NewsBytes February 9, 2024  FRA mourns the loss of service members Accusations at VA Regarding Sexual Misconduct Navy Allowing Those without HS Diploma or GED to Enlist CFPB Protecting Veterans from Predatory Loans  

Fleet Reserve Association Expresses Deep Condolences for Loss of Service Members in Jordan and California.

The Fleet Reserve Association mourns the tragic loss of several brave service members in two separate incidents.

On February 6, 2024, five Marines from Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron 361, Marine Aircraft Group 16, 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing, were confirmed deceased following a CH-53E helicopter crash near the mountains of San Diego during a training exercise. Their names and additional details regarding the incident are being withheld pending notification of next of kin. The FRA extends heartfelt condolences to the families, friends, and fellow Marines of these fallen heroes.

Additionally, on January 28, 2024, three U.S. soldiers were killed in Jordan during an uncrewed aerial system attack at a military base near the Syrian border. These soldiers, Sgt. William Jerome Rivers of Carrollton, Georgia; Spc. Kennedy Ladon Sanders of Waycross, Georgia; and Spc. Breonna Alexsondria Moffett of Savannah, Georgia, were assigned to the 718th Engineer Company, 926th Engineer Battalion, 926th Engineer Brigade, Fort Moore, Georgia. They made the ultimate sacrifice while supporting Operation Inherent Resolve, the mission to ensure the defeat of ISIS. Our thoughts and prayers are with their families, friends, and colleagues during this difficult time.

These tragic losses serve as a solemn reminder of the sacrifices made by our men and women in uniform in service to our nation. The FRA stands in solidarity with all those affected by these heartbreaking events and honors the memory and service of the fallen.

Accusations at VA Regarding Sexual Misconduct

The House Veterans Affairs Committee (HVAC) is investigating allegations of sexual harassment and misconduct within the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Office of Resolution Management, Diversity, and Inclusion (ORMDI). ORMDI is the office charged with preventing sexual harassment and promoting diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) within VA.

Earlier, the HVAC voted on a bipartisan basis (22-1) to subpoena numerous documents from the VA following their failure to address allegations of sexual harassment and misconduct properly and adequately. To date, the VA has failed to fully comply with the congressional subpoena. The Committee received a copy of the VA’s internal investigation conducted by the Office of Accountability and Whistleblower Protection. The report was damning and substantiated many of the serious allegations the Committee uncovered; however, it fails to fully capture the scope of material the Committee requested.

The HVAC Chairman, Mike Bost, issued a statement that due to VA’s failure to hold its leaders accountable, the Committee will continue to conduct its investigation to ensure all VA leaders are held fully accountable and to determine if legislative action must be taken to ensure employees at VA are safe from harassment.

Navy Allowing Those without High School Diploma or GED to Enlist

The U.S. Navy’s Chief of Naval Personnel, Admiral Rick Cheeseman, announced that the Navy will allow those without a high school diploma to enlist if they score 50 or higher on the Armed Forces Qualification Test, which all potential recruits must take. This move aims to boost recruitment amid an historic recruiting crisis across the services. Federal law permits the military to recruit such applicants, and the Navy last allowed those without a diploma to enlist in 2000.

Currently, the Navy is the only military branch seeking to recruit those without a high school diploma or GED, aiming to expand the number of eligible candidates to join the service amid a historically difficult recruiting environment. The Navy insists the policy change does not mean the service is lowering its standards and emphasizes that these prospective sailors must still qualify for specific ratings based on their Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery (ASVAB) line scores.

The Navy recently announced it recruited 30,236 new active-duty sailors in fiscal 2023, falling more than 7,400 short of the 37,700 target for the year. The service also recruited 1,948 Reserve enlisted personnel, down from its 3,000 goal.

The Navy also failed to meet its officer goals, recruiting only 2,080 new active-duty officers rather than the 2,532 target, and 1,167 Reserve officers rather than the 1,940 target.

CFPB Protecting Veterans from Predatory Loans

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) recently sent $6 million in financial relief to consumers harmed by illegal lending practices targeting veterans. Five people and their companies misled veterans and other consumers into selling their pension and disability payments, which is illegal under federal and relevant state law. These transactions were instead illegal high-interest loans.

The lawsuits involved the following individuals and entities:

- Mark Corbett - Andrew Gamber, Voyager Financial Group, LLC; BAIC, Inc., and SoBell Corp - Katharine Snyder, Performance Arbitrage Company, Inc. and Life Funding Options, Inc. - Candy Kern-Fuller and Howard Sutter III, attorneys at Upstate Law Group LLC

The payments total $5,126,262 from the CFPB’s victims relief fund and $721,990 from money paid by the defendants. Most veterans will automatically receive a refund check.

In 2019, the CFPB and the state of Arkansas reached an agreement with Andrew Gamber and his companies, who brokered high-interest loans to veterans and other consumers. In partnership with the state of South Carolina, CFPB also filed a lawsuit against Katharine Snyder, Candy Kern-Fuller, and Howard Sutter III and their companies for similar actions. Mark Corbett, who worked with Gamber and Snyder, violated the Consumer Financial Protection Act by misleading consumers about interest rates and contract validity, as well as payment timing.

The FRA wants to ensure that the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA) is enforced by regulatory agencies, including the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), Office of Military Affairs, and wants to ensure that active-duty personnel are protected from predatory lenders.


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