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Service members Civil Relief Act

Author: Lt Col Cole
Submitted: Leslie

You’ve all seen the “TARGET:  MONEY” pieces about the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA) on AFN.  However, do you know the benefits under the Act and what it might do for you?  In December 2003, President Bush signed into law the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA).  SCRA was a revision of the venerable Soldiers and Sailors Civil Relief Act.  The original legislation, enacted in 1940, provided for the national defense by suspending enforcement of civil liabilities of military members to enable them to devote their full energy toward the defense needs of the nation.  With the same purpose in mind, the new law was written to clarify the language of the previous law, incorporate years of judicial decisions interpreting the law, and to recognize changes in American life since 1940.

 The SCRA covers all active duty personnel, Reserve personnel serving on active duty orders under Title 10, and Guard personnel called to active duty for more than 30 days under Title 32.  The coverage from the Act extends to all courts in the United States, all states and territories, and the District of Columbia.  SCRA provides potential benefits in the following areas:  Civil Lawsuits, Leases, and Interest Rates. 

Civil Lawsuits

  • Prevents a default judgment being entered against a military member when the member does not appear in court to answer a civil lawsuit due to military service
  • Provides the right to a military member to reopen a default judgment rendered against the member while on active duty
  • Allows a court to order a stay (delay) of proceedings, or a stay of execution of a judgment for the period of active duty service if the member’s ability to participate in the proceeding was materially affected by reason of the military service
  • Stops the application of a statute of limitations, if military service prevents participation in a suit during periods of active duty


  • Prevents eviction if military member is unable to pay rent due to military service
  • Allows a new military member to terminate a lease for a private dwelling if it was rented before entering military service
  • Creates right to terminate real property leases due to PCS orders or deployments over 90 days without the requirement of a military termination clause
  • Allows for the termination of automobile leases if the member receives PCS orders outside CONUS or deployment orders for more than 180 days

Interest Rates

  • Allows for a 6% cap on interest rates on interest-bearing debts incurred before entering active duty

This is intended to be a general introduction to some of the benefits of the SCRA.  To find out more details about the specific requirements of the Act, you should seek legal assistance. 



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Page added on: 28 September 2004