Rounds Delivers Opening Remarks at Banking Hearing on Protecting Financial Well-Being of Service Members and Veterans
WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Mike Rounds (R-S.D.), a member of the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs, today delivered opening remarks at a committee hearing on securing financial protections for service members, veterans and their families. Click HERE to listen to Rounds’ opening remarks.
“Protecting the financial well-being of our men and women in uniform is incredibly important – not only while they are serving, but also after their service ends and they transition into civilian life,” said Rounds in his opening remarks.
“Improving financial literacy among our service members empowers them to take advantage of available benefits throughout the entirety of their careers, improve early financial decision-making and better identify and avoid scams and fraudulent activity,” continued Rounds. “And for our veterans, financial literacy paves a continued pathway toward success.”
Rounds closed with, “I look forward to hearing from each of our witnesses today about the financial issues confronting our service members, veterans and their families, with the hope to learn from your experiences and better protect the American dream of our heroes.”
Read Rounds’ full remarks below, as prepared for delivery.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Protecting the financial well-being of our men and women in uniform is incredibly important – not only while they are serving, but also after their service ends and they transition into civilian life.
As a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee and the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee, I view it as our responsibility to make certain that our service members, veterans and their families are not preyed upon by bad actors.
While everyone can agree that our service members and veterans deserve the highest protections for their sacrifice, financial safeguards should be more than blunt government mandates and general prohibitions – no matter how well-intended they may be.
We will never be able to eliminate every bad actor from the market, we can try, and we must attempt to reduce heavy-handed approaches like price controls or one-size-fits-all policies, which have historically done more harm than good, reducing the access and affordability of credit.
We should not lose sight of what is most important in this conversation.
Number one: equipping young service members and their families with the education, guidance and tools necessary to make decisions that will set them up for long-term financial success.
Number two: making certain that when someone leaves the service, they’re taking that financial knowledge with them as they transition to civilian life.
Approximately 40 percent of the total Department of Defense (DoD) military force is 25 years old or younger.
Many newly enlisted service members are fresh out of high school and have received little to no financial literacy education.
Improving financial literacy among our service members empowers them to take advantage of available benefits throughout the entirety of their careers, improve early financial decision-making and better identify and avoid scams and fraudulent activity.
And for our veterans, financial literacy paves a continued pathway toward success.
Our veterans earn an array of benefits following their service, deservedly so, but this also makes them a high value target for scammers and other bad actors.
Congress has established and built upon financial literacy training and counseling requirements over the past two decades.
However, we must ask ourselves if these programs are operating as effectively as they could and if they truly are improving service members’ and veterans’ financial wellness outcomes, or if they have become more of a “check the box” exercise to meet minimum requirements.
Whether that is more engagement between the DoD and private sector financial counseling – or enhancing coordination between military banking program partners and the Office of Financial Readiness – we can always do more to provide our service members and their families with the financial education and tools to better serve them, as they so valiantly serve our country.
That said, federal mandates are never a silver bullet.
To have a real impact, we must make sure that government programs are working with each other rather than in opposition.
We must also focus on enacting commonsense, tailored legislation that will stop bad actors while connecting veterans with opportunities.
Speaking of common sense, Native American veterans, who have the highest record of military service per capita, face unique challenges that can affect their financial wellness and limit access to the benefits they have earned through their service.
The VA’s Native American Direct Loan (NADL) program was established over 30 years ago to provide mortgage financing to Native American veterans living on trust land.
However, this program is not meeting its full potential to improve homeownership opportunities for very deserving and qualified Native American veterans.
In fact, one of my constituents died before his loan was closed after working with VA for over seven years.
We have to do better, which is why Senator Tester and I introduced the Native American Direct Loan Improvement Act earlier this year to make certain that Native American veterans are able to access this home loan benefit that they have earned through their service.
I am committed to getting this bill across the finish line, but NADL is just one example.
We need to take a hard look at all programs to make certain that they are truly meeting the financial wellness needs of our service members and veterans.
A holistic approach to financial education and protection of our service members enhances financial readiness, and ultimately operational readiness, while allowing our service members to focus on their core mission.
I look forward to hearing from each of our witnesses today about the financial issues confronting our service members, veterans and their families, with the hope to learn from your experiences and better protect the American dream of our heroes.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.