Tester: Troops and veterans need better tools to manage finances

Senator seeks to extend housing protections, crack down on scam artists

(U.S. SENATE) – Senator Jon Tester is helping Montana’s active-duty troops, veterans and their families better manage their money and fight financial scams.

Service members, typically young adults, often enter the military with debt.  They also move and deploy frequently, making it difficult for them to stay on top of their finances.  Many become easy targets for scam artists.

In a congressional hearing today, Tester said that better protecting service members from landlords who impose stiff moving penalties and preventing landlords from “rent gouging” would help service members keep their finances in order.

“Rental rates can be raised due to the fact that the allowance rate for service members is available to the public,” Tester said during the Senate Banking Committee hearing.  “What can we do to more effectively help service members navigate the housing market, particularly in rural areas where the housing market may be limited?”

Holly Petraeus, who heads the Office of Servicemember Affairs for the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, testified at the hearing that raising the rates on military personnel could fall under consumer financial laws, such as the Equal Credit Opportunity Act.

“Helping our troops keep their finances in order allows them to focus on their jobs and keep our country safe,” Tester said. 

Tester also went after companies that take advantage of the VA’s pension system by convincing elderly veterans to restructure and hide assets in order to become eligible for pensions available to very low-income veterans and their survivors.  Tester, who is cosponsoring a bill to crack down on VA pension scams, called the situation “incredibly distressing.”

Petraeus, who said that she first heard about the issue when she visited Montana’s Malmstrom Air Force Base with Tester in January, said that her agency is investigating the issue and working with the VA to educate more veterans about the scam.

Petraeus appeared at Tester’s hearing with Delaware Attorney General Beau Biden, who is also a Judge Advocate General in the U.S. Army.

Tester is Montana’s only member of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee.  Video from Tester’s hearing is available online HERE.