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Servicemembers Civil Relief Act: What It Is and Why Compliance Is Important
March 12, 2012
On December 20, 2011, President Barack Obama, Vice President Joe Biden, Deputy Defense Secretary Ashton B. Carter, and Army General Martin E. Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, welcomed home the final group of United States troops from Iraq. After more than twenty years and two wars with Iraq, this long-awaited homecoming symbolized the end of an era for many. But many West Virginians, especially the families and friends of our servicemembers, know that tours of active duty extend well beyond the boundaries of the popular media’s coverage. More than 1.4 million United States citizens served on active duty around the world during 2011, including in Europe, the former Soviet Union, Asia, the Pacific and Africa – and West Virginia has the largest percentage of residents per capita engaged in active military service.

Financial obligations servicemembers incur as private citizens prior to their service can cause them significant hardship while serving tours of active duty. The Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (“SCRA”) provides relief to these servicemembers so they may “devote their entire energy to the defense needs of the Nation.” For the most part, the SCRA does not relieve servicemembers of their financial obligations; rather, it protects them from the potential problems that arise from their military service, including delayed communications, limited access to legal counsel, and an inability to travel for court appearances.

The SCRA contains a wide array of provisions targeted at the specific needs of active-duty servicemembers, including provisions relating to rent, installment contracts, mortgages, liens, assignments, leases, telephone service contracts, life insurance, taxes, health insurance and even professional liability insurance. Over the next few quarters we will focus on the provisions of the SCRA applicable to West Virginia lenders, including the requirements of the SCRA and the hefty consequences for failure to comply therewith. Next quarter we will begin with a statement of the purpose and history of the SCRA. Later in the series, we will examine specific provisions of the SCRA as they relate to West Virginia lenders. We will end the series with an overview of a consent order entered in United States v. BAC Home Loans Servicing, LP f/k/a Countrywide Home Loans Servicing, LP; and Any Successors in Interest, which resulted in a four-year term of Federal oversight due to non-compliance with the SCRA, and how the consent order provides a road map for “best practices”.

The return of servicemembers who have unselfishly protected our freedoms is an exciting time for West Virginians. Our goal in this series is to provide information to West Virginia lenders to ensure these outstanding servicemembers are afforded all of their rights under the SCRA. “Those who have served have done so much for us. As they return home, it is right and fitting that we do all we can to serve them.” Governor Earl Ray Tomblin, January 2012.

Consumer Finance Brienne T. Marco