CFPB Releases Office of Servicemember Affairs Annual Report
On Monday, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) released its annual report detailing the top financial concerns from servicemembers, veterans, and military families. Since 2011, these groups have submitted more than 250,000 consumer complaints to the CFPB, with more than 42,000 coming in 2021. More than 60 percent of the complaints concerned credit reporting and debt collection.
“Errors on credit reports can jeopardize servicemembers’ financial readiness, and ultimately, their ability to protect our nation,” said CFPB Director Rohit Chopra in a press release. “No servicemember, veteran, or military family should be subject to credit reporting rumors and innuendo, nor should they feel coerced to pay a bill they do not owe.”
The leading topic for complaints from servicemembers was credit or consumer reporting, with more than 17,000 complaints submitted to the CFPB in 2021. The press release notes that unresolved issues with credit reporting, debt collection, or medical billing can lead to servicemembers losing their housing, being separated from the service, having security clearances denied, or losing their access to affordable healthcare. Servicemembers with such errors on their credit reports also complained that investigations by the credit reporting companies took too long and failed to correct errors.
A third driver of complaints was medical billing errors and inaccuracies, many of which resulted from poor communication between private health care providers and the active-duty military’s health insurance program, called TRICARE. As a result, more than half of the medical debt collection complaints last year were for debts that individuals denied they owed.
In response to this complaint, the Bureau is recommending that medical providers and third party billing companies ensure they have the right systems in place to serve those enrolled in TRICARE and the Veterans Choice Program. In addition, the Bureau says that medical providers and credit reporting companies should look to the Department of Veterans Affairs for a model policy they could enact; Veterans Affairs recently implemented a new rule requiring companies to first exhaust all collection avenues and verify ability to repay before reporting medical debt as unpaid.
“Delayed reporting of servicemembers’ allegedly unpaid medical bills to credit reporting companies for a period of time can afford servicemembers an opportunity to address inaccurate or not owed bills,” the press release says.
The full report is available here.