Commentary

Protect service members from predatory corporations

Some of you who have served downrange will recognize the following: You’re running a nighttime patrol in the mountains of Afghanistan or on the streets of an Iraqi town. You feel intense pressure and stress, but know you must stay focused to avoid deadly mistakes.

Afterwards, you have three hours to sleep before you need to stand guard for an hour. Instead of getting rest, you make a satellite business call to the U.S. Your spouse is fighting to explain to a company why they can’t repossess the family car or turn a bill over to debt collectors while you’re deployed. Despite Congress protecting service members from this type of behavior under the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA), the company insists you waived your SCRA protections. Sadly, I have seen this happen to fellow service members. It’s wrong and Congress shouldn’t allow it.

Deceitful lenders take advantage of service members by signing them to leases, car loans, cellphones, and other contracts that use the fine print to trick them into waiving their rights under the law and the protections they deserve. That fine print often includes forced arbitration.

Forced arbitration is a secretive, rigged system outside of the traditional legal system in which service members have very little chance at achieving a favorable outcome when their rights are violated. Predatory lenders are taking advantage of service members, breaking the law and getting away with it.

Congress should take immediate action to protect members of the military. The House of Representatives passed amendments fashioned after The Justice for Servicemembers Act which would ban forced arbitration for service members, as a part of the annual National Defense Authorization Act. There is also a bipartisan Justice for Servicemembers Act in the Senate. Please consider calling your senator to ask them to cosponsor.

U.S. Rep. Jared Golden is a Marine veteran who represent’s Maine’s 2nd District.

Editor’s note: This is an Op-Ed and as such, the opinions expressed are those of the author. If you would like to respond, or have an editorial of your own you would like to submit, please contact Military Times managing editor Howard Altman, haltman@militarytimes.com.

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