December 11, 2012
By Lila Quintiliani, AFC®
Military Saves Assistant Coordinator,
Communication and Outreach
Not all servicemembers and their families realize it, but there is a government institution watching their back on financial matters. It’s the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) and its Office of Servicemember Affairs (OSA), whose mission is to educate and empower military families to make better-informed decisions on financial products and services. But they don’t just disseminate information – they also collect consumer complaints, actively monitor them, and coordinate with state and federal agencies to help strengthen consumer protection laws that safeguard the military community. In just over a year, they have already handled over 3,000 military complaints.
While the CFPB is not the only place that takes complaints from servicemembers (others include the Better Business Bureau Military Line, the Federal Trade Commission, and the Internet Crime Complaint Center), its ability to work with a variety of agencies (including the Department of Defense, Department of Veterans Affairs, Department of Justice, and state attorneys-general) to pinpoint military consumer law violations, issue industry guidance, and bring enforcement actions puts it in a unique position to help military families through a wide range of tools.
Currently, OSA is working on issues such as:
· Curbing unfair practices in the mortgage industry that negatively affect military members;
· Stopping predatory for-profit colleges from exploiting students paying for their education with GI Bill funds;
· Combating scams that target military retiree benefits;
· Reducing abusive debt collection practices;
· Creating a consumer educational experience for young military recruits;
· Reaching out to the military community through social media.
While the Office of Servicemember Affairs is fairly new, it is taking on an increasingly important role in the financial well-being and overall readiness of military members. It’s an important resource for all servicemembers, veterans, and their families.