NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — The wife of retired Gen. David Petraeus said the automatic cuts to military budgets could push military families into financial trouble with creditors looking to take advantage of them.
Holly Petraeus, the assistant director of service member affairs for the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, spoke Friday in Nashville to attorneys general from the South. Petraeus, whose husband resigned as the CIA director after admitting to an affair, declined to take questions from reporters regarding her personal life.
Although service member salaries are exempt from the budget cuts referred to in Washington as sequester, the military is planning to furlough thousands of workers, many of whom are military spouses or family members.
"I think a lot of folks have some concern that if the sequester does hit hard, that they may seek loans and they may seek loans in places where they are going to get really bad rates," Petraeus said.
Petraeus has long been an advocate for military families since her days as a commander's wife, including at Fort Campbell, Ky., on the Tennessee-Kentucky state line where her husband once served as the commanding general.
She said service members are often targeted by unscrupulous creditors charging high interest rates that push them into debt.
"They are in large part a young population, age 25 on average or younger, and so they don't have the experience sometimes to recognize a bad deal," Petraeus said. "It makes them somewhat easy to scam sometimes by the bad actors."
She encouraged military members and their families to seek out advice and resources that are available on their installations or bases.
With many active duty soldiers leaving the Army after years of war, Petraeus said the transition to the civilian workforce can be difficult in a sluggish economy. But she was pleased that unemployment rates for the latest generation of veterans fell from 12.1 in 2011 to 9.9 percent last year.
"I am old enough to remember the Vietnam era in our country where our military was not appreciated and I think there is wonderful popular support for the military and a real desire to employ vets," she said.
"When you employ vets, it is not an act of charity," Petraeus said. "You're getting a great employee."