How to Use the Military Tuition Assistance Program

A row of graduates sit in the caps and gowns

If you’ve thought about going to college, but didn’t know if you could afford it, then the Military Tuition Assistance program may be just the benefit you need. The program is available to active duty, National Guard and Reserve Component service members. While the decision to pursue a degree may be a difficult one personally, TA can lessen your financial concerns considerably, since it now pays up to 100% of tuition expenses for semester hours costing $250 or less.

Courses and degree programs may be academic or technical and can be taken from two- or four-year institutions on-installation, off-installation or by distance learning. An accrediting body recognized by the Department of Education must accredit the institution. Your service branch pays your tuition directly to the school. Service members need to first check with an education counselor for the specifics involving TA by visiting their local installation education office or by going online to a virtual education center. Tuition assistance may be used for the following programs:

  • Vocational/technical programs
  • Undergraduate programs
  • Graduate programs
  • Independent study
  • Distance-learning programs

Eligibility

All four service branches and the U.S. Coast Guard offer financial assistance for voluntary, off-duty education programs in support of service members’ personal and professional goals. The program is open to officers, warrant officers and enlisted active-duty service personnel. In addition, members of the National Guard and Reserve Components may be eligible for TA based on their service eligibility. To be eligible for TA, an enlisted service member must have enough time remaining in service to complete the course for which he or she has applied. After the completion of a course, an officer using TA must fulfill a service obligation that runs parallel with – not in addition to – any existing service obligation.

Coverage amounts and monetary limits

The Tuition Assistance Program may fund up to 100% of your college tuition and certain fees with the following limits

  • Not to exceed $250 per semester credit hour or $166 per quarter credit hour
  • Not to exceed $4,500 per fiscal year, Oct. 1 through Sept. 30

Tuition assistance versus the Department of Veterans Affairs education benefits

While the TA program is offered by the services, the Department of Veterans Affairs administers a variety of education benefit programs. Some of the VA programs, such as the Post-9/11 Veterans Education Assistance Act of 2008, also known as the Post-9/11 GI Bill, can work well with the TA program, as it can supplement fees not covered by TA. In addition, the Post-9/11 GI Bill® funds are available to you after you leave the military. If your service ended before Jan. 1, 2013, you have 15 years to use this benefit. If your service ended on or after Jan. 1, 2013, the benefit won’t expire. The TA program is a benefit that is available only while you’re in the service.

Tuition assistance benefits and restrictions

Tuition assistance will cover the following expenses:

  • Tuition
  • Course-specific fees such as laboratory fee or online course fee

NOTE: All fees must directly relate to the specific course enrollment of the service member.

Tuition assistance will not cover the following expenses:

  • Books and course materials
  • Flight training fees
  • Taking the same course twice
  • Continuing education units, or CEUs

Keep in mind that TA will not fund your college courses, and you will have to reimburse any funds already paid, if any of the following situations occur:

  • Leaving the service before the course ends
  • Quitting the course for reasons other than personal illness, military transfer or mission requirements
  • Failing the course

Application process

Each military branch has its own TA application form and procedures. To find out how to get started, visit your local installation education center, go online to a virtual education center or click on the following links for each service branch:

Prior to your course enrollment, you may be required to develop an education plan or complete TA orientation. Be sure to keep the following important information in mind when you apply:

  • Military tuition assistance may only be used to pursue degree programs at colleges and universities in the United States that are regionally or nationally accredited by an accrediting body recognized by the U.S Department of Education. A quick way to check the accreditation of a school is by visiting the Department of Education.
  • Your service’s education center must approve your military tuition assistance before you enroll in a course.

Top-up program

The Top-up program allows funds from the Montgomery GI Bill — Active Duty or the Post-9/11 GI Bill – to be used for tuition and fees for high-cost courses that are not fully covered by TA funds.

  • Eligibility. To use Top-up, your service branch must approve you for TA. You also must be eligible for the Post-9/11 GI Bill or the Montgomery GI Bill — Active Duty.
  • Application. First apply for TA in accordance with procedures of your service branch. After you have applied for TA, you will need to complete VA Form 22-1990 to apply for Department of Veterans Affairs education benefits. The form is available online from the VA. Make sure you specify “Top-up” on the application and mail it to one of the education processing offices listed on the form.

