The past 9 plus years of military armed conflicts have brought to light many aspects of what it means to be “Mission Ready”. Multiple deployments to and from two theaters of operation have further illuminated many stresses and strains on the military community unlike any witnessed before. One area that is considered to be a major stressor among military families is financial management. David Chu, then Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness stated in 2007, “Financial Readiness equates to Mission Readiness”. And, indeed it does. Whether a soldier is training at his or her home duty station and preparing to go to war or recovering from a deployment or in a deployed situation overseas, he or she does not need the added burden of financial uncertainty or despair. Certainly, Financial Readiness is a personal responsibility, but it’s a partnership too--- with a business community that commits to fair and ethical business practices. Fortunately, there are some important initiatives, people, and programs to help ensure this happens.
As part of President Obama’s financial reform efforts, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) was created in 2010. The CFPB is an independent bureau within the Federal Reserve System that helps empower consumers with the information they need to make financial decisions that are best for them and their families.
Acknowledging the military community and their unique vulnerabilities in the marketplace, the Office of Service Member Affairs was established within the CFPB and Holly Petraeus, after heading up the BBB Military Line for six years, was named its new director. Holly is the standard bearer for advocating on behalf of service members and their families for fair and ethical business practices. After witnessing the effects of predatory lending and inappropriate sales practices on soldiers and their families during and after deployments, she spearheaded efforts to eliminate these kinds of underhanded and deceitful measures by standing up the BBB Military Line.
Although Holly has moved on, the BBB Military Line and local BBBs continue to be vigilant in educating the military community about predatory business behaviors such as auto sales companies imposing outrageous interest rates or payday loan companies charging exorbitant fees. This program also brings the full weight of BBB resources to bear when dealing with complaints against a company and during dispute resolution.
Most large Military installations also offer financial management courses and counseling to the military community and an array of other helpful programs. The Army has Community Service Centers, the Navy and Marine Corps have Family Service Centers, and Air Force has Family Support Centers. All of these offices are easily accessible and manned with trained professional staffs.
No member of the military community should have to worry about being taken advantage of or victimized in the marketplace. And, although there remain businesses that will continue to unfairly target the military community, no one Soldier, Sailor, Airman, or Marine need feel that they or their families are navigating shark infested waters by themselves. Through the efforts of the U.S. government; information, education, and assistance from the BBB Military Line; and military installation support services, help is always close by.