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Consumer Advocates Seek Military Input

Leaders implementing the federal government's new consumer protection agency met with Joint Base San Antonio servicemembers here to discuss the unique financial issues facing military families.

Elizabeth Warren, assistant to the president and special adviser to the secretary of the Treasury on the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, and Holly Petraeus, who recently joined the implementation team to help in establishing the bureau's Office of Servicemember Affairs, will use information gathered from the meeting to create the new support office for military members.

"We need to get a sense of what's happening [financially to servicemembers], because ultimately, we need to be able to build the right support structure," Warren said.

Petraeus emphasized the importance of communication between servicemembers and the Office of Servicemember Affairs.

"We want to make sure your voices are heard in the agency," she said. "I do realize some of what you're going through. It's very important to us that we hear from you."

The program also included experts who serve the military community, as Warren and Petraeus held a roundtable discussion with Joint Base San Antonio financial readiness program managers and counselors, legal assistance lawyers, chaplains and other professionals. Service providers brought to light the unique personal financial challenges military members face.

The size and diversity of the military community here made Joint Base San Antonio a good starting point to gather information, Warren said.

"We thought it was an opportunity, in a single visit, to get a very broad perspective on the nature of the financial problems facing military families," she said.

Petraeus agreed. "I think it was great to start at a joint base," she said. "It's the wave of the future, the services all working together. We have a lot of different uniforms in the room, and that is very helpful to us."

Warren cited Petraeus' extensive association with the military, noting that she served for the past six years as the Better Business Bureau's Military Line director. Her family's military lineage dates to her great-grandfather, Warren added, and she has been a military spouse for more than 35 years. Petraeus is the wife of Army Gen. David H. Petraeus, commander of NATO and U.S. forces in Afghanistan.

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is a product of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act signed into law last year. Responsible for enforcing all federal laws in consumer credit, the new bureau begins operations July 21. It also will provide consumer financial education and examine financial rules.

"[This agency] is about making sure current laws are fully observed and that there's 'a cop on the beat' to ensure that's the case," Warren said, adding that this will be the case for all Americans, and particularly for military families.

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