Relief act could have big effect

Published 12:00 am Sunday, January 4, 2004

The mainstream media is fickle. Some of the items that effect a small minority of the country get tons of press while truly significant acts on occasion are relegated to the very back of the paper, the Saturday morning newscast or mention by a radio commentator at 2AM on a Thursday.

Recently, President Bush signed the &uot;Service members Civil Relief Act.&uot; The law didn’t get a lot of press and Dan Rather didn’t talk about it. Yet the impact on residents right here in Suffolk, Smithfield and Franklin could be considerable.

The new legislation is intended to help ease economic and legal burdens placed on reserve members of the five services called to active duty in Operation Iraqi Freedom. The law updates and strengthens current civil protections enacted over 60 years during World War II.


Email newsletter signup

Some readers will complain that &uot;extra&uot; benefits for reserve service members are a waste. These members willingly volunteered. They knew that extended deployments were always part of the deal. Many students, for example, joined for the education benefits, getting their weekend drills in with little thought to actual deployment. All this is true, but we live in a different time. With active strength down considerably from the high-water mark of the Reagan White House reliance on the reserve will become a new standard. The country must allow provide a &uot;cushion&uot; to allow these citizen-soldiers some relief.

What else does the new law provide?

nExpand current law that protects serviceman and their families from eviction from housing while on active duty due to non-payment of rent of $1,200 or less.

nProvide a service member who receives permanent change of orders or is deployed to a new location for 90 days or more the ability to terminate a lease.

nClarifies and restates existing protection which caps interest rates on credit cards at 6 percent

nUpdates life insurance protection.

The &uot;Service member Civil Relief Act&uot; is a small step forward in supporting America’s citizen-soldiers.