Protecting military from financial predators

By Sherrod Brown

If you go to Wright-Patt Air Force Base in Dayton, you’ll see payday lenders and car title lenders set up on the streets around the base, ready to prey on our troops and their families. You’ll also find the same setup around military bases across the country.

It’s despicable that these shady lenders target the men and women and their families who sacrifice so much to protect our country.

That is why last week I introduced the Military Consumer Enforcement Act, which would protect our servicemembers from financial predators by giving the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s (CFPB) Office of Servicemember Affairs additional tools to hold bad actors accountable.

We created the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau after the great recession to go after corporations that scam ordinary Americans out of their hard-earned money. The Bureau’s Office of Servicemember Affairs is an entire office dedicated to protecting our men and women in uniform. It’s led by financial experts who have served in the military, and know the unique issues our troops face. They have handled more than 73,000 complaints from servicemembers and returned more than $130 million to military men and women. They’ve visited 148 military facilities across the country to provide trainings, and help servicemembers get their finances straightened out.

Last week, I talked with the office’s former director, Holly Petraeus, and with Retired Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force James Cody about the important work the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau does, and how much we still have to do.

According to estimates, between 4,700 and 8,000 men and women in uniform are forced out of military service each year due to financial problems. And more than 1,100 servicemembers lost their security clearances due to financial issues in 2013 alone.

But instead of strengthening consumer protections for our troops, Washington politicians in the House are trying to gut the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, including the Office of Service Member Affairs. Their plan would dismantle the Bureau and strip it of much of its authority to protect Americans – turning this watchdog for consumers into a lapdog for Wall Street.

Instead of weakening protections for the men and women who serve our country, we should be strengthening the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and providing it with the tools it needs to enforce the law and protect Americans. I will continue to work to ensure that our heroes have access to the financial resources they need.

By Sherrod Brown