WASHINGTON – Today, Senate Banking Committee Chairman Tim Johnson (D-SD) held a hearing on consumer financial protections for servicemembers, veterans, and their families. The Banking Committee discussed financial challenges facing the military community, the importance of financial education, and the enforcement of existing consumer protection laws with Beau Biden, Delaware Attorney General; Colonel Paul Kantwill, Director of Legal Policy at the Office of the Undersecretary for Personnel and Readiness at the Defense Department; and Holly Petraeus, head of the Office of Servicemember Affairs at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.
This was the second hearing Chairman Johnson has held on the issue this Congress, and it comes on the heels of a recent visit he hosted for Mrs. Petraeus at Ellsworth Air Force Base and Camp Rapid in South Dakota.
Below is Chairman Johnson’s statement as prepared for delivery:
“As we approach the 4th of July and celebrate the military men and women who keep our country free, it’s important for us to be reminded about the unique consumer financial challenges the military community faces. As I have often said, these issues are near and dear to me, not only as the father of a soldier, but also as a Senator from a state that has over 72,000 veterans and more than 3,400 military personnel at Ellsworth Air Force Base.
“Last November, this Committee held a hearing to examine how the military community manages its financial needs. We learned about the important role financial readiness plays in mission readiness, and we looked at tools and protections available to help the military community navigate the complex consumer financial marketplace – including the Office of Service Member Affairs at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.
“As a follow up to that hearing, we are here today to receive a status update and examine the progress made to help military consumers. We will also hear about new approaches to improve financial education training for servicemembers and their families.
“It is important to remember that military consumers differ from other consumers. Many servicemembers are young, have debt, and have little financial education. The military lifestyle requires frequent relocations, forcing spouses to find new employment and families to sell their homes, if they’ve chosen to live off base. That mobile lifestyle also means they need banking services that are accessible around the world. When a servicemember deploys, he or she must be certain that family members have appropriate access to family finances in order to handle bills and other financial needs in their absence.
“It was with those needs in mind that Congress created the Office of Servicemember Affairs at the CFPB, and I am proud to once again welcome to this Committee the head of that office - Assistant Director Holly Petraeus. As a military daughter, wife and mother, Mrs. Petraeus is very qualified to lead this office, and I am grateful for the work she does on financial issues that impact the military community. She is a tireless advocate on their behalf.
“Since taking on this new role, Mrs. Petraeus has visited 37 separate Military Installations or Units, met with the senior leadership of 15 different state National Guards and has met with 13 different state Attorneys General. Last month, I had the honor of hosting Mrs. Petraeus in South Dakota at Ellsworth Air Force Base and Camp Rapid.
“We are also joined today by Colonel Paul Kantwill and Delaware Attorney General Joseph “Beau” Biden. Colonel Kantwill is the Director of Legal Policy at the Department of Defense Office of the Undersecretary for Personnel and Readiness. His office works closely with Mrs. Petraeus’ office to improve the financial lives of the military community. He will discuss what the Department of Defense is doing to educate and assist servicemembers in this area. And, Attorney General Biden not only brings an important state law enforcement perspective to these issues but also the perspective of a Judge Advocate General in the Delaware Army National Guard. Welcome and thank you both for your service to our country.
“In closing, I would like to recognize our veterans and the thousands of servicemembers who continue to serve in harm’s way in defense of our country. I am grateful for their service and to their families for supporting them. Throughout my time in Congress, it has been my highest priority to assist our servicemembers and veterans. As Chairman of the Senate Military Construction and VA Appropriations Subcommittee as well as the Senate Banking Committee, I will continue to work to ensure servicemembers and veterans have the resources they need and protections they deserve.”