Because of the sacrifices that military service members make while serving, the Servicemembers' Civil Relief Act (SCRA) and the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Relief Act of 1994 (USERRA) provide service members with military service benefits for financial relief and job protection. The SCRA is an expanded version of the 1918 Soldiers' and Sailors Civil Relief Act (SSCRA). The SCRA extends benefits to active military service members, reservists, and active National Guard members. The law provides military service members with relief from certain civil obligations while on active military duty. The USERRA prohibits all employers from discriminating against employees that leave to serve in the military and requires the employer to reinstate the employee if the absence is five years or less.
Under a provision in the SCRA, a service member may qualify for a 6 percent cap on debts and financial obligations, with the exclusion of student loans guaranteed by the federal government. Qualifying debt includes mortgages and credit card debt incurred by the service member alone or with a spouse. The provision applies if:
To receive the rate cap, the service member must provide the creditor with the following proof: military orders, a pay stub, and proof that a reduction in income occurred after active service. The creditor can challenge the claim in court, but must grant the cap until a court rules otherwise. When the service member is no longer serving in active duty, the creditor can reset the interest rate.
The SCRA permits service members to terminate a residential or commercial rental agreement or lease after signing it if:
The service member can terminate the lease by mailing or delivering written notice of the termination and a copy of the military order to the landlord.
The military service benefits under the SCRA also allows a service member to terminate a lease of a motor vehicle intended to be used by the service member or the service member's dependents, if after signing the lease:
The service member must make the termination request in writing and must provide a copy of the military orders. The service member must return the vehicle to the owner within 15 days of the termination notice.
Under certain circumstances, the SCRA provides military service members with protection from eviction for the nonpayment of rent without regard for whether the rental of the unit occurred before or after military service. The provision applies if:
Even if the provision in the SCRA applies, the landlord can still file an eviction action against the occupants of the dwelling. The court, however, can choose to grant up to a three-month stay or enter an "order as may be just" if the service member's ability to pay the rent is materially affected by the military service. If the service member serves in a certain branch of the military, the member may have to pay some portion of the rent regardless of the court decision. If the court does not issue a stay, the landlord may proceed with the eviction lawsuit.
Under the SCRA, service members may request a stay of a legal action during their military service, deployment, or tour overseas.
Provisions in the SCRA also protect service members that enter into installment agreements. To qualify for the benefits of installment protection under federal law, it is necessary to show that:
If a service member qualifies under the provision, the lender may not terminate the contract or repossess the property for nonpayment or breach of contract if a court order does not provide otherwise.
In actions for foreclosure, the SSCRA protects service members if the member meets both of the aforementioned requirements and the following:
The USERRA protects individuals that leave a job for U.S. military service from discrimination. Employers must reemploy the service member if:
The USERRA prohibits employers from reinstating service members into the same position they served in prior to entering the military. Instead, the employer must establish the appropriate position by determining what position the employee would have been in if continuously employed during military service. If the employee is not qualified, the employer must offer the employee training. In addition to promoting the employee, the employer must give the employee the same raises, benefits, and seniority status entitled to if they had continuously worked for the employer. For up to one year after reinstatement, the employer cannot fire the service member without cause.
There are some exceptions to a service member's right to reinstatement under the USERRA. The employer does not have to rehire a returning service member if:
Most states have laws that also ban discrimination against individuals that serve in the military or in the National Guard. For example, many states require employers to grant leave for individuals called for active military service or require employers to reinstate the returning military member. Most states only require reemployment if the employee:
In some cases, state laws expand upon USERRA protection of reemployment rights of returning military service members.