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DOD praises service members' Civil Relief Act

WASHINGTON (AFNS) -- The Servicemembers Civil Relief Act has proven to be an effective tool to give troops and their families some financial peace of mind, Army Col. Paul E. Kantwill told the Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee yesterday.

Kantwill, the director of legal policy for the undersecretary of defense for personnel and readiness, said no other statute provides such a unique breadth of benefits and protections for service members.

The legislation, first enacted in 1940 and substantially re-written in 2003, protects service members' personal affairs and economic interests "while they put their lives on the line in defense of our nation, and the act has lived up to that goal," Kantwill said.

The act protects service members from evictions, default judgments and foreclosure. It also allows troops to delay judicial proceedings and to place caps on interest rates.

The act also provides certain tax relief to service members and their spouses, Kantwill said.

For more than 70 years, the act "has lessened some of the many burdens associated with military service," the colonel said.

Kantwill praised congressional efforts to strengthen enforcement of the act. Congress has passed legislation that provides for additional civil enforcement, as well as monetary damages and attorneys' fees.

"Congress has extended the 6-percent interest rate cap for pre-service mortgage obligations," the colonel said. "This interest rate cap, which had been in effect for decades, had previously applied only to actual periods of active duty."

The cap for pre-service mortgage obligations is extended for an additional 12 months after a service member leaves active duty. Congress also amended the act to stop foreclosures on pre-service mortgage obligations for a year after service members leave active duty.

"Under these conditions and during this time, no service member can be foreclosed upon absent a court order," Kantwill said.

Educating service members of the provisions of the bill remains a priority for personnel and readiness, the colonel said.

"The department has developed programs to ensure that service members know about the benefits and protections of the [act]," he said.

DOD's efforts to educate service members about the act's provisions revolve around installation readiness facilities, pre-deployment and re-deployment process facilities, and reserve component mobilization and demobilization processing centers.


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