November 03, 2011


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 heard from witnesses including Holly Petraeus, head of the new Office of Servicemember Affairs at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, and discussed financial challenges facing these consumers, the importance of financial education, and the enforcement of existing consumer protection laws.

Below is Chairman Johnson’s statement as prepared for delivery:

“As we approach Veterans Day, and we prepare to welcome home the last American troops from Iraq later this year, it’s important for us to understand the unique consumer financial challenges members of the military, veterans and their families face. I take special interest in this matter, 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 3,500 military personnel at Ellsworth Air Force Base.

“At today’s hearing, we will examine how young enlisted personnel, officers, veterans and military families manage their financial needs, whether through mainstream financial products or products specifically marketed to the military community. We will also learn about the important role financial readiness plays in mission readiness. And, we will look at some of the tools and protections available to help military consumers navigate the complex consumer financial marketplace.

“It is important to remember how military consumers differ from the “average consumer.” This population is predominately young and enters the military with 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. Their mobile lifestyle also means they need banking services that are accessible throughout the country and the world. When a servicemember deploys, he or she must be certain family members have appropriate access to handle bills and financial needs in their absence.

“It was with those needs in mind that Congress created the Office of Servicemember Affairs at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. I am pleased to welcome the first head of that office, Assistant Director Holly Petraeus. As a military daughter, wife and mother, Mrs. Petraeus is very qualified to lead this office, which will educate and empower members of the military and their families to make the best financial decisions for themselves. As importantly, once the CFPB has a Director in place, the agency will finally be able to monitor the nonbank financial institutions which are often at the heart of the military community’s financial hardships.

“I would also like to welcome Bonnie Spain from my home State of South Dakota. Bonnie runs the Rushmore Consumer Credit Resource Center in Rapid City. Bonnie will explain some of the work she does and assistance she provides to airmen and their families stationed at Ellsworth and to members of the National Guard.

“Admiral Steve Abbot, thank you very much for your service to our country and for being part of today’s hearing. We look forward to your testimony on the importance of financial readiness and the work of the Navy-Marine Corps Relief Society.

“We are also joined by Retired Major General Kevin Bergner of USAA and Mr. Frank Pollack from the Pentagon Federal Credit Union. General Bergner, thank you for your service to our country.

“Both USAA and Pentagon Federal Credit Union serve a large number of military consumers, and they do an outstanding job of meeting that community’s needs. Thanks to both of you for being a part of today’s hearing.

“In closing, I would like to recognize our veterans and the thousands of military personnel who continue to serve in harm’s way in defense of our country. I am grateful for their service. 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 and the Senate Banking Committee, I continue to work to ensure servicemembers and veterans have the resources they need and protections they deserve. I look forward to today’s testimony.”