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Service Members Civil Relief Act explained

WRIGHT-PATTERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Ohio --

Many benefits exist to assist service members during their time in service, but a large segment of the military population remains ill-informed concerning some of the most important tools out there.

The Service Members Civil Relief Act, passed by congress in 2003, builds upon previous acts that were established to support service members and their families. The act was specifically designed to allow active-duty service members to “devote their entire energy to the defense needs of the nation.”

It was originally established as a moratorium after the Civil War that forbade certain actions to be taken against Union soldiers. It covered contract enforcement, bankruptcy, foreclosure and divorce proceedings. 

During World War I, these protections were codified within the Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Civil Relief Act of 1918, and after a brief hiatus, were reestablished within the Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Civil Relief Act of 1940. After decades had passed and many amendments were added to the act, the final variation of the Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Civil Relief Act was completed in 1991. This final amendment, which was hastened by the Gulf War, made it illegal for creditors to take certain actions until they verified if an individual was on active duty.

Fast forward to 2003, where the act was restated and renamed to the Service Members Civil Relief Act (SCRA). This piece of legislation is still periodically amended and continues to provide protection for service members on active orders and who are deployed.

Some of the protections included are:

  • Reduced interest rate on any pre-service loans to a maximum of 6 percent

  • Protections against default judgments in civil cases

  • Protections against foreclosure on their home

  • Protections against repossession of their property

  • Terminate residential housing and automobile leases without penalty.

     

    (Information taken from the Consumer Finance protection Bureau at www.consumerfinance.gov)

One of the most important protections involves education. Many reservists pursuing higher education deal with the student loan process, and under the SCRA, student loans are subject to the same regulations as other loans. As soon as a reservist undertakes any active orders, they become eligible to receive assistance under the SCRA, and may be able to take advantage of several of the protections listed above.

For more information, consult the education office at 937-257-5092 or the legal office at 937-257-3535.