Veterans and Servicemembers
Servicemembers Civil Relief Act
The Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Civil Relief Act was amended in December of 2003 to give protections to service members. The amendment also changed the name of the Act to the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA). Despite the name change, the Act still provides certain protections for service men and women on active duty in the United States Armed Services. The Act also applies to a service member called to active State duty because of a federal emergency, such as the National Guard’s assistance in airport security. Under the Act you may qualify for certain protections, including, but not limited to the following:
- Reduced interest rate on mortgage payments;
- Reduced interest rate on credit card debt, car loans, and other debt;
- Protection from eviction if your rent is less than $3,451.20 per month (as of 2016); and
- Delay of all civil court actions, such as bankruptcy, foreclosure, or other proceedings.
Interest Rate on Debt
The Act limits the amount of interest that may be collected on debts of persons in military service to six percent per year during the period of military service. The provision applies to all debts incurred prior to the commencement of active duty and includes interest on credit card debt, mortgages, car loans, and other debts. The Act requires you or your family to request the rate reduction by giving written notice to the creditor with a copy of military orders calling you to military service and any orders extending that service. Once you request an interest rate reduction, a creditor must lower the rates or apply for court relief in which the burden is on the creditor to prove that the service member has not been “materially affected.” (The Act does not apply to federal guaranteed student loans, but payments for such loans can sometimes be deferred or suspended by contacting the loan guarantor.) The creditor must forgive any interest in excess of six percent with a resulting decrease in the amount of periodic payment that you are required to make.
Real Estate Leases
The Act also protects dependents from being evicted by a landlord while you are on active duty. If rent does not exceed $3,451.20 per month (as of 2016), no eviction shall be made during the period of military service without an application to the court. If an application is made, the court may enter a stay of three months or another period of time the court believes is appropriate. A lease may be terminated by a tenant upon written notice of your military orders. The lease will terminate 30 days after the next monthly rent payment is due.
Civil Actions and Foreclosures
The court must grant a stay for at least ninety days for civil actions and foreclosures upon request by the service member. If an additional stay is requested by the service member and denied, the court must appoint counsel to represent the service member.
Motor Vehicle Leases
The Act allows service members who have been called to active duty to terminate certain automobile lease agreements. For instance, if you are called to serve at least 180 days, you may terminate a motor vehicle lease, without paying an early termination fee or other penalty as long as the termination notice is delivered in writing along with a photocopy of your military orders to the lessor, grantee, and agent, and the vehicle is returned to the lessor’s agent within 15 days of the delivery of the notice. If a lease is entered into after being called to active duty, that lease can be terminated if you receive orders for a permanent change of station outside the U.S. or to deploy with a military unit for 180 days or more.
For more information about the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act, please contact the Minnesota Attorney General’s Office at (651) 296-3353 (Twin Cities Calling Area) or (800) 657-3787 (Outside the Twin Cities).
Federal Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (“USERRA”)
USERRA provides protection for service members by ensuring that you can leave your civilian job for military service and perform your duties with the knowledge that you will be able to return to your job with the same pay, benefits, and status you would have obtained had you not been away on duty.
In order to qualify for certain rights under USERRA, you must give advance notice to your employer regarding your military service. Furthermore, if you receive benefits through a multi-employer pension or welfare benefit plan you must notify the plan administrator of your military service within 30 days of reemployment. Under USERRA, you may qualify for certain protections, including, but not limited to the following:
- Employers may not discriminate against service members or veterans based upon their military service;
- Service members may be absent from work due to military duty for 5 cumulative years, while still retaining their reemployment rights (exceptions may apply);
- Employers must reemploy returning service members in the job that they would have obtained had they not been absent for military service, with the same seniority status and pay, as well as other rights determined by seniority;
- Employers must make a reasonable effort to provide training to enable returning service members to upgrade or refresh their skills to qualify for reemployment;
- Service members injured in the line of duty may have up to 2 years from the date of their completion of service to return to work or apply for reemployment;
- Employers must make a reasonable effort to accommodate a veteran’s disabilities;
- In cases where a service member will perform active duty less than 30 days, employers must ensure that any employer sponsored health care coverage is continued during that time, as if the service member had remained employed;
- Service members performing military service for more than 30 days may elect to continue employer-sponsored health care coverage for up to 24 months, but may be required to pay up to 102 percent of the premium charges for the coverage;
- Employers must provide reemployed service members with all benefits that they would have obtained as if they had been continuously employed (except short-term compensation such as accrued paid vacation); and
- Employers must treat reemployed service members as if they have not had a break in service for the purposes of pension plans and Family and Medical Leave Act (“FMLA”) benefits.
If you believe that an employer may be violating your rights under USERRA, you may file a complaint with the Veterans’ Employment and Training Service Division (“VETS”) of the United States Department of Labor.
To file a formal USERRA complaint with VETS, complete “Form 1010” which is available on the United States Department of Labor’s website www.dol.gov/vets, or contact the Department.
United States Department of Labor Veterans’ Employment and Training Service Division
Office of the Assistant Secretary for Veterans’ Employment and Training
200 Constitution Avenue, NW, Room S-1325
Washington, D.C. 20210
(866) 4-USA-DOL ((866) 487-2365)
TTY: (877) 889-5627
Veterans’ Employment and Training Service
332 Minnesota Street, Suite W1372
St. Paul, MN 55101
Reserve and Guard members may also contact:
Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve
4800 Mark Center Dr., Suite 03E25
Alexandria, VA 22350-1200
In the event that VETS is unsuccessful in resolving your complaint under USERRA, you may request that VETS refer the complaint to the United States Attorney General, who may choose to initiate legal action on your behalf. Alternatively, you may elect to file a private legal action under USERRA. For more information about your rights under USERRA, please contact us.