Monday numbers: A Memorial Day look at our veteran population (and a predatory lending practice that often targets its members)

Monday numbers: A Memorial Day look at our veteran population (and a predatory lending practice that often targets its members)

- in News, Top Story
The masked faces of the Honor Guard can be seen as they stand in a row during a Memorial Day ceremony. (Photo by Jon Cherry/Getty Images)

Today is Memorial Day – the day on which we remember the military veterans who have died in service to our country and honor all who have served.

As the U.S Census recently reported:

Memorial Day, originally called Decoration Day, is a day of remembrance for those who died in service to their country. The holiday was officially proclaimed in 1868 to honor Union and Confederate soldiers and was expanded after World War I to honor those who died in all wars. It became an official federal holiday in 1971, known as Prayer for Peace, Memorial Day. Today, Memorial Day honors over 1 million men and women who have died in military service since the Civil War began in 1861.”

Among the key numbers from the Census Bureau report:

3.3 million – number of Americans who served in the Civil War

500,000+ – number who died

16.1 million – number of Americans who served in World War II

405,399 – number who died

8.7 million – number of Americans who served during the Vietnam era (1964-’75)

90,220 –number who died

7.2 million – number of Americans who served during the post 9/11 era (September 2001 through 2021)

25,150+ – number who have died

17.5 million – number of living U.S. veterans as of 2019

667,000+ – number living in North Carolina (based on Census data analyzed by the website Wall Street 24/7)

Unfortunately, despite their formidable numbers and frequent potency as a political force, veterans remain a constant target of sharp operators in the world of consumer transactions and finance. Indeed, as a new report from the National Consumer Law Center and other consumer advocacy groups makes clear, there are some very important ways in which current federal law allows veterans not just to be dishonored, but affirmatively targeted for exploitation.

Under a loophole it’s abusing in the Military Lending Act (a law that’s supposed to protect service members) a rogue Utah outfit called Transportation Alliance Bank has been scheming of late with a predatory lender named Easy Pay Finance to rip off consumers – many of them veterans – with usurious loans.

The loans are offered through retailers nationwide, including auto mechanics, furniture stores, and pet stores and are packed with deceptive provisions designed to entrap borrowers.

Fortunately, there is a simple fix for this problem; a bill known as the Veterans and Consumers Fair Credit Act would place cap the interest rates on all consumer loans at a more reasonable level. If members of North Carolina’s congressional delegation are serious about honoring veterans, they should sign on as co-sponsors to this important bill right away.

Among the relevant numbers:

36% – maximum annual percentage rate allowed on loans to military service members and their dependents under the federal Military Lending Act

From 96% to as high as 189% – rates frequently charged by an outfit known as Easy Pay Finance at furniture stores, auto repair shops, pet stores and other retail outlets across the country – including at shops near military bases where the loans are more likely to affect service members

Hundreds – number of Easy Pay finance outlets across the U.S. – click here to search

$945 – amount of interest that a borrower would pay on a $500 loan over 12 months at 189% APR

42 states and Washington, D.C. – locations in which at least one predatory lender is using a “rent-a-bank” scheme to evade the law and make 100% to 225% Annual PercentageRate loans that are illegal in those states

36% – annual percentage rate at which the Veterans and Consumers Fair Credit Act would cap loans across the country

15 – number of U.S. senators that have signed on as co-sponsors to the legislation

0 – number of North Carolina senators that have signed on

800 – number civil rights, consumer, labor, faith, veterans, seniors and community organizations from all 50 states who have joined the Stop the Debt Trap Coalition in an effort to stop predatory lending and establish usury caps that protect consumers nationwide

19,500+ – number of signatures thus far collected by Americans for Financial Reform (the goal is 25,000) on a petition calling on the federal bank regulators to prevent the use of ‘rent-a-bank’ schemes to facilitate triple digit interest rate loans

1-800-342-9647 – Department of Defense telephone number service members and their dependents are urged to call before taking out a payday to get information on the Military Lending Act, alternatives to payday loans, financial planning advice, and other guidance