conduit for veterans with disabilities to ROADS financial counselors who provide guidance to consumers who need it most. “I understand from firsthand experience,” Michael said, “the value of a program that educates people with disabilities, including veterans, on how to obtain financial independence.”
Americans with disabilities cut across race, gender, age and geography. Our goal is to take lessons learned through ROADS to help us improve the financial well-being of all consumers.
Join us in spreading the word about ROADS to Financial Independence as we celebrate the Bureau’s fourth anniversary and the ADA’s 25th anniversary this month. Reach out to us at Empowerment@consumerfinance.gov for more information on ROADS. You can also learn about other tools to empower communities on the CFPB’s Office of Financial Empowerment webpage.