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Consumer Advocates Seek Military’s Input

By Mike Joseph
502nd Air Base Wing

LACKLAND AIR FORCE BASE, Texas, Jan. 19, 2011 – Leaders implementing the federal government’s new consumer protection agency met with Joint Base San Antonio service members here yesterday to discuss the unique financial issues facing military families.

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Holly Petraeus, team lead of the Office of Servicemember Affairs for the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau Implementation Team, responds to a question from a Joint Base San Antonio service member during a Jan. 18, 2011, meeting at Lackland Air Force Base, Texas, to discuss the unique financial issues facing military families. She is joined on the panel by Army Col. Robert S. Bridgford, 502nd Air Base Wing vice commander, and Chief Master Sgt. Juan Lewis, 502nd ABW command chief. U.S. Air Force photo by Alan Boedeker

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Elizabeth Warren, assistant to the President and special advisor to the secretary of the treasury on the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, and Holly Petraeus, who recently joined the implementation team to help in establishing the bureau’s Office of Servicemember Affairs, will use information gathered from the meeting to create the new support office for military members.

“We need to get a sense of what’s happening [financially to servicemembers], because ultimately, we need to be able to build the right support structure,” Warren said.

Petraeus emphasized the importance of communication between service members and the Office of Servicemember Affairs.

“We want to make sure your voices are heard in the agency,” she said. “I do realize some of what you’re going through. It’s very important to us that we hear from you.”

The program also included experts who serve the military community, as Warren and Petraeus held a roundtable discussion with Joint Base San Antonio financial readiness program managers and counselors, legal assistance lawyers, chaplains and other professionals. Service providers brought to light the unique personal financial challenges military members face.

The size and diversity of the military community here made Joint Base San Antonio a good starting point to gather information, Warren said.

“We thought it was an opportunity, in a single visit, to get a very broad perspective on the nature of the financial problems facing military families,” she said.

Petraeus agreed. “I think it was great to start at a joint base,” she said. “It’s the wave of the future, the services all working together. We have a lot of different uniforms in the room, and that is very helpful to us.”

Warren cited Petraeus’ extensive association with the military, noting that she served for the past six years as the Better Business Bureau’s Military Line director. Her family’s military lineage dates to her great-grandfather, Warren added, and she has been a military spouse for more than 35 years. Petraeus is the wife of Army Gen. David H. Petraeus, commander of NATO and U.S. forces in Afghanistan.

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is a product of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act signed into law last year. Responsible for enforcing all federal laws in consumer credit, the new bureau begins operations July 21. It also will provide consumer financial education and examine financial rules.

“[This agency] is about making sure current laws are fully observed and that there’s ‘a cop on the beat’ to ensure that’s the case,” Warren said, adding that this will be the case for all Americans, and particularly for military families.


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Click photo for screen-resolution imageElizabeth Warren, left, assistant to the President and special advisor to the secretary of the treasury on the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, and Holly Petraeus, team lead of the bureau’s Office of Servicemember Affairs, conduct a news conference Jan. 18, 2011, at Lackland Air Force Base, Texas. The news conference took place in conjunction with a meeting with members of the with the Joint Base San Antonio community to discuss the unique financial issues facing military families. U.S. Air Force photo by Alan Bodeker  
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Click photo for screen-resolution imageLeft to right: U.S. Rep. Charlie Gonzalez of Texas and Air Force Brig. Gen. Leonard Patrick, 502nd Air Base Wing commander, meet with Elizabeth Warren and Holly Petraeus before a meeting with Joint Base San Antonio service members and their families at Lackland Air Force Base, Texas, Jan. 18, 2011. U.S. Air Force photo by Alan Boedeker  
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The opinions expressed in the following comments do not necessarily reflect those of the U.S. Department of Defense.

1/24/2011 9:47:36 PM
We are an active duty family with one spouse on 80% VA comp as a combat veteran and another on a special title job in the Army. We have 2 children and bought our home in 2005. We are currently NOT living in a safe environment/ neighborhood/ school district for our children, due to the rise in crime following foreclosures and unemployment in our area. We want and need to move for the safety of our family but owe 170,000 on a home that is worth 91,000 upon last check. This situation disqualifies us for ANY government loan mod etc. program because we are to"underwater" and of course cancels out our refinance option because we have no equity. After speaking to as many bank/ counseling/ HUD/ government officials/ ect. That we possibly can, we are at a loss. The problem with all of this is we are forced to make decisions that are bad for our family in fear of loosing our home to foreclosure and ultimately a job in the active duty military because we have a bad finances
- Jen, Tucson, AZ

1/21/2011 5:12:52 PM
I have a concern as a Navy wife. We got orders two years ago to move to FL and could not sell our house. We decided that since my hubby wouldn't be but four hours away, to keep the house and continue raising our two boys here with the schools they were in and the doctors they knew here, while my husband lived on board the ship & came up on weekends he didn't have duty. That was two years ago. We are moving this sumemr whether or not we sell it for obvious reasons. Anyone in the military knows that had my husband rented a place in FL, we would have lost our BAH which is losing our mortage payment. And we can't live on base housing because then we can't pay the mortage. We are in a beautiful, safe, good school zone neighborhood, so that's not the problem. We just want to pay off the mortage & the realtor. We are not being unrealistic. Is there help out there? What do we do if we run into this problem again?
- Southerngal, SC

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