This Veterans’ Day, we choose to honor our servicemembers by asking you to help restore their rights. They fight for our rights back home, but are denied their rights. This has to stop.
Although Congress has passed laws to protect our servicemembers from predatory schemes and high unemployment through the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA) and the Uniform Service Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA), forced arbitration clauses in financial transaction documents and employment contracts have restricted their access to these protections or their ability to band together with other injured servicemembers to form a class action. They are denied their day in court and instead sent to a rigged system created by the corporation or employer that rarely rules for the injured party.
Some lender services exist for the military only and are known as military installment loan companies. They provide high-interest, small loan products for servicemembers and prey on the very people protecting our rights while evading state consumer protection enforcement. As US News described the situation:
To the payday, car title, and other high-cost, abusive lenders that congregate around the nation’s military bases, service members make very attractive customers. Many are young and financially inexperienced, and their jobs often require them to relocate in a hurry, which can put a spouse out of work or temporarily saddle a family with mortgage or rent bills in two places at once. Yet service members also tend to be easy to collect from. Most have regular paychecks and bank accounts, from which lenders can extract money through automatic debits; many also have an extra motivation to repay, since indebtedness can undermine a soldier’s security clearance and career prospects.
A 2006 report by the Department of Defense called for an end to forced arbitration by these companies. “Service members should maintain full legal recourse against unscrupulous lenders. Loan contracts to Service members should not include mandatory arbitration clauses or onerous notice provisions, and should not require the Service member to waive his or her right of recourse, such as the right to participate in a plaintiff class. Waiver is not a matter of ‘choice’ in take-it-or-leave-it contracts of adhesion,” said the report. While bills such as the Military Lending Act (MLA) and the SCRA help protect our servicemembers, they contain loopholes that allow lenders to continue to curb the rights of our servicemembers.
Furthermore, servicemembers injured by medical negligence in military hospitals are unable to hold the government accountable. This leaves our servicemembers with fewer rights than federal prisoners. The bill that removed this right from servicemembers was passed in 1950; sixty-four years later, it’s time for an update.