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Treasury For... Military Families

Secretary Tim Geithner has made support for America’s military families a top priority by focusing Treasury resources on passing financial reforms that will help protect them when they obtain consumer financial products and services.  Treasury worked for over a year with Congress, culminating in the passage of the Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act in July 2010, and it is now responsible for implementing major provisions of the legislation.

These financial reforms establish a new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) that will protect consumers, ensuring that banks are serving the needs of military families, not taking advantage of them.  The reforms are also designed to provide financial stability and prevent irresponsible financial institutions from taking risks that threaten the whole economy.  This will reduce the threat to people working in the civilian economy—including military spouses and veterans who have completed their service—from the hardship of layoffs and hiring freezes.

The Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act is just one of the many ways that Treasury is working to support military families.  Treasury is supporting military families through many additional efforts, ranging from tax assistance to employment opportunities for veterans:

Creation of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau

Treasury is managing the establishment of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau until its Director is confirmed by the Senate.  The CFPB has authorities to supervise the markets for consumer financial products and services, including supervising a wide range of financial institutions in order to identify and stop bad practices before they become widespread. 

  • The CFPB  will better protect military families in the following areas:
    • Nonbank Financial Sector:  The CFPB will provide comprehensive oversight of many nonbank financial companies, to make sure these firms are following the law.  Examples of nonbank financial companies, which were not carefully scrutinized by a federal agency in the period leading up to the crisis, include mortgage brokers, mortgage servicers, payday lenders, credit bureaus, debt collectors, and money transmitters. 
    • Mortgages:  The CFPB will ensure that lenders are no longer able to make loans without verifying that borrowers have the ability to repay them.  It will also consolidate and simplify—into plain language—two overlapping and sometimes inconsistent federal mortgage forms. 
    • Credit Cards:  The CFPB will enforce the landmark credit card law that President Obama signed in 2009.  For military families that have used credit cards to get by when times are tight, the law will prevent issuers from raising rates on existing balances. 
    • Consumer Complaints: The CFPB will establish a website and nationwide toll-free hotline for consumer complaints, and it will be required to provide a timely response to consumer inquiries.  Some military families move homes frequently, and they will be better served by a national complaint hotline for consumer financial products and services than by separate regulators serving individual states and communities.
  • Treasury is working to create the CFPB’s Office of Service Member Affairs, which will focus the new agency’s attention on military members and their families.  The Office is responsible for leading several initiatives, including military family education, complaint monitoring and response, and coordination among federal agencies of consumer protection measures for military families.  Treasury staff have begun holding meetings with the Department of Defense and with military advocacy groups to begin the process of defining the new office’s role in supporting military families. (Watch Holly Petraeus from the Office of Servicemember Affairs respond to a suggestion on the bureau's efforts to protect American servicemembers.)

Financial Fraud Enforcement Task Force

In addition to creating the new consumer agency, Treasury will leverage existing resources to better protect consumers, including military families, from fraud.

  • Through the Financial Fraud Enforcement Task Force, Treasury’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network is working with the Department of Justice and the state Attorneys General to coordinate enforcement actions involving mortgage fraud.
  • Treasury will also coordinate a national enforcement effort targeted at other forms of consumer abuse, including those financial companies that target members of the military and their families.

Financial Education Activities  

Better consumer protection for military families is tied directly to better financial literacy.  Secretary Geithner chairs the Financial Literacy Education Commission (FLEC), which brings together financial education leaders from across the government to coordinate efforts. 

  • The FLEC offers a resource center for military families on its website.
  • Treasury’s Office of Financial Education (OFE) undertakes broad financial literacy efforts that cater to the needs of military families in particular.  In its recent education campaign centered on the message of “Borrow Smart!  Don’t be a Victim!” OFE distributed more than 9,000 cards containing tips to avoid predatory practices throughout military installations around the country.  OFE recently developed a booklet covering the topics in more detail, in format geared toward males between the ages of 18-24, who represent much of the active duty military population. 
  • Treasury implemented the National Financial Capability Challenge, an awards program designed to increase the financial knowledge and capability of high school-aged youth across the United States so that they can take control of their financial future.  Students at schools on military bases abroad were a key target audience for the Challenge.
  • The FLEC works actively with people outside the government to leverage resources that military families can use to help them make better informed financial decisions.  FLEC has launched its redesigned website, MyMoney.gov, which has enhanced interactive features and utility, in both Spanish and English, to provide more resources to Americans seeking information to improve their personal financial decisions.
  • Treasury is also developing self-assessment financial fitness tests to help financial literacy program providers and individuals measure financial capability, and to help providers develop their own programs.

Helping Military Families File their Taxes

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) partners with all branches of the military to provide military families with a variety of Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) and tax law services.

  • The IRS provides VITA instructors to military volunteer tax return preparers, domestically and overseas, that are trained in military issues. 
  • The IRS provides specific information on tax preparation for military families.  The Armed Forces Tax Guide covers the special tax situations of active members of the Armed Forces.
Additional tax information for members of the armed forces can be found on the IRS website.

Offering Employment Opportunities for Veterans          

In the first half of FY 2010, 11% of Treasury hires were veterans, up from 9% in FY 2009.  Treasury continues to focus on increasing veteran employment by emphasizing veteran recruitment and Department-wide use of veteran intern programs.

  • Treasury has created a Veterans Employment Program Office to create a department-wide focus on veterans and enhancing educational and professional opportunities.
  • The IRS actively participates in the Warrior Intern Program and plans to expand the program later this year.
  • The Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) actively solicits resumes from wounded warriors and provides job placement information to soldiers and veterans with disabilities.  TIGTA attended a career fair at the National Navy Medical Center in February 2010, and it plans to return again.

 

On January 24, 2011, released the final report of the Presidential Study Directive-9 (PSD-9), Strengthening our Military Families: Meeting America’s Commitment (pdf), a signature Administration deliverable for military families and the First Lady and Dr. Biden’s leadership on military family matters.  The final report for PSD-9 includes nearly 50 commitments by and between Cabinet and other Federal agencies addressing some of the critical needs of military families.  

 

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Last Updated: 5/11/2011 8:45 AM