JOINT BASE CHARLESTON, S.C. –
Holly Petraeus, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau senior federal executive of the Office of Servicemember Affairs, visited Joint Base Charleston, S.C., May 4, 2015 to hold a town hall meeting discussing her office's role and to share personal financial advice with the military community.
Petraeus was accompanied by South Carolina Attorney General Alan Wilson, who was first elected as South Carolina's 51st Attorney General in 2010 and was re-elected on Nov. 4, 2014. As South Carolina's Attorney General, Wilson is the state's chief prosecutor, chief securities officer and the state's chief legal counsel.
Established in 2011, the Office of Servicemember Affairs, works in partnership with the Department of Defense to help ensure that military families receive the education needed to make the best possible financial decisions. Additionally, the Office of Servicemember Affairs monitors complaints from military families, the responses to those complaints by the CFPB and other agencies and to see that federal and state agencies coordinate their activities to improve consumer protection measures for military families.
"I feel very fortunate to do this job," said Petraeus. "I grew up in the military - it's my extended family and if I can have a positive impact on their finances by working for an agency that is there to protect them and their transactions, then I'm happy to do that."
Previously, she has served as the director of the Better Business Bureau's Military Line program. This program is a partnership with the Department of Defense Financial Readiness Campaign that provides consumer education to active and retired service members and their families. Petraeus is the daughter of Army Gen. William Knowlton. Her son, brother, grandfather and great-grandfather all served in the Armed Forces. She has also been a military spouse for more than 37 years.
During the base visit, Petraeus and Wilson met with Joint Base Charleston's Airman and Family Readiness Center and Fleet and Family Support Center personnel. The visit provided an opportunity for the military community to learn about emerging issues impacting the financial readiness of the force and actions underway to protect them from potentially harmful business practices that could hurt the financial fitness of service members.
According to Petraeus, the agency has a couple of initiatives they are currently working on.
"The military has a financial class at basic training, but basic training is a very stressful time," she said. "It's hard to focus. We thought we could help by doing a little education piece for them before they get to basic training. It's an online curriculum that's going to be very basic and they can take the course while they are in the Delayed Entry Program."
Also, she addressed a plan to help recently discharged veterans re-tool their financial plans.
"Transition Assistance Program helps [military members] think about what they're going to do financially when they get out, but we've found out that the plan they make in TAP might not turn out to be very workable when they get out," said Petraeus. "We are going to provide some time with a certified financial coach to help re-tool their financial plans."
Wilson stated that he was at Joint Base Charleston to help educate service members about the unscrupulous business practices aimed at military members but he was also there to be educated as well.
"I'm here in several capacities," Wilson said. "First as a State Attorney General, but I'm also here in capacity as a veteran and a member of the National Guard who serves as a judge advocate."
In an Office of Servicemember Affairs statement, Petraeus mentioned that the office exists to see that military personnel and their families have a voice at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. It is important for the CFPB to understand that military life can have some extra challenges, such as deployment and frequent moves, and that those challenges sometimes may have powerful financial repercussions.
"We also know that there are businesses and scammers that target service members with bad deals and outright rip-offs. However, there are other businesses that treat them well," she said. 'Our men and women in uniform should be able to do their jobs without having to worry about falling victim to unfair or deceptive financial practices."
The agency has returned more than $5 billion dollars to U.S. consumers since its doors open and more than $200 million of that was specifically to servicemembers, Petraeus added.
For more information about the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, please visit www.consumerfinance.gov