05/21/12 Friday, Congressman Joe Donnelly joined Congressman Elijah Cummings (MD-07) in offering an amendment, which passed the U.S. House of Representatives, to the National Defense Authorization Act for FY2013. This amendment would enhance the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA), a law intended to protect servicemembers and their families from improper foreclosures, evictions, and other negative financial consequences of military service.
“The men and women serving our country overseas to protect our freedoms should not also have to fight to protect their homes from foreclosure as a result of their service,” said Donnelly. “This amendment takes a much needed step to hold banks accountable by giving servicemembers better protections against mortgage foreclosure.”
Without Congressional action, several current SCRA provisions will sunset at the end of this year. In addition to extending these provisions, the amendment would:
- Expand SCRA protection to:
- Servicemembers serving in support of contingency operations;
- Surviving spouses of servicemembers whose death is service-related; and
- Veterans who are 100% disabled at the time of discharge due to service-connected injuries.
- Stay foreclosure proceedings for 12 months, a three month increase;
- Increase civil penalties for SCRA violations;
- Prohibit banks from discriminating against servicemembers who are eligible for protections under SCRA;
- Require lenders to designate a compliance officer to ensure that they protect the legal rights of servicemembers; and
- Provide a toll-free telephone number and website for servicemembers dealing with SCRA problems.
Donnelly has a proven track record of advocating on behalf of servicemembers on this issue. This amendment is identical to legislation, The Military Home Foreclosure Protection Act, H.R. 5747, that Donnelly helped introduce earlier this week. This bill is endorsed by the American Legion, Veterans of Foreign War, Paralyzed Veterans of America, and Disabled American Veterans.
Also, in February of 2011, Donnelly attended and questioned witnesses at a House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs hearing that was organized in response to allegations that J.P. Morgan Chase Bank disregarded provisions of SCRA by overcharging 4,000 servicemembers and foreclosing on the homes of 18 families.
The amendment passed by a vote of 394 to 27. The National Defense Authorization Act also passed by a vote of 299 to 120, and now awaits Senate action.