World War II and Korean War vets arrived at Washington's Reagan National Airport recently on one of several weekly Honor Flights (Staff photo)

It's hard to find anyone who doesn't pay lip service to honoring military personnel but on this Memorial Day weekend, it's worth taking time out to note that there are also plenty of unscrupulous businesses that are only too happy to take advantage of servicemembers, aided by their friends on Capitol Hill.

Congress talks a good game but, when not attending Memorial Day parades and fund-raisers, House Republicans were hard at work on behalf of the banking industry this year, trying to delay new rules that shield servicemembers from predatory loans.

In September 2014, the White House issued new rules in enforcement of the Military Lending Act to limit the interest the lenders could charge military men and women. Servicemembers often fall victim to payday loans and other predatory loans can add up to 400% or more per year.

In an executive order, President Obama authorized changes to the rules that would cap most loans to military personnel at 36%.

Heck no

This set off a flurry of activity in the House Armed Service Committee, whose chairman, Rep. Joe Heck (R-Nev.) threw his weight behind a measure that would have indefinitely delayed the new rule, supposedly to make time for more study. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) had already conducted a study based on more than 5,000 complaints of financial abuse it had received from military members by July 2013. 

Rep. Duckworth addresses veterans in her home district. (Photo: Duckworth office)

The blocking tactic was tucked into annual legislation that sets policy for the Department of Defense. But consumer adocates "outed" the measure and Rep. Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), an Iraqi War veteran, introduced legislation striking the banker-backed provision.

“The American people are disappointed with the constant gridlock in Washington and the inability of Congress to act,” said Duckworth. “This is especially true when it comes to supporting our Service Members and Veterans.

"As the Department of Defense and CFPB’s own reports show, Service Members have not been fully protected since the Military Lending Act was passed, and further delay will put more service members and their families in harm’s way. ... Our troops should not have to wait any longer for these common sense protections,” Duckworth said.

Military consumers

Here are some highlights of other recent consumer developments affecting military personnel:

11-21-2014 -- Military Allotment reforms aim to protect service members  Some types of payments will no longer be deducted from paychecks

7-18-2014 -- Military personnel often targets of financial abuse Credit counselors offer financial literacy support

7-16-2014 -- Military consumers: Steps to take before you deploy Active duty servicemembers have important legal protections

3-4-2014 -- Suicide in the military -- don't blame deployments  A new study points to risk and protective factors

1-14-2014 -- Extra headaches for underwater mortgages in the military Active-duty military status complicates financial matters -- but help is available

Older vets' Honor Flight visits to Washington aren't always somber. This Wisconsin veteran had women waiting in line as he danced to the Fairfax (Va.) Main Street Band's rendition of 1940s era tunes. (Staff photo)


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