Monday, March 28, 2005

Some Creditors Make Illegal Demands on Active-Duty Soldiers

The New York Times has an article today dealing with the support Troops are getting from credit companies, in the form of illegal attempts to foreclose on their houses while they're deployed.
A longstanding federal law strictly limits the ability of his mortgage company and other lenders to foreclose against active-duty service members.

But Sergeant Savage's experience was not unusual. Though statistics are scarce, court records and interviews with military and civilian lawyers suggest that Americans heading off to war are sometimes facing distracting and demoralizing demands from financial companies trying to collect on obligations that, by law, they cannot enforce.

Some cases involve nationally prominent companies like Wells Fargo and Citigroup, though both say they are committed to strict compliance with the law.

The problem, most military law specialists say, is that too many lenders, debt collectors, landlords, lawyers and judges are unaware of the federal statute or do not fully understand it.

The law, the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act, protects all active-duty military families from foreclosures, evictions and other financial consequences of military service. The Supreme Court has ruled that its provisions must "be liberally construed to protect those who have been obliged to drop their own affairs to take up the burdens of the nation."
Operation Truth looked at this horrendous abuse of our soldiers earlier this month. It's also important to note that attempts to exempt soldiers from gutting of the bankruptcy laws that was passed a few weeks back was defeated, almost entirely along party lines (cough-Joe Biden-cough).

We are asking men and women across the country to drop everything and fly half-way across the world to fight in a war they may or may not believe in, and we let these predators prey on them when they are least able to defend themselves? Un-friggin-believable!

UPDATE: Operation Truth has an Open Letter to the financial institutions who are currently breaking the law.
I am puzzled about something. I see the American flags draped prominently on your buildings. I see the yellow ribbon and American flag stickers placed prominently on your employees' cars. And I see the advertising you target at military families, advocating your long-standing and total support for the troops. So why don't your actions match your rhetoric?

This isn't about compliance with the letter of the law. This is about deeds, not words. You really want to show your support for troops in a visible and concrete way? Try this.

Immediately adopt a policy that freezes the debts (credit card bills, home loans, car loans, etc.) for any Reserve Component soldier from 90 days prior to mobilization to 90 days after. No payments, no accrued interest, nothing. The clock stops on that debt. Seems only fair, since for many soldiers, the clock stops on their personal lives during that same period. Don't wait for legislation, just do it.


And please don't whine to me about financial losses. We all expect a banner year for the financial industry due to the new bankruptcy legislation that just passed. Military families make up such an infinitesimal portion of your customer base, you'll hardly even miss the money.

So how about it? Can we see some real support instead of just empty gestures? 2.8 million servicemembers are waiting for your answer.