Take advantage of SCRA

  • Published
  • By Capt. Yvonne Brakel
  • 22 Air Refueling Win Law Center
Given the current high operations tempo, military members find themselves away from home for extended periods of time.

Military service can make it difficult to take care of many legal and financial obligations. In recognition of the hardships military service can cause, Congress enacted some protection for military members. The Servicemembers' Civil Relief Act, 10 U.S.C. 101 et seq. is a Federal law that provides military members with several important rights while on active duty.

Some of these rights are: 

Stay of court and administrative proceedings - Servicemembers unable to appear for legal proceedings because of military service may delay the proceeding for a minimum of 90 days upon written request. The request must explain why the military duty materially affects the servicemember's ability to appear and it must provide a date after which the servicemember can appear. Additionally, the request must include a letter from the member's commander stating that the member's duties preclude his appearance, and he is not authorized leave at the time of the hearing.

Default judgment protection - If a default judgment, a judgment rendered due to a defendants failure to answer or appear, is entered against a servicemember during his active-duty service, the SCRA allows the servicemember to reopen that default judgment and set it aside. In order to set aside a default judgment, the servicemember must show his ability to assert a defense was materially affected by military service, and he has meritorious or legal defenses to the claims against him.

Termination of leases - Active-duty servicemembers who enter into residential or business leases and subsequently receive orders for a permanent change of station or a deployment lasting 90 days or more may terminate a lease pursuant to the SCRA. The SCRA also allows servicemembers and their family members to terminate automobile leases under certain circumstances. People may terminate automobile leases while on active duty if they receives PCS orders to a location outside the continental United States or deployment orders for a period of 180 days or more.

Six percent rule - Generally, military members are able to reduce all pre-service consumer debt interest rates to 6 percent, which includes mortgages. To enforce this benefit, servicemembers must contact creditors and request the reduction pursuant to the Act. They must also provide creditors with a copy of their orders. The base law center can provide members with a sample form letter upon request. Note; the credit company may not have to lower the interest rate if it can convince a court the servicemember's ability to pay the interest is not materially affected by his service.

Remember, SCRA protection is generally not automatic. It requires action on the part of the member. If you have any questions about your rights under the SCRA, please contact the McConnell Law Center for assistance at 759-3590.