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Bill adds protection to servicemembers

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Measures to protect servicemembers from predatory financial institutions stand a good chance of getting tougher.

Last week, Democrats in the House of Representatives, led by Congresswoman Maxine Waters (D-CA), along with Congressman Tim Walz (D-MN) and Congressman Denny Heck (D-WA), introduced legislation that will strengthen enforcement of the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA).

The bill, House of Representatives Bill 3357, is named the Military Consumer Protection Act, and it directs the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (aka Consumer Bureau) to oversee and enforce compliance with certain existing provisions in the SCRA.

The bill's intent is to strengthen protections for those who serve in the Air Force, Army, Navy, Marines and Coast Guard from those in the financial services industry who take advantage of servicemembers.

HR Bill 3357 follows the release of a Financial Services Committee Democratic Staff Support that underscores the success of the Consumer Bureau.

"As the representative of Joint Base Lewis-McChord, I know our servicemembers who are deployed or serving here at home are focused on the huge responsibility of keeping us safe and defending our freedoms," said Rep. Heck in a press release. "The Consumer Bureau has proven itself to be an indispensable advocate for military families."

Dating back to the Civil War, the SCRA is a federal law that protects active-duty personnel from the distraction and inconvenience of collections actions back home.

After the war, a moratorium was passed to suspend certain actions against Union soldiers and sailors.  This included contract enforcement, bankruptcy, foreclosure and divorce proceedings.

Over time, the SCRA has grown and changed to meet the challenges faced by those who serve. The most current SCRA prohibits the eviction from rental or mortgaged property, caps at six percent the interest rate on debts incurred prior to entering active-duty, and provides other protections to installment contracts and car leases.

"Time and time again, our servicemembers and veterans are unfairly targeted by bad actors in the financial services industry," added Rep. Walz. "By empowering the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau to oversee and enforce compliance with existing provisions of the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act, we will take a step forward in curbing the predatory actions of bad actors in the financial services industry."

The bill's sponsors said that with the passage of the Military Consumer Protection Act, the Consumer Bureau could better ensure that the law is enforced.

"We could never adequately pay back the men and women who have committed their lives to protecting our rights and our freedoms," said Rep. Waters.

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