Other supplemental funding possibilities

Aside from using the MGIB-AD or Post-9/11 GI Bill for items such as tuition and fees not covered by TA, there are other funding opportunities available to service members, including the following:

  • Federal and state financial aid. The federal government provides $150 billion per year in grants, work-study programs and federal loans to college students. The aid comes in several forms, including need-based programs such as Pell grants, subsidized Stafford Loans, Supplemental Educational Opportunity grants and federal work/study programs. You can also get low-interest loans through the federal government. Visit Federal Student Aid to find out more or complete an online application for FAFSA at no cost to you.

Power of Attorney Basics

Power of attorney paperwork

The information contained on this website is designed to educate and inform service members and their families on their personal legal affairs. Nothing contained in the website is a substitute for the competent legal advice of a licensed attorney. Service members and their families seeking legal advice should consult the staff of the nearest installation Legal Assistance Office.

A power of attorney is a written document that gives one person the authority to act on another’s behalf for any legal or economic issues for a specified time. You can tailor your powers of attorney for any situation, choosing between a general power of attorney or a special power of attorney, and whether the power of attorney is durable or not. If you’re married, both you and your spouse should designate a power of attorney prior to your deployment; assistance is available at most installation legal assistance offices.

  • General power of attorney — A general power of attorney gives the person you designate the power to perform almost any legal act on your behalf for a specified time. This can include managing bank accounts; selling, exchanging, buying or investing any assets or property; purchasing and maintaining insurance; and entering into any binding contracts. Because the authority granted is broad, give this type of power of attorney only if a special power of attorney won’t suffice and if the person you choose is trustworthy and financially responsible.
  • Special or limited power of attorney — A special or limited power of attorney gives specific powers to the designated person for a specified time. When drafting a special power of attorney, you’re required to list the particular decisions over which the designee has power.
  • Durable power of attorney — A durable power of attorney remains valid even if you become incapacitated or unable to handle your own affairs. If you don’t specify a durable power of attorney, it’ll automatically end if you’re incapacitated in the future. A general or special power of attorney can be durable with appropriate language. This eliminates the need for a court to choose a guardian and conservator to make decisions on your behalf during your incapacity.

Benefits of a power of attorney for your spouse

Providing a power of attorney to your spouse, parent or trusted friend can help ensure he or she can address whatever needs to be done on your behalf while you are away:

  • Access family finances — By providing your spouse a power of attorney, you can ensure access to your bank accounts and financial information.
  • Pay taxes and receive tax refunds — Even if you deploy, you have to file a federal and state income tax return, unless you get an extension. The Internal Revenue Service generally requires your and your spouse’s signatures to file income tax returns and to access refunds. For your spouse to be able to file a joint income tax return during your deployment without a power of attorney, you will need to complete IRS Form 2848, “Power of Attorney and Declaration of Representation.”
  • Receive emergency financial assistance — Each of the service branches offers emergency financial assistance through their respective relief organizations.
  • Receive government housing — If your family is on the waiting list for government housing when you deploy, you should notify the installation housing office before your deployment. If you give your spouse power of attorney — and give a copy to the installation housing office — before your deployment, your spouse and children may be able to accept and move into government housing.
  • Enroll newborn children in the Defense Enrollment Eligibility Reporting System — TRICARE Prime automatically covers your newborn baby for 120 days. To continue coverage after 120 days, enroll him or her through the installation ID card center. Your spouse must have either a general or a special power of attorney.

Terminating powers of attorney

You can revoke a power of attorney at any time as long as you’re mentally competent. When drafting the original document, you may consider limiting its length so it automatically revokes upon your return from deployment. To revoke a power of attorney before its expiration, you can consult a legal assistance attorney to execute a revocation.

The information contained on this website is designed to educate and inform service members and their families on their personal legal affairs. Nothing contained in the website is a substitute for the competent legal advice of a licensed attorney. Service members and their families seeking legal advice should consult the staff of the nearest installation Legal Assistance Office.

Sending a Military Care Package: What You Need to Know

Service member smiles as he reads a holiday card received in a care package.

Military care packages deliver a welcome piece of home to your service member while they’re away – whether that’s your child, fiancé, sibling or friend. They help both of you stay connected despite distance or duty.

