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Financial Services Law Insights and Observations

CFPB publishes annual report on servicemember complaints

Federal Issues CFPB Consumer Finance Consumer Complaints Servicemembers Consumer Education

Federal Issues

On June 13, the CFPB's Office of Servicemember Affairs (OSA) released its annual report, which provides an overview of OSA’s activities in fulfilling its statutory responsibilities for fiscal year 2021. The report highlights issues facing military consumers based on approximately 42,700 complaints submitted by servicemembers, veterans, and their families (collectively “servicemembers”). Key takeaways from the report include the following:

  • Credit or consumer reporting. In 2021, servicemembers submitted over 17,000 credit or consumer reporting complaints, making it the most complained about financial product or service. The report found that the most common issue that servicemembers noted in their credit or consumer reporting complaints concern problems with incorrect information on a report.
  • Medical billing. The report found that over half of medical debt collection complaints from servicemembers were about debts the individuals reported they did not owe. Many of these complaints stemmed from breakdowns in communication between private health care providers and TRICARE, the health insurance program for active-duty military. The report also discussed how frequent moves can increase the difficulty in receiving information or resolving the matter.
  • Policy developments. The report noted that earlier this year, the VA published a final rule in the Federal Register amending its regulations around the conditions by which VA benefits debts or medical debts are reported to consumer reporting agencies (CRAs), and creating a methodology for determining a minimum threshold for debts reported to the CRAs (covered by InfoBytes here). According to the report, the final rule by the VA “set a clear and important precedent for the health care industry.”
  • Recommendations. Among other things, the report recommended that there should be “more robust data” on the scope and impact of medical debt on servicemembers, and that “[m]edical providers and third-party billing companies should have adequate systems in place to serve servicemembers.”
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