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Bill would protect service members from debt collectors

A photo of military boots during the deployment ceremony for the Alabama Army National Guard 128th Military Police Company leaving for Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. (Bob Gathany/HVT/TNS)

The U.S. Senate voted Wednesday to include legislation offering members of the military new protections from debt collectors.

The vote included the legislation in the latest National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). It will need to be reconciled with the House’s version of the annual defense spending and policy bill before being sent to President Biden for his signature.

The Senate voted to add the legislation by a vote of 95-2, Sen. Sherrod Brown’s office said.

Brown is a co-sponsor of Sen. Raphael Warnock’s “Fair Debt Collection Practices for Servicemembers Act,” with Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas; and Thom Tillis and Ted Budd, both Republicans from North Carolina. Warnock is a Democrat from Georgia and Brown, also a Democrat, is Ohio’s senior senator.

The amendment would place restrictions on the types of communications debt collectors can use to contact servicemembers.

“Servicemembers are routinely threatened and harassed by debt collectors, adding to the stress of our military families,” Brown said in a statement. “The women and men who serve our country sacrifice enough. They shouldn’t have their service used against them by predatory debt collectors.”

The bill would: — Prohibit debt collectors from making threats of rank reduction, revocation of security clearance, or prosecution under the Uniform Code of Military Justice; — Requires the Government Accountability Office to report the impact this amendment will have on military readiness and national security, including the extent covered members with security clearances would be impacted by uncollected debt.

The House passed similar legislation in 2021. However, similar provisions are not in the latest NDAA the House passed in mid-July.

In coming weeks, House and Senate representatives will hammer out a compromise bill that seeks to reconcile aspects defense policy bills passed by both chambers.

The Department of Defense issued an instruction in February 2022 that held that a debt collector may not contact third parties, such as commanding officers, without a court order or a debtor’s consent.


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