The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is beginning a new initiative to establish an Office of Servicemember Affairs, according to a White House blog post by Elizabeth Warren, the special adviser to the Treasury Secretary on the new agency. The bureau brought on Holly Petraeus to lead that initiative. The goal of the new office is to aid military families with financial stresses and educate them on abusive lending techniques. According to a study done by the Investor Education Foundation of FINRA, the largest independent securities regulator in the U.S., Americans employed in the Armed Forces are more likely to be overleveraged financially when compared to their civilian counterparts. “Military families have unique challenges,” said Warren, “and now they have a unique advocate to ensure that their special concerns get the attention they deserve.” The federal government has made numerous efforts to protect military families from financial strains with regard to their mortgages. In September, Fannie Mae enacted a forbearance policy for military families that shields them from foreclosure for up to six months. Freddie Mac‘s forbearance policy for military service members returning from active duty lasts up to nine months. And even at the state level, mortgage assistance programs are being implemented for the troops. So what makes the new Office for Servicemember Affairs different? It aims to assist military personnel with expenses such as credit card bills and car payments. Another FINRA Foundation survey found that 53% of military respondents make only the minimum payment on their credit cards, while 30% have made a late payment. Petraeus understands the pain of these families and individuals, as her son, brother, father, grandfather and great-grandfather all served in the armed forces. Her husband, Gen. David Petraeus, is currently the Commander of the International Security Assistance Force and U.S. Forces in Afghanistan. Petraeus previously served as the director of the Better Business Bureau Military Line and the Department of Defense Financial Readiness Campaign. In her new role at the CFPB, she will continue to strengthen financial protection for the service families, promoting financial education and coordinating state agency efforts on the initiative. “She is the kind of leader we need. Holly understands — from both her personal experience as a military spouse and her work at BBB — that men and women in our armed forces encounter unique financial obstacles,” Warren said. “Those who serve in the military should be able to focus on their jobs and their families without having to worry about getting trapped by abusive financial practices.” Write to Christine Ricciardi. Follow her on Twitter @HWnewbieCR.
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