Who Mandates Enhanced SCRA Benefits: A Quick Guide

Being a service member of the United States Armed Forces is both a privilege and a responsibility. Service members are required to perform their duties the best way they can. That’s why laws like the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA) are in place to ensure they can focus on serving the nation.

The SCRA is a federal law that provides legal and financial protections to active duty service members. SCRA protections extend to the members of the Air Force, Army, Navy, Marine Corps, and National Guard. Members of the Reserve component called to active duty and active duty commissioned officers of the Public Health Service or the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration are also covered by the SCRA.

The SCRA offers various protections, including an interest rate reduction of 6%, protection from eviction, tax benefits, the ability to terminate a lease agreement without penalties, protection from foreclosure proceedings, and termination of automobile lease agreements.

Like any other law, the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act has been amended throughout the years for the benefit of service members. But exactly are these enhanced protections, and who mandates them? Let’s find out.

judge striking the gavel

Explaining the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act

The SCRA is a federal law that helps ease the legal and financial burdens of military personnel and their family members affected by their active duty service. This law was designed to empower active duty members through financial and legal protections so they can focus on their federal active duty.

The most common SCRA protections enacted include the following:

  • Ability to terminate a residential lease agreement. Service members can terminate a residential and business property lease agreement signed before entering active duty service.
  • Automobile lease cancellation. People rendering active duty military service are permitted to terminate an automobile lease if called to active duty service for at least 180 days after signing the lease agreement. This also applies to people who get orders for a permanent change of duty station abroad.
  • Credit rating protection. Lenders cannot deny or revoke credit, change loan terms, or refuse to grant credit to service members.
  • Judicial relief. An active duty military personnel mandated to attend a scheduled court hearing can request a postponement of civil court and civil administrative proceedings for a minimum of 90 days. This protection does not cover criminal proceedings, only civil proceedings. Moreover, a service member can request a case re-open and default judgments set aside if they failed to appear in a court proceeding because of active duty service.
  • Protection from eviction. A landlord isn’t allowed to evict a service member and their dependents if the active duty service member rents a home or apartment and the rent doesn’t exceed a certain amount. This is unless the landlord secures a court order.
  • Relief from foreclosure proceedings and forced sales. Suppose an active duty service member cannot pay a mortgage or meet the purchase terms or installment payment. The real estate or vehicle may not be foreclosed without a court order.
  • Six percent limit on interest rates. Active duty members and their spouses can request an interest rate reduction on any loans signed before they began active duty service. The maximum annual interest rate is 6% for service members to meet their financial obligations.
  • State tax relief. If a service member moves states because of deployment orders, that person’s