Soldiers' & Sailors' Civil Relief Act

By Chucala, Steven | Soldiers Magazine, July 2003 | Go to article overview

Soldiers' & Sailors' Civil Relief Act


Chucala, Steven, Soldiers Magazine


AS MORE military members are being deployed to trouble spots around the world or to fight the war on terrorism, there has been an increase in questions about the Soldiers' and Sailors' Civil Relief Act--especially from members of the reserve components and their families.

The SSCRA

The Soldiers' and Sailors' Civil Relief Act became a federal law in 1940. It's purpose is to protect active-duty and reserve-component members of the armed services who may be disadvantaged in terms of their economic and property interests due to serving their country. The SSCRA permits service members to suspend or delay certain civil liabilities and civil-court actions.

The law does not exempt service members from legal obligations that result from an act of wrongdoing. The law does not cover criminal charges and citations that include misdemeanors such as reckless driving and driving while intoxicated. Requests to delay court dates for these obligations should be addressed to the court and prosecutors, who may elect to delay proceedings but are not required to do so under the SSCRA.

Are You Covered?

Members of the Army and Air National Guard, reserve forces and regular military on active federal service and some of their dependents are covered by the SSCRA. Soldiers who wish to read this lengthy law can find it on the Internet by searching for "Title 50, Appendix, United States Code, Sections 501-590."

The law covers a wide range of matters that concern almost every facet of civilian economic and judicial activity, and it requires a booklet to properly address. This article is limited to the five areas usually of the greatest interest to soldiers.

Most often, relief concerns the staying of judicial proceedings, exemption from multiple income taxation, reduction of interest rates, early termination of leases, stopping mortgage foreclosures and extending statutes of limitations.

Stay of Civil Proceedings

Stays of civil proceedings are available when soldiers are sued and are not reasonably available to appear in court or able to achieve proper legal representation due to military service. Soldiers may ask the court to stay proceedings until they return from duty.

Based on my experience, a judge advocate attorney should not sign such a letter on behalf of a soldier, since some judges have denied the stay on the grounds that the attorney made an appearance on behalf of the soldier, who is therefore represented. I recommend the attorney prepare a letter that the soldier's commander can sign requesting the stay, This avoids the appearance that the soldier has legal representation.

A judge also may grant a stay of enforcement of a legal obligation if the soldier's ability to meet the obligation has been materially affected by entry into military service.

Exemption from Multiple Taxation

Multiple taxation is a common concern as soldiers PCS from state to state. Soldiers remain subject to the tax liabilities of their legal residence (home state).The SSCRA provides immunity from taxes by host states on income earned through military service. …

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