Family Matters Blog: Office Strengthens Families Financially
By Elaine Sanchez
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Aug. 1, 2011 Last week I sat down with Holly Petraeus, wife of Army Gen. David H. Petraeus, to discuss her role as chief of the new Office of Servicemember Affairs, which officially opened for business last week as the military arm of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.
The office is intended to protect service members and their families from financial predators and pitfalls through education and enforcement of state and federal laws. Mrs. Petraeus, an Army spouse and longtime financial advocate for military families, was tapped to head up the office earlier this year.
As we talked, Mrs. Petraeus’ passion for the topic of families and finance was evident. Helping troops and their families is more than just a job to her, she told me -- it’s personal.
“I’ve lived in this military community my whole life; I have a real heart for these people,” she said. “They’re all raised their hand to do what they do, often at the risk of their lives.”
The office will work to ensure service members and their families receive the financial protection and education they deserve through a threefold mission, Mrs. Petraeus explained. First, it will ensure military personnel are given a quality financial education, she said, “so they’re wise to consumer issues and can avoid the pitfalls out there.”
The office also will monitor consumer complaints and the response to those complaints, she said, and work with other federal and state agencies to help resolve issues.
Although the office is new, Mrs. Petraeus already has taken steps to help families. She recently signed a statement of principles with the judge advocate general of each branch of service to open the lines of communication and to ensure every financially related complaint is addressed. She also has established an informal partnership with the Veterans Affairs Department to help address mortgage and foreclosure issues. People who call her office with mortgage troubles will be referred to a VA home loan assistance program counselor for advice, even when it’s not regarding a VA loan.
Mrs. Petraeus told me she’s thrilled to be in a position where she can help military members and their families.
“My ultimate dream is that no service member signs a contract that they end up regretting for years or signing one that isn’t fair,” she said. “We can write rules and enforce at CFPB, and I’d love to see the real bad actors that go after service members -- break the law to harm them financially -- I’d like to see them enforced against.”
For more on my interview with Mrs. Petraeus, read my American Forces Press Service articles: “Holly Petraeus Works to Protect Military Families' Finances” and “New Office Aims to Strengthen Families Financially.”
And please don’t hesitate to write in if you have a lesson learned or tip to share on finances for military families.