The Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA) is a program that provides legal and financial protections for you when you are on active duty.
Here are frequently asked questions and answers on some rights and benefits available under the SCRA. This information is for personnel in the Active Duty and Reserves or National Guard who are activated to serve on active duty for 30 days or more under section 502(f) of title 32, U.S. Code for purposes of responding to a national emergency declared by the President and supported by Federal funds.
Q: When does the SCRA protect me?
A: Most SCRA protection begins the day you receive your orders to active duty or deployment. As a practical matter, you should be ready, and expect to present a copy of those orders to whomever you ask for some right or benefit under the Act. You can also use the DOD's SCRA website to print out a legal document showing your active duty status.
Q: I have heard about 6% loans. How do I get them?
A: You may be entitled to have the interest rate on some of your loans reduced to 6% for the time you are on active duty. There are a number of special requirements. You need to talk to a Legal Assistance Attorney to make sure you are eligible. You may be eligible if you and your loan meet the following conditions:
- You took out the loan during a time when you were not on any form of active duty in any branch of the military.
- The interest rate is currently above 6% per year.
- Your military service affects your ability to pay the loan at the regular (pre-service) interest rate. Generally this requirement means that you make less money in the military than you made as a civilian. There are some special legal issues here - you should be ready to talk to your Legal Assistance Attorney about your entire financial situation.
- You notified the lender in writing.
Q: What about the lease on my apartment?
A: Generally you can get out of a lease if your military service is qualifying. Here are the requirements:
- You originally signed your lease when you were not on any form of active duty.
- You have received your orders to active duty.
- You gave written notice to your landlord that you want to terminate your lease. You will still have to pay rent for a short while. Your landlord can charge you rent for 30 days after the date your next rent is due, after the date you give your written notice. Example: You give notice on 15 December. Your next rent is normally due 1 January. The landlord can make you pay rent until 31 January. The key is to get the written notice in the landlord's hands as soon as possible.
Q: What about my automobile lease?
A: Pre-service automobile leases may be cancelled if you get orders to active duty for a period of 180 days or more. Automobile leases entered into while on active duty may be terminated if you are PSC'ed OCONUS or deployed OCONUS for 180 days or more.
Q: I have to go to court on a lawsuit that came up over an auto accident last year. Can I get the lawsuit delayed?
A: If you are a party (one of the people suing or being sued) in a civil case (not a criminal case), your commander can ask the judge to stay or temporarily delay the proceedings until you can appear. Generally, your commander will have to show that military duty is keeping you from going to court. This is a tricky legal area - it is recommended that you have your civilian lawyer contact a Military Legal Assistance Attorney to discuss the best way to proceed in your case.
Q: Will I have to pay state income taxes on my pay while I am on active duty?
A: If your home state taxes military pay, you will have to pay those taxes. If you get assigned to another state, you will still legally be a "domiciliary" of your home state. The state to which the military assigns you cannot tax your military pay. If you moonlight, they can tax that pay - just your military pay is exempt.
For more information contact your local legal office.
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