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

The masked faces of the honor guard can be seen lined up during a Memorial Day ceremony. (Photo by Jon Cherry/Getty Images)

Today is Memorial Day – the day we remember military veterans who died serving our country and honor all who served.

As the US Census recently reported:

Memorial Day, originally called Decoration Day, is a day of remembrance for those who have died in the service of 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 more than one million men and women who have died in military service since the Civil War began in 1861.”

Among the key figures of the Census Bureau report:

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

500,000+ – number of deceased persons

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

405 399 – number of deceased persons

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

90 220 – number of people who died

7.2 million – number of Americans who served in the post-9/11 era (September 2001 to 2021)

25 150+ – number of deceased persons

17.5 million – number of US veterans alive in 2019

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

Unfortunately, despite their impressive numbers and frequent power 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 very important ways in which current federal law allows veterans not only to be disgraced, but also positively targeted for exploitation.

Under a loophole it abuses the Military Loans Act (a law meant to protect service members), a rogue Utah outfit called Transportation Alliance Bank recently conspired with a predatory lender named Easy Pay Finance to ripping off consumers – many of whom are veterans – with loan sharking.

The loans are offered by retailers nationwide, including auto mechanics, furniture stores and pet stores, and are filled with deceptive terms designed to trick borrowers.

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

Among the numbers affected:

36% – maximum allowable annual rate on loans to military service members and their dependents under the Federal Military Loans Act

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

Hundreds – number of Easy Pay outlets in the United States – click here to search

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

42 States and Washington, D.C. – places in which at least one predatory lender uses a “rent-a-bank” system to evade the law and make loans at the annual percentage rate of 100% to 225% which are illegal in these states

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

15 – number of US senators who have signed on as co-sponsors of the legislation

0 – number of North Carolina senators who have signed

800 – number of civil rights, consumer, labor, religious, veterans, seniors and community organizations from all 50 states that have joined the Stop the Debt Trap coalition in an effort to end predatory lending and establish wear and tear caps that protect consumers nationwide

19,500+ – number of signatures collected to date by Americans for Financial Reform (target 25,000) on a petition calling on federal banking regulators to prevent the use of “rent-a-bank” programs to facilitate three-digit interest rate loans

1-800-342-9647 – Department of Defense Telephone Number Service members and their dependents are urged to call before taking a payday for information on the Military Loans Act, alternatives to payday loans, financial planning tips and other advice

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