Here are some appropriate ways to send those care packages to your service member throughout their time in the military.

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Care packages during boot camp? Letters are better.

When your recruit first left for basic training, you may have noticed that they only took a few things with them. This is because the military provides everything recruits need during boot camp, from meals and housing to basics like toothbrushes or socks. Duplicates from home are stored and only retrieved after graduation.

That’s why most service branches discourage care packages for recruits in boot camp. In fact, receiving an unauthorized care package may result in a punishment from the drill instructor for their entire unit. So, it’s better to wait until your recruit finishes basic before you send any packages.

Ordinary mail, however, is always allowed. A letter from home can encourage your recruit during the demands of basic training.

If you do send a letter, use a plain piece of paper and an envelope. It’s okay to send photos, but don’t do things like decorating the envelope – it could cause unwanted attention for your recruit. Plan on two weeks for letter delivery, so time letters to arrive before graduation. Think twice about texting, sending digital cards or email, as your service member will have very limited use of a cell phone, if at all. Use of cell phones is dictated by service branch and drill sergeants.

After boot camp is the time to send military care packages.

Service members who have finished basic training or are on deployment generally have more freedom to receive care packages. Sending a military care package is a great way to show your appreciation and love for your service member and all they do for our country.

If you are a parent or other relative, consider sending the music, toiletries, foods and treats your service member likes best. If you are in a relationship with a service member, think about sending notes, cards and small items that remind them how much you care. And, of course, photos from home are always welcome.

Here are some military care package ideas that are appreciated by service members:

  • Necessities, such as sunblock, socks, underwear, flip-flops, lip balm and powder
  • Snacks, including chips, salsa, nuts, cookies, beef jerky, non-melting candy and trail mix in packaging that isn’t easily crushed. Drink mixes in single-serving packets are also a good addition.
  • Homemade foods: The most popular items are cookies and “cake in a jar,” which is a cake baked in a canning jar. Again, the key is sturdy packaging to prevent crushing.
  • Games, such as playing cards/poker chips, crosswords or puzzle books.
  • Stationery is a must if you want to receive any letters from your service member. Send paper, envelopes, address labels and pens, but skip the stamps. They won’t need them.
  • Photos and notes that show your support and affection. Maybe get a daily tear-off calendar and write an encouraging note on each page.

Once you know what you want to send, follow these tips to make sure your military care package arrives in good condition:

  • Seal everything: Individually seal items in plastic bags with zip locks, if possible, to protect items from the elements or to keep them from leaking out.
  • Use sturdy packaging: The best packaging is a free Military Care Kit from the U.S. Postal Service, which includes priority mail boxes, tape, custom forms and address labels. The packaging is free, but the postage is not.
  • Provide accurate shipping information: Include your service member’s unit, last and first name, title, DPO/FPO/APO and full ZIP code.
  • Take advantage of reduced postage for military mail: You only have to provide standard domestic postage on mail going to an APO or FPO address. For example, if you pay $5 to mail a package in the continental United States, it costs the same to mail it overseas as long as you have an APO / FPO / DPO address and associated ZIP code.
  • Complete the customs forms: You need to fill out customs forms for any shipping outside the United States. Customs forms are included with Military Care Kits or can be found on the USPS website.
  • Consider shipping time: Most care packages can make it to the Middle East in about two weeks, but some take longer. For holidays, allow about five weeks for delivery.
  • Be careful what you send: Check the post office’s prohibited items list to keep items from being rejected. Remember that sometimes packages from home get opened by someone before your service member, so don’t send anything you don’t want strangers to see. Also, don’t send things that are valuable or can’t be replaced – sometimes packages get lost.

Care packages are always good, but sometimes a service member may need a bit more, whether it’s help with taxes as Tax Day approaches or talking with someone who can listen. Do you know that active-duty, National Guard and reserve service members have access to a wide range of individualized consultations, coaching and other services? This includes relationship and peer-to-peer counseling to tax preparation and financial services to wellness coaches and more. It’s all free and available 24/7 through Military OneSource.

Marine Study Finds EFMP Enrollment Does Not Negatively Impact Military Careers

Marine is meritoriously promoted by staff sergeant.

Good news: Enrollment in the Exceptional Family Member Program, or EFMP, does not negatively affect career progress and promotion, according to a study conducted by the Marine Corps Operational Analysis Division.

