Joint Hearing of the Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs of the U.S. Senate and the Committee on Veterans’ Affairs of the U.S. House of Representatives at 1:00 p.m. CDT.
Opening Statement of Hon. Jeff Miller, Chairman, Full Committee on Veterans' Affairs
Good morning and welcome to the first oversight hearing of the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs of the 112th Congress.
As we begin our important work on behalf of America’s veterans and servicemembers, I would like to point out that veterans are well-represented on this committee. While our Members look after the interests of all 23 million U.S. veterans and their families, some 12.2 million – over half of America’s veterans - reside in the states we represent. I am especially proud that 110,000 of those heroes reside in Florida’s First Congressional District.
And that responsibility brings us to the subject of today’s hearing.
I know the Members on both sides of the aisle are concerned about today’s topic, but consistent with past practice, I would like to limit opening remarks to myself and the Ranking Member so that we may have more time to hear from our witnesses. Of course, Members are welcome and encouraged to submit their opening remarks for the record.
The Servicemembers Civil Relief Act has existed in various forms since the War of 1812 and each version has shared a singular goal: to protect those who protect us. The 2003 revision, which I cosponsored, and the amendments we have made since, continue that tradition. I am committed to ensuring SCRA remains a relevant and viable tool and I know the Ranking Member and the rest of this Committee share in my commitment.
My goal for this oversight hearing is to determine whether the SCRA afforded our servicemembers and their families are meeting their needs. We are all aware of related matters pending before the court. This is not intended to be a trial of any sort. I am not seeking to prejudice that or any future action in any direction. At the same time, it is important to recognize the obligations that exist under the law, and that this Committee has a duty to ensure that the law is working for active duty servicemembers.
I have said recently, and I will say again now, that our nation’s war fighters – and their families – should not have to fight to keep their piece of the American Dream while they are on foreign ground defending that fundamental right for all of us.
I want to thank our witnesses for appearing before us. First, I thank Captain Jonathon Rowles (ROLLs) and his wife Julia, for their persistence in exercising their rights. Second, I thank J.P. Morgan Chase for reaching out to us, and more importantly, for admitting its mistakes and then making the efforts it has at rectifying them.
I hope our witness from the Department of Defense will be able to assure us of the effectiveness of their program to educate servicemembers of their rights under SCRA. I also look forward to hearing from the newly-established Consumer Financial Protection Bureau about how it can contribute to preventing similar occurrences in the future.
What we have here is what some might call a “teachable moment.” For the financial services industry, the lesson is to understand the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act and to undertake the same sort of review as has Chase to ensure compliance. For DoD, it is time to review whether the services’ SCRA training programs are getting the job done. Finally, servicemembers are ultimately responsible for understanding their rights and responsibilities under SCRA and holding their financial institutions accountable. Today, we will be asking and listening for ways to ensure that these goals are met.
Before we begin I ask unanimous consent that all members be allowed to sit at the dais and be permitted to ask questions. Hearing no objection so ordered. I also want to extend a warm to Mr. Brad Miller of North Carolina. Mr. Miller drafted legislation last congress on SCRA and I am happy that he is here today.
I now recognize the Ranking Member, Mr. Filner for his remarks.