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Understanding the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act

Southern California Veterans Law Attorney Explains the SCRA

As a member of the Armed Forces, you are sometimes placed in a difficult position, as your status quo in civilian life may be entirely disrupted when you are called up on active duty. Serving in any branch of the military frequently makes it difficult-or even impossible-for the servicemember to fulfill obligations incurred in civilian life. Your monthly debt payments, rent or mortgage, insurance premiums and even civil lawsuits are all placed on hold while you leave your home and serve a tour of duty on a military base in the United States or abroad.

Congress passed the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (50 U.S.C. App. §§501-596) to protect those who, as the Supreme Court puts it, "dropped their affairs to answer their country's call." Prior to the Act, military personnel in our country had largely enjoyed the benefits it provides through societal traditions and even specific acts which were passed during the Civil War and World War I, but with the SCRA in place, the custom was given full force of law. Those who violate a servicemember's rights under the SCRA are not only subject to legal prohibitions but may even be punished for a criminal offense, fined and imprisoned.

Protections Provided by the SCRA

The Act provides a wide range of consumer rights, from helping you avoid a home foreclosure by granting temporary relief from your mortgage payments to preserving your health or life insurance policy when you fall behind on payments during your term of service. You can often obtain an automatic stay which will protect you from a default judgment in civil proceedings including those for divorce and child custody, as well as limiting the interest rate you can be charged to 6%. Your family does not have to worry about being evicted by your landlord, while you can also break a lease under most circumstances if you have received PCS orders and must move your family. The goal of the Act is to give you legal protection against being subjected to penalties for offering your service to our country.

At the CALIFORNIA VETERANS RIGHTS CENTER our veterans' attorney can explain your rights under this law based on your particular circumstances.