Holly Petraeus Cites Need to Financially Empower Troops
By Elaine Sanchez
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Dec. 14, 2011 Potentially career-impacting financial issues are among the top concerns for service members and their families, a military finance expert said here yesterday.
“For military personnel, the consequences of a bad credit report can be devastating,” and may lead to security clearance loss or, in the worst-case scenario, be a career ender, said Holly Petraeus, the director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s Office of Servicemember Affairs.
Petraeus was among the speakers at the Financial Fitness Forum, which was sponsored by her office. The one-day event brought together representatives from financial institutions, credit unions and the military to learn more about troops and their families’ financial pitfalls and to brainstorm ways to better empower and educate them.
Financial problems, she explained, are now the No. 1 cause for security clearance loss, which may bar troops from doing their jobs. It’s a roadblock, she added, that potentially could lead to separation from service.
Petraeus cited the housing market as one of the key factors causing military families’ financial heartache. Housing values have dropped across the nation, she noted, and some families are finding themselves stuck with a house that’s worth less than what they owe on it.
Once they get orders to move, she added, they really get in a bind. They can’t sell the house and pay off the mortgage due to its lessened value, and may not be able to rent it out for enough to cover their payment. And if they’re not delinquent on their home, they’re unable to access various foreclosure prevention programs.
Petraeus said it’s the aim of her office to offer service members and their families support as they confront these types of issues. Her office, she explained, has three primary missions: to educate and empower service members and their families to make better financial decisions, to monitor consumer complaints and subsequent responses, and to coordinate federal and state agencies’ efforts to improve consumer financial protection measures.
Petraeus said she’s been encouraged by the support from some financial institutions. A number of them offer unique products to military customers and others have rolled out military-specific programs. She would like to learn more about these products and programs, she added, noting the forum offered a perfect opportunity to exchange this type of information and to foster new ideas.
As a lifetime military family member, she said, she’s always happy to hear ideas on how better to support military families. Petraeus grew up in a military family and her husband is retired Army Gen. David H. Petraeus, the CIA director.
Service members and their families, who so faithfully serve, “deserve the best treatment from both government and business,” she said.