Senate Panel Examines Financial Protections for Service Members

The Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs held a hearing on financial protections for men and women serving in the military.

Chairman Bernie Sanders (I-VT) faulted financial institutions for what he called “completely unacceptable” violations of a law which protects service members when military service hampers their ability to meet financial obligations they took on as civilians.

The Servicemembers’ Civil Relief Act (SCRA) covers rental agreements, credit card and mortgage interest rates, automobile leases, and life and health insurance. It provides for reduced interest on debts and protects service members against default judgments, evictions, mortgage foreclosures, and repossessions. Service members and military families are encouraged to review the Servicemembers’ Civil Relief Act to better understand their rights and benefits.

Despite the legal protections, more than 15,000 instances of financial institutions failing to properly reduce the mortgage rates of service members were identified in a Government Accountability Report issued last year. The report also counted more than 300 instances of lenders improperly foreclosing on members of the Armed Services.

Holly Petraeus, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) assistant director, told the committee that her agency has received more than 4,500 complaints from veterans and their families over the last two years. “The complaint volume from veterans has steadily increased over time,” she testified. “About 49 percent of the complaints from veterans have been mortgage complaints, followed by 18 percent credit card complaints, and 13 percent bank account or service complaints.”

Sanders said he looks forward to strengthening enforcement of the Servicemembers’ Civil Relief Act to ensure our men and women in uniform have the best package of protections possible.

Military families are encouraged to know their rights. If you have questions about SCRA violations contact your nearest legal assistance office or the CFPB.

(Source: http://www.veterans.senate.gov/hearings.cfm?action=release.display&release_id=958ada82-ba62-4cf9-a51b-e0b6ff54b4c4)

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