The study compared the individual career progress of those enrolled in EFMP to non-enrollees, and confirmed that the program succeeds in its mission to support individual, family and unit readiness without impeding Marines’ career progression.

Purpose of the EFMP study

A 2011 Naval Audit Service Report found that 30 percent of Marines believed that enrollment in the Exceptional Family Member Program negatively affected a service member’s career progression and promotion, with a substantial negative stigma associated with enrollment.

Therefore, a study was needed to examine whether there was any evidence that validated the stereotype that Marines who enrolled in EFMP would be held back in their military careers.

Using the most rigorous analysis available, the study determined there is little evidence of any negative impact on career progression and promotion due to EFMP enrollment.

Jennifer S., EFMP Section Head for Marine and Family Programs Division

The study compared 20,692 EFMP participants from March 1989 through December 2015 to nonparticipants who, at the time of enrollment, were an exact match in age, sex, race, years of service, grade and occupational field. The team then compared these enrolled and non-enrolled Marines by career length, high grade achieved and time to achieve high grade. They found:

  • EFMP-enrolled Marines have a longer career on average than their non-enrolled peers. This was true for both enlisted Marines and officers.
  • More than 80 percent of the enlisted EFMP participants achieved a grade that was higher than or equal to the most likely grade of their matched counterparts.
  • More than 60 percent of the enlisted EFMP participants with a high grade equal to their peers reached that grade in the same amount of time or shorter amount of time.

Ultimately, this study found that EFMP enrollment did not negatively impact career length, time to promotion and end grade achievements. In fact, enrolled Marines were more likely on average to have longer careers, with promotions achieved more quickly, than their peers who were not enrolled in EFMP.

You can read the full PDF report at the Manpower and Reserve Affairs website. Learn more about Military OneSource’s Exceptional Family Member Program, as well as other military services that can help you and your family maintain mission readiness.

Call for Back-Up With EFMP ROC

The Exceptional Family Member Resources, Options and Consultations, or EFMP ROC, helps military families with special needs access resources and additional military and community support. Find out more about how EFMP ROC supports families just like yours.

5 Steps to Prepare for Higher Education

Service member propped up on truck reading

Perhaps you’ve decided to pick up some valuable knowledge. Maybe you’re leaving the service and need to re-create yourself. No matter why you’re pursuing higher education, you need a game plan — a course of action to get you from today to that moment you walk across the stage holding your diploma in hand. Here are some practical steps to take.

Step one: Contact the Voluntary Education Program

Before you get buried in college brochures, speak with an education professional through the Voluntary Education Program. An education professional can help guide you through the planning and paying for your education, as well as eligibility requirements. Find the right contact information below depending on your service:

Step two: Choose a college

Deciding which college to attend is much easier when you have the right information. As a service member, you have access to useful resources such as the College Navigator, a free online tool from the National Center for Education Statistics. The College Navigator provides information on more than 7,000 postsecondary education institutions, so you can compare schools’ tuition, financial aid, accreditation information, graduation and retention rates and more.

TA DECIDE is another helpful tool for comparing schools and programs. Designed for participants of the Department of Defense Military Tuition Assistance Program, it provides education costs and outcomes, as well as information about other military students who are participating in the tuition assistance program.

Step three: Take your college admission exams

Get ready for some studying even before college begins. Most colleges and universities require admission exams with your application, such as the SAT Reasoning Test, the SAT Subject Tests, the American College Testing (ACT) Readiness Assessment, Graduate Record Examinations (GRE), Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT) and the General Education Development Test.

The Defense Activity for Non-Traditional Education Support, or DANTES, can help you prepare for enrollment and cover the cost of some academic tests. DANTES also offers college prep resources that can help you prepare for these admission exams, sharpen study skills, and identify your interests and aptitudes in choosing an area of study or career path. Visit DANTES to learn more or to contact a counselor.

Step four: Convert your military experience to college credit

The tests you endured in combat can count just as much as quizzes in a classroom. The Joint Services Transcript converts your military experience into civilian college credit, providing documented evidence to colleges and universities of professional military education, training and occupation experiences. The Joint Services Transcript is a collaborative transcript program that replaces previous transcript programs, making it easier for colleges to read and recommend credits.

