Helping servicemembers and vets protect their finances

Consumer Action introduced financial materials to help servicemembers and veterans.
Published: Friday, September 05, 2014

Consumer Action has just launched a new suite of educational materials designed to enable servicemembers and veterans to recognize and avoid scams and abusive credit terms, identify better borrowing and banking options, and understand what special consumer protections they may have under the law.

While servicemembers and veterans have many of the same financial goals and responsibilities as civilian households, they face unique financial challenges, including frequent moves, deployment and the transition from military to civilian employment. They also often are the targets of fraudsters and predatory lenders. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau reported earlier this year that it had received more than 14,000 complaints from servicemembers, veterans and their families between July 21, 2011 and Feb. 1, 2014, including ones that highlight how some military families have been denied the additional consumer protections they are entitled to under the law.

“It’s a sad reality that servicemembers and veterans are often targeted and taken advantage of by exploitative businesses and unscrupulous individuals. Despite the implementation of state and federal laws designed to protect them, there’s an urgent need to educate and inform troops and vets on how to protect themselves,” said Ken McEldowney, Consumer Action’s executive director. “Armed with the right information, we believe current and former military can avoid the financial predators and pitfalls that threaten their long-term financial security.”

The new materials, funded by a grant from Visa as part of its Veterans Financial Coalition project, of which Consumer Action is a member, teach users how to steer clear of expensive or risky financial products and services and take advantage of the many consumer-friendly borrowing and banking options available; recognize and avoid scams, particularly those that target veterans or exploit military loyalty; and exercise the special consumer rights available to active duty servicemembers. The materials also direct servicemembers and veterans to the appropriate complaint-handling agencies, sources of emergency financial assistance and free legal help, and tools, information and counseling that can help them improve their financial wellbeing.

The module includes an eight-page “Economic Survival Guide for Servicemembers and Veterans,” a 20-page trainer’s manual written in Q&A format, a lesson plan that guides educators through a 2½-hour presentation, including group-learning activities, and a 22-slide PowerPoint presentation that provides a visual component to the lesson. Printed publications are free to community-based organizations that serve servicemembers and veterans, and can be requested by submitting a completed order form (PDF). Other groups and individuals can download the files from our website at no charge and make copies if needed.

By-invitation-only train-the-trainer roundtables are scheduled for Sept. 9 in San Diego and Sept. 22 in Hampton, VA. Each training session, led by Consumer Action’s outreach team, will prepare representatives of participating local community-based organizations to conduct one-on-one counseling and group presentations and workshops in their communities.




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