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Congressman Denny Heck

Representing the 10th District of Washington

Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA)

Are you an active duty military or a reservist/ National Guard member called to active duty? Know your financial rights under the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act

The Servicemembers Civil Relief Act, or SCRA, is a law that gives certain legal protections to servicemembers. The SCRA was first passed in 1940 to support the massive mobilization of American society to fight World War II and was most recently updated by Congress in 2003.

The SCRA gives fulltime servicemembers and reservists a number of protections. Some of the most important and commonly used rights under the SCRA include the ability to break a residential lease without penalty, a cap on the loan interest rates you may be charged, and protections against default judgements against you (when a legal case is decided against you because you were not able to show up to court or did not know about the proceedings).

For reservists who become mobilized (either voluntarily or involuntarily) one of the most important protections under the SCRA is the right to resume your civilian job once your mobilization has concluded.

For these protections to apply, you must show your military service impacted your ability to repay or appear. For example, before invoking the SCRA to cap the amount of interest you pay on a loan, you must first prove that your military service adversely affected your ability to make the previously agreed upon loan payments.  Likewise, you can use the SCRA to terminate a lease without penalty, but only if you are doing so because of a deployment or Permanent Change of Station (PCS) orders.

If you feel that you are being unfairly denied your rights under the SCRA or think the SCRA might apply to your situation, you should always consult your base/command legal assistance attorney or Judge Advocate General (JAG).

Congressman Heck believes members of our military deserve the chance to go to college and own a home while they serve, without having to worry about runaway interest rates on their loans and mortgages. Congressman Heck is working on ways to improve compliance practices to make the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act easier to enforce by the bank and lending companies with servicemembers as customers, and identify ways to streamline the process of checking active duty status in order to place less burden on the servicemember to provide that evidence.

Frequently asked questions related to the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act:

Who is protected by the SCRA?

The SCRA applies to active duty service members and reservists/national guard members recalled to active duty (the recall may be voluntary or involuntary).

What are some of the SCRA’s financial protections for service members with regard to loans and credit cards?

The SCRA usually caps interest rates on loans to 6 percent. Banks and other loan providers may not apply this protection automatically so it is important for service members to inform banks about their active duty status and ask to have the SCRA protections applied.

Are their SCRA provisions regarding residential leases and autoloans?

Yes. The SCRA generally allows service members to terminate a lease without penalty if they are moving because of a military Permanent Change of Station (PCS) or deployment. The SCRA can also protect servicemembers from auto repossession. 

Does the SCRA affect taxes?

It can. Generally, servicemembers pay taxes in their state of legal residence and do not have to change their state of residence as a result of a military move. Additionally, servicemembers are usually eligible for a Federal tax extension without penalty if their ability to file their tax return was disrupted by a military deployment.

Does the SCRA protect me and my dependents from foreclosure?

If an eviction notice is sent to you or your dependents while you are deployed, you may be able to ask a court to issue a “stay” which is basically a temporary delay of the case until you are able to return home to deal with the situation.

Does the SCRA affect my rights in child custody disputes and other matters of family law?

It can. The SCRA will usually prevent a default judgement from being issued against you and delay most proceeds until you have returned from a military deployment. These protections will apply to areas of family law, such as child custody disputes, as well as other areas.

There are many more SCRA protections that could apply to you depending on the situation. If you have questions about the SCRA, you should contact your base/command legal assistance attorney. For more information visit https://www.justice.gov/servicemembers/financial-and-housing-rights