More than 2,000 Ohioans are deployed overseas serving in our nation’s military, according to a recent count. Not only do these Ohioans put their lives on the line to defend our nation, but they also often face significant risks to their personal finances while they are on deployment.
The challenges include difficulty managing accounts from abroad, identity theft, and being targeted by predatory lenders. Even minor credit events, such as a single missed payment, have the potential to balloon into major problems that can threaten their financial well-being.
Our men and women in uniform and their families make enough sacrifices for our country – their credit rating shouldn’t be one of them.
Since 2012, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) has received hundreds of complaints from service members about credit reporting, including problems dealing with identity theft or fraud while overseas.
There are tools out there to protect our troops’ finances, like Active Duty Alerts and security freezes. Active Duty Alerts protect members of the armed forces by requiring that businesses take extra steps before granting credit in a service members’ name. Yet less than one percent of those service members who called the CFPB reported placing an Active Duty Alert on their credit reports before leaving for a deployment.
Members of our armed forces and their families can visit http://www.militaryonesource.mil/ or call 1-800-342-9647 for more information on protecting their finances during deployment. Military Source recommends that deployed service members file an Active Duty Alert and place a security freeze on their credit file.
And service members facing financial issues can contact the CFPB for help. Anyone can submit a complaint online at www.consumerfinance.gov/complaint/. Since 2011, the CFPB has helped more than 1,300 Ohio service members.
But we must to do more to help our troops take advantage of these tools, and to address the unique financial challenges they often encounter when they return home.
Last month, I sent a letter urging the Defense Department to redouble its efforts to help safeguard service members from financial ruin. I pressed the Department to make sure that service members are aware that Active Duty Alerts, security freezes, and other tools are there to protect their credit reports and scores.
And earlier this year, I helped reintroduce the Military Families Credit Reporting Act. This commonsense legislation would provide service members the opportunity to explain on their credit reports that late or missed payments were due to their deployments. It would also help them keep better track of their credit while they are deployed.
As a grateful nation, we owe it to our military men and women, and their families, to help ease their transition when they come home. They shouldn’t have to battle creditors because they were serving our country abroad.
Sherrod Brown is a U.S. Senator from Ohio.