By Elizabeth Warren and Holly Petraeus
Today, we’re hitting the road. We’re off to Lackland Air Force Base to meet with military families and with the people who work with them on financial issues. We’ll ask questions, give out email addresses, and get started on a long-term conversation about money.
Less than two weeks ago, we began working together on the Treasury Department’s Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) Implementation Team to create the CFPB’s Office of Servicemember Affairs. From our very first conversation about setting up the new office within the consumer agency, we agreed that we would waste no time. Military families face pressing financial issues, and we want this new office to hit the ground running.
Protecting our servicemembers from abusive financial practices is not only the right thing to do—it is also crucial for our national security. The financial difficulties brought on by unscrupulous lenders can distract and even prevent our servicemembers from doing their critical jobs.
Hundreds of people in the military have their essential security clearances revoked each year due to financial problems. Last year, a Department of Defense survey found that servicemembers consider their finances to be the second largest source of stress in their lives, behind career concerns but ahead of deployments, health, family, and war. As Secretary of the Air Force Michael Donley wrote last year, strong consumer protections are vital to making sure that our servicemembers can do their jobs well. They enable “our Airmen to concentrate on their primary mission – fly, fight and win in air, space and cyberspace.”
During our visit to Lackland, we will hold a town hall meeting with military families and a roundtable discussion with financial readiness program managers and counselors, legal assistance lawyers, chaplains, and other professionals who serve the military community. We want to bring their perspectives back to Washington and to build their recommendations into the DNA of the Office of Servicemember Affairs and the broader consumer bureau. We will talk with servicemembers about what financial issues are keeping them up at night and how our office can help them avoid money traps. We will also seek the insights of the educators and advocates who are fighting every day against abusive lending practices.
In our meetings today and during future base visits, we will ask for advice on how we can help our military members do their jobs without having to worry about financial problems at home. What we hear will have a real impact on what the new Office of Servicemember Affairs ultimately looks like and how it works for our servicemembers and their families.
This morning is Holly’s fifth day on the job. Direct outreach—from the consumer agency to the families it serves—begins today.
Elizabeth Warren is an Assistant to the President and Special Advisor to the Secretary of the Treasury for the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Holly Petraeus is leading the creation of the Office of the Servicemember Affairs for the team at the Treasury Department that is standing up the consumer bureau.