We are proud to share some of the great work done by the Bureau and the Office of Servicemember Affairs (OSA) in 2020, highlighted in our eighth annual report. Even though the pandemic has changed where we work and how we interact with our colleagues, we remain committed to educating and empowering servicemembers, veterans, and military families (collectively referred to as “servicemembers” in this report), monitoring their complaints, and coordinating with other state and federal agencies to ensure their financial concerns are given the attention they deserve.
This year, we utilized the technology and resources available to us to ensure that servicemembers continue to receive the information and tools they need to improve their financial well-being. While traditional in-person outreach events were canceled due to COVID-19, we increased our digital presence through webinars, virtual conferences, podcasts, blogs, email outreach, and social media. We also enhanced our , our flagship online educational product, to include a module focused on military families.
In coordination with other Bureau offices, we continued to monitor complaints from servicemembers in 2020. Monitoring consumer complaints provides us with invaluable information through which we gain insight to the most common financial problems facing military consumers. Over time, the number of complaints from the military community has increased, and in 2020 we received over 40,000 complaints from servicemembers. These complaints are examined in more detail within the report in addition to narratives from servicemembers that discuss some of the emerging issues and continuing trends for military consumers in the financial marketplace.
We are building upon our 2020 efforts and lessons learned in addressing servicemembers’ financial needs during the pandemic. We will continue to examine the repercussions of COVID-19 on military consumers and families and explore how the we can best assist those who have been impacted. In 2021, we will continue to pursue outreach with an expanded emphasis on digital events in order to best connect with our audience. Our goal is to reach servicemembers regardless of where they work or live.
Another critical policy priority for the Bureau going forward is improving economic and racial equity in the financial marketplace. This is especially important for military families considering that 31 percent of active duty servicemembers identify as a racial minority. In the coming year, we will continue our efforts to reach military members and families of color, understand their experience in the financial marketplace, and develop new efforts to help improve their financial well-being.
While much has happened with the work of the Office of Servicemember Affairs over the past year, our mission remains the same – to work on consumer financial challenges affecting servicemembers. Those who will serve, currently serve, or have served our country should not have to worry about falling victim to unfair, deceptive, or abusive financial practices; inability to access to financial services, or not having the tools and resources they need to make informed decisions to bolster their financial well-being. It’s an honor for us to represent consumers in the military community here at the CFPB and to make sure their concerns are heard – and that we work to address them.