Holly Petraeus, assistant director for servicemember affairs at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), told Legionnaires gathered at the Washington Hilton on Feb. 28 that "it's fair to say that servicemembers, veterans and their families have grown to expect a lot from The American Legion. They know that you've been working on their behalf ... and you can claim some big items in the win column, like the original GI Bill."
Petraeus, a featured speaker at "Commander's Call" during The American Legion's annual Washington Conference, said the Legion has played "a vital role in highlighting the needs of America's servicemembers and veterans, delivering resources to support military families, and urging our nation's leaders to action on issues that matter to all those who have worn the uniform of our country."
America's military community, Petraeus said, is better off today because of the Legion's efforts, "so I say, thank you, for all your hard work and congratulations on what you have accomplished so far. But you and I know that we can't rest on our laurels — there's always more work that needs to be done."
More than 2.2 million people are serving in today's military, and up to 100,000 will probably be returning to civilian life in the next few years, Petraeus said. "That means there's going to be an urgent need for advocacy, policies, resources — and even legislation — to support the personal and professional aspirations of those who have served."
Addressing that need is The American Legion's mission, Petraeus said, and also part of hers at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. The organization's mission is to help consumer financial markets work, by making financial rules more effective through proper enforcement, and by empowering consumers to take more control over their economic lives.
CFPB is a "watch dog" for unfair, deceptive or abusive business practices, and it has the power to enforce federal consumer financial laws. It also conducts research and offers guidance to promote fairness, transparency and competition in markets for mortgages, credit cards and other financial products and services. The organization also provides assistance and education to consumers.
The office of servicemember affairs at CFPB provides a strong financial education to military personnel, their families, military retirees and veterans. It also monitors their complaints to financial services and subsequent responses. CFPB is authorized to make agreements with the Department of Defense to carry out its work.
"I think The American Legion and the Office of Servicemember Affairs have a lot in common," Petraeus said. "We're both focused on increasing protections for servicemembers, veterans and their families. In fact, in the past year, my office has actively engaged in three areas that you also passed resolutions on last year."
Those three areas are concerns over for-profit colleges that aggressively target servicemembers and veterans, the impact of the housing downturn on America's military community, and the importance of reducing unemployment among veterans.
Financial education needs to start long before servicemembers leave the military, Petraeus said, "and should continue as they move through life's milestones. I know you're here in Washington to take the Hill, but I hope you'll also let veterans know that the CFPB is also here in Washington, and what we do."
For more information about the CFPB, visit their website at www.consumerfinance.gov .