House Approves Golden, Cicilline Amendment to Protect Rights of Servicemembers
WASHINGTON — The House approved a bipartisan amendment last night to the FY2021 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) offered by Congressman Jared Golden (ME-02) and Congressman David Cicilline (RI-01). Golden and Cicilline’s provision would help servicemembers protect themselves against landlords, cable companies, and other businesses who unfairly punish servicemembers who are forced to cancel leases and other contracts when they relocate for active duty. Reps. Susan Davis (CA-53) and Guy Reschenthaler (PA-14) joined Golden and Cicilline to offer the amendment.
“Imagine running a nighttime patrol in the mountains of Afghanistan or on the streets of an Iraqi town,” said Golden. “I’m sure you can appreciate the intense pressure, the stress, the focus required to do the job right and avoid any mistake that could get you or your buddies killed. Now imagine your patrol is finished. You’ve got three hours to sleep before you need to stand guard... Instead of getting rest, you hop on a satellite phone to make a business call to the U.S…. to explain to a company why they can’t repossess the family car or foreclose on your house. Even though Congress has passed protections for servicemembers, the company insists you signed a waiver on your SCRA protections.
“Congress shouldn’t allow this to happen,” continued the congressman. “This amendment would end the use of arbitration clauses that trick servicemembers into signing away their rights under SCRA. How ridiculous that this amendment is even necessary, but sadly it is. I’ve seen it myself on deployments... it’s happened to the men and women that I served with.”
Golden and Cicilline’s provision prohibits the use of forced arbitration of disputes covered by the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA). The SCRA provides legal protections for active-duty servicemembers to ease the financial burden of services, including housing and vehicles leases, telecom contracts, and foreclosures.
To resolve disputes under SCRA, many servicemembers are sent into forced arbitration, an extra-judicial proceeding that prohibits servicemembers from taking legal action. Forced arbitration is highly favorable to employers. A 2015 study by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) found that consumers won only 20 percent of cases across six financial markets.