What is "Active Duty" Under the SCRA?
Typically we focus on customers who are members of the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, or Coast Guard on active duty, and members of the National Guard called up to active duty for more than 30 consecutive days under Title 32 USC. Section 101 of the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act refers to Section 101(a)(5) of Title 10, United States Code (USC) to help define who qualifies for protection as a "servicemember." Formerly the National Guard was only protected while serving under Title 10; now it applies to Titles 10 and 32. The inclusion of Title 32 is an important addition.
USC Title 32 status means servicemembers are paid and trained by the United States armed services, but are under the command of their respective state governors. This status is often an answer to domestic security problems such as we saw after September 11, 2001, and to help keep the peace and provide disaster relief after a hurricane or other natural disaster. This is what we experienced in September 2005 with hurricane Katrina. Serving under Title 32 helps avoid the federal "posse comitatus" prohibition of using the military forces for domestic enforcement. Title 32 status was added to the SCRA becasue these servicemembers were not protected in the past, but can suffer the same financial problems due to extended duty at a lower pay.
United States Code Title 10 status means the servicemember is paid under direct control of the federal government. National Guardsmen under this Title are considered members of the armed forces and benefit from all the protections under the SCRA. They may be called up to go overseas or to fill a position in the U.S. while another soldier serves overseas. Serving overseas, or even away from home is not a requirement for coverage. Only that they serve.
In addition to the active duty military of the five services above and the National Guard serving under Titles 10 and 32, coverage extends to Public Health Service Officers, National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration Officers and US citizens serving in an ally's military.
State service means that servicemembers are paid and under the command of their state governors and are not entitled to SCRA protection. This is generally seen in cases where they are called up for local or regional disaster relief. The time they are activated wouldn't generally be as long as the other two scenarios we have just discussed.
State laws may provide additional protections beyond the SCRA.
The orders the National Guard receive should indicate on them what Title is used to activate them.
Protections for those serving under Section 101 of the SCRA, (the five services, the National Guard under Title 32, the Public Health Service Officers, and National Oceanic & Atmospheric Officers) begin on the date of entry into military service, ands ends on the date on which the servicemember is released or dies while in military service. It also includes any period when the servicemember is absent due to sickness, wounds, leave or other lawful cause.
Reservists who have received orders are provided with some extra protections under Section 106. Their protections begin on the date they receive their orders as those protections relate to the general relief and protections against rent and lease agreements as well as some contract and mortgage issues all covered under Title II and III of the SCRA.
Think of it this way: if a person decides to join the military, he or she has time to make financial plans. So protections begin when these individuals are actually serving their country. But a reservist called up (and someone drafted, in the event that happens again) has no time to plan for an income disruption. They receive SCRA protections as soon as they have orders. All that is required for them to then receive these protections is to provide you with a written request and a copy of their orders.
National Guard members serving the Katrina relief efforts were given the special status under Title 32, retroactive to August 29, 2005. These servicemembers typically are funded through their individual states. But the Title 32 designation allows the federal government to pay for operations without taking over command responsibilities for the guardsmen. This provides them with protections under the SCRA and could affect your banking relationship with them, especially as to interest rates and collection actions. If you have customers providing you with a valid request for SCRA protections, or if you have collection/repossession/foreclosure actions against any customers in this category, you need to verify their status before you proceed.
Additional SCRA references:
SCRA Video Presentation by Mary Beth Guard -- 17 minute streaming video presentation explaining the major provisions of the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act.
Visit the BOL SCRA Resource Page.
First published on BankersOnline.com 10/17/05.