WASHINGTON (AP) - The House on Wednesday updated a 1940 law to extend legal protections to military personnel who may encounter financial difficulties because of their service.
Among the provisions in the legislation, passed 424-0, a service member whose military duties affect his or her ability to pay back a debt incurred before entering the military would have the debt's interest rate capped at 6 percent.
Active duty members with permanent change of station orders or who are being deployed for more than 90 days would be allowed to terminate housing leases, and eviction notices could be delayed for at least 90 days.
The bill, which now goes to the Senate for consideration, also ensures that states may not use the military compensation of a non-resident service member to increase the tax liability imposed on other income earned by the service member or spouse.
"With hundreds of thousands of soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines still on active duty in Iraq and Afghanistan today, it is important that we lessen the burdens they and their loved ones may face at home as a result of their service," said Rep. Christopher Smith, R-N.J., chief sponsor of the legislation.
The measure would extend eviction protection, which now applies to leases of less than $1,200 a month, to leases under $1,700. It also protects against the lapse of life insurance policies when an individual enters military service. The life insurance coverage level would be raised from $10,000 to $250,000.
The bill updates and strengthens the Soldiers' and Sailors' Civil Relief Act of 1940.
It is one of several bills moving through Congress to relieve the financial burdens of reservists called to active duty and other military personnel in a period of heightened military activities related to the war against terrorism and the war in Iraq. The House and Senate are currently trying to find common ground on legislation giving tax breaks to military personnel in such areas as home sales, travel expenses and death benefits.
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