Complaints about debt collection are growing among service members, according to Holly Petraeus, assistant director of the Office of Servicemember Affairs in a blog post on the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau's website. In fact, there are now more than 11,000 complaints from service members, veterans and military families since the CFPB began taking them in July 2013.
Debt for military members can be a great struggle and result in career problems and negative credit profiles, said Petraus. But there are resources both for service members to resolve any unpaid debts and debt collectors to effectively work with them and remain compliant with the Service Members Civil Relief Act and Military Lending Act.
"Practically speaking, debt collectors arent able to contact your security manager about your debts nor do they have the authority to influence the managers decisions about your security clearance," she said. "However, your failing to pay your debts on time can result in negative information being reported to the credit reporting bureaus. And that negative information on your credit report may cause your security clearance to be pulled when it's up for review.
"Military personnel who have trouble handling their personal finances can very quickly find their duty status, potential promotions and even military careers in jeopardy," she added. "And, over time, the lingering burden of debt can add stress to their personal relationships and damage their credit profile. But does that debt have to be a career-killer?"
Service members who find their security clearance in jeopardy because of their finances, she said, should show that the financial problems resulted from circumstances they couldn't control and that they are acting responsibly, including living within their means, making a good-faith effort to resolve unpaid debts and disputing debts they don't owe.
"Managing your debts, expenses, income and other personal finance matters is more than just a tactic to guard your security clearance," Petraeus said. "It's also a day-to-day exercise that can help lead you and your family to financial security. If you need help planning, hit a bump or need assistance with a problem you cant fix along the way, there are a number of resources available to you."