Step five: Understand your financing options

As a service member, you have several options that can help fund your schooling — so that you can concentrate on studying, not paying the bills. The education consultants at Military OneSource can help you identify grants and other kinds of assistance for which you are eligible. Here is a sampling of programs and loans available:

  • Military tuition assistance — provided by each service branch, offering up to $4,500 of assistance per fiscal year
  • Montgomery GI Bill® and MGIB Tuition Top-Up Programs — funded by the Department of Veterans Affairs
  • Tax credits and deductions — such as the American Opportunity Tax Credit and the Lifetime Learning Credit
  • Federal grants and loans — such as the Federal Pell Grant, Federal Perkins Loans, Stafford Loans and Federal Supplemental Education Opportunities Grant.

You’re just a few steps away from achieving your education goals. Remember to reach out to your network of support, including Military OneSource education consultants. You may also want to contact an education professional through your service’s Voluntary Education Program.

7 Small Steps Military Families Can Take to Save Money

Mother and Father shopping with son

Saving takes the kind of discipline, time and a commitment that military families already have. These seven steps will help you start now to gain control over your financial security.

Pay Raise for 2020

Military personnel are receiving a 3.1% increase in their basic pay in 2020. This raise is for both active-duty and reserve service members.

  • Examine your monthly cash flow to see just how much is coming in and going out. Start by checking your pay on the basic pay tables and on myPay. Then look at your expenses. What does your housing payment look like? How much do you spend on car loans, household bills, and entertainment costs?
  • Track your spending habits for one month on your smartphone or in a small notebook.
  • Write down your short-term financial goals. It’s a good idea to start building an emergency savings account, reducing your debt or saving for a family vacation.
  • Write down your long-term financial goals. Home buying, saving for retirement and contributing to a college savings plan all apply. It’s never too soon to start.
  • Prioritize and set savings goals for each item. If you need help, consult a personal financial manager on your installation or call Military OneSource at 800-342-9647 to reach a financial counselor. OCONUS/International? Click here for calling options.
  • Check out Military Saves’ countless resources and tools to help you create accurate figures.
  • Don’t overthink it. Make saving automatic by using allotments or a scheduled bank transfer each month.

With the help of your personal financial managers and Military OneSource financial counselors, you’re in a strong position to start saving for your future.

Housing for Your New Service Member: Living in the Barracks

Service members playing a game of pool

During basic training and initial job training, all enlisted service members are required to live in the barracks. When service members move to their permanent duty station, only single members are required to live in unaccompanied housing, or barracks. Living in the barracks is also dependent on your loved one’s rank as well as the availability of space on each base.

Every service branch differs on what rank is required to live in unaccompanied housing:

  • Army and Marine Corps require single service members with pay grades E-5 and below to live in the barracks.
  • Navy requires single service members with pay grades E-4 and below to live in the barracks.
  • Air Force requires single service members with pay grades E-4 and below and with less than three years of service to live in the barracks, or dorms as they like to call them.

The Relocation Assistance Program or housing office can help single service members not required to live on base sort through their options. If your service member has dependents, each installation has a housing office where service members can find out what housing options are available to them and their families.

As your service member climbs the ranks, their living situation will change over time. After living in the barracks, they will have the option to live in military housing on base, military communities off base or choose to make their own living arrangements off base.

A closer look inside barracks and dorms

While you may feel a little out of touch with their military life, your service member can share with you their experiences of living on an installation and in barracks for the first time. Here are some things you can expect for your service member while living in the barracks:

  • Sharing a bedroom: Depending on the base, your service member may have to share a bedroom. Typically, it is large enough to fit two twin size beds, two desks and two closets. There are cases when a bedroom may hold more than two people. Sometimes, a service member will have a single bedroom and share a common area with another member.
  • Sharing a bathroom: Whether your service member has a single room or shares with others, they will typically share a bathroom in the barracks. At times there may be an in-suite bathroom or a community bathroom that is shared by a floor of service members. In some cases, the Air Force dorms will have private bathrooms for airmen.
  • Visitors allowed: After your loved one finishes training and moves to their first permanent duty station, they are typically free to have visitors. You can explore the base with your service member and in most cases, you can visit their rooms. While visitors cannot stay the night in the barracks, there are accommodations on base, if you choose, for visiting family members and friends, and your service member can stay the night with you.
  • Mail room: Mail does not go directly to service members. All mail is received and controlled by personnel in the mail room. Some bases have mail rooms located in the barracks, and others have a mail room located in a separate building. Typically, service members can access letters any time, but packages are only available for pick up during business hours.
  • No extra allowances: When your service member lives on base, they will not receive housing or food allowance. Instead, members only receive base pay and use their ID cards to eat for free in the dining facility on base.
  • Weekly room checks: Service members have their rooms checked for cleanliness at least once a week. They are also checked for unauthorized items such as candles and certain chemicals that may be considered hazardous. Rooms are expected to meet a certain standard during each check.
  • Community events: In barracks living, there are many events for your service member to attend. Of course, there are holiday events as well as movie and game nights to get them out of their rooms.
  • Recreation and entertainment: Each installation offers service members a wide range of recreation, sporting and fitness, arts and crafts, entertainment offerings and more through the Morale, Welfare and Recreation programs. Some installations even offer auto and other classes.

While there are high expectations for cleanliness and some restrictions, barracks living can be similar to apartment or dorm living, allowing service members quiet space to decompress, hang out with others, play videogames, and more.

To learn more about your service members new installation and the housing accommodations, go to MilitaryINSTALLTIONS, search by an installation and click on that base’s housing information.

Budgeting and Saving – The Essentials

Man in a military uniform shows a stack of twenty dollar bills.

In the military, you learn to prepare for the future using the tools at your disposal. When it comes to saving money, the military provides several tools so you can build a secure financial future. The more money you save, the more prepared you will be for opportunities or unexpected events that come your way. You may want to buy a new car, help your children pay for college or start contributing to your retirement. Military OneSource provides the resources and information to help you master the skills of budgeting and saving so that you can build financial security.

Start saving with these steps:

Track your expenses.

You may be surprised at how small daily costs can add up. Examine your monthly cash flow to see how much is coming in and going out. What does your housing payment look like? How much do you spend on car loans, household bills and entertainment costs? To get help with tracking your expenses, there are multiple apps you can download for free There are also many comprehensive software programs available.

Relevant Articles:

Relevant Resources:

Live within your means.

Get on the right financial track by tracking your expenses and deciding the best ways to allocate your paycheck for long-term financial success. You’ll find ways to successfully manage your budget, great (even some easy) ways to save money and steps to take to help you live within a budget, while managing to squirrel away some savings.

Relevant Articles:

Relevant Resources:

Reduce expenses.

There are many ways to reduce expenses and save money. Start with using military discounts, reducing energy use, couponing and tapping into Department of Defense travel services. Consider doing home repairs and maintenance yourself or swap services or trade time with a neighbor.

Relevant Articles:

Relevant Resources:

Save during deployment.

With deployment comes some additional cash, providing a good opportunity to save money and work toward financial security. Set savings goals that will make the most of your special payments. Decide how much you need to save each pay period to reach your goal. Make your savings goal official by taking a pledge with the Military Saves campaign.

Relevant Articles:

Relevant Resources:

Servicemembers Civil Relief Act

Service member using notarizer

The Servicemembers Civil Relief Act provides financial and legal protections for active-duty service members, including National Guard and reserve members, and their families. Because details of the SCRA are complicated, service members and their families are encouraged to contact the nearest legal assistance office if they need help meeting their financial obligations.

Learn more about the important SCRA benefits to take full advantage of the law’s protections for you and your family members.

Get free legal and financial guidance.

SCRA provides both financial and legal protections for service members and their families. If you feel SCRA applies to you, contact help at no cost.

Free Legal Help

Free Financial Help

Overview of SCRA Protections

The SCRA offers protections for service members and their families in many different areas ranging from mortgages to life insurance. It’s important to get professional advice on how the SCRA applies to individual circumstances. For example, the SCRA frequently makes certain rights available conditional upon whether your ability to meet certain obligations is “materially affected” by military service. Whether you are “materially affected” can mean different things in different situations.

  • Reduced interest rates — Creditors must reduce the interest rate on debts to 6% for liabilities incurred before you entered active duty. If the debt is a mortgage, the reduced rate extends for one year after active-military service. The reduced interest rate applies to credit card debts, car loans, business obligations, some student loans and other debts, as well as fees, service charges and renewal fees. Creditors can challenge this provision if they believe your ability to pay a rate higher than 6% is not materially affected by your military service. 
  • Postponement of foreclosures — No sale, foreclosure or seizure of property for nonpayment of a preservice mortgage debt is valid if made during or within nine months after your service on active duty, unless carrying out a valid court order. This can provide tremendous protections from foreclosure in the many states permitting foreclosures to proceed without involving the courts. If you miss a mortgage payment, you should contact your legal assistance office immediately.
  • Deferred income taxes — The Internal Revenue Service and state and local taxing authorities must defer your income taxes due before or during your military service if your ability to pay the income tax is materially affected by military service. No interest or penalty can be added because of this type of deferral.
  • Eviction prevention — You and your family cannot be evicted for nonpayment of rent without a court order regardless of the language of your rental agreement or local laws. This protection applies to residences where the monthly rent is below a certain amount. Contact your nearest legal assistance office for the most up-to-date figures. If your ability or your family’s ability to pay rent is materially affected by your military service, you may apply to the court, and the court must either grant a 90-day delay in eviction proceedings or adjust obligations under the lease in a way agreeable to all parties.
  • Protection against default judgments — If, while on active duty, a civil action, a civil proceeding or an administrative proceeding is filed against you, the judge must appoint a lawyer to represent you in your absence. The court must grant a delay, or stay, of at least 90 days if it determines there may be a defense to the action and the defense cannot be presented without your attendance.
  • Postponed civil court matters — If you cannot participate in a civil court action or administrative proceeding because of your military service, you can request a 90-day delay, or stay, in the proceeding. You are automatically entitled to this delay if you follow all of the requirements. The judge, magistrate or hearing officer can grant an additional 90-day stay. Proceedings may include actions for divorce, child paternity and support cases, and foreclosure proceedings. This protection does not apply to any criminal court or criminal administrative proceedings.
  • Protection for small-business owners — If you own a small business, your nonbusiness assets and military pay are protected from creditors while you are on active duty. This applies to business debts or obligations.
  • Termination of residential lease agreements — You may terminate your residential lease, along with other types of leases including agricultural, professional and business, by delivering a written notice of termination. This applies if you entered into a lease and then started military service, or entered into a lease during military service and then received permanent change of station orders. It also applies when you have orders to deploy with a military unit or as an individual in support of a military operation for not less than 90 days. You must provide a written notice of termination and a copy of your military orders, hand-delivered or by return-receipt mail, to the property owner.
  • Termination of automobile leases — You may terminate an automobile lease under certain specific circumstances. Here are some examples of circumstances: You signed the lease agreement before being called to active duty, signed a lease agreement and then received permanent change-of-station orders outside the continental United States, or signed a lease agreement and then received orders to deploy.
  • Termination of phone service — You may request termination of cell phone service or phone exchange service if you entered a contract before receiving military orders to relocate for not less than 90 days to a location that does not support the contract.
  • Prevention of repossession of property — Property cannot be repossessed for nonpayment or a contract terminated for any payment gaps prior to or during your military service without a court order.
  • Life insurance coverage protection — Life insurance companies cannot terminate coverage or require payment of additional premiums if you are in military service. Increases in premiums based on age in individual term insurance is not covered by SCRA. An insurer also may not limit or restrict coverage for any activity required by military service.
  • Suspension of professional liability insurance — Professionals in health care, legal services or another profession, as determined by the Secretary of Defense, called to active duty may suspend their professional liability insurance policy by written request to the insurance carrier. Premiums for suspended insurance do not have to be paid, and any premiums paid by an individual while on active duty must be refunded. To reinstate suspended insurance, the individual must send a request to the insurance carrier within 30 days of release from active duty.
  • Voting rights in your home state — Like your tax residency, your residency for state, federal or local voting purposes is unaffected by your absence from the state due to military service. Similar protections exist for spouses.

Waivers of rights under SCRA

It is possible to waive your rights under the SCRA. Only written waivers signed during or after a service member’s period of military service are effective. If you sign a waiver of your SCRA rights before you enter military service, the waiver will be considered invalid. Whether you are considering signing a waiver document at any time, either before, during or after military service, it is extremely important to read the document carefully and sign only after obtaining the advice of a qualified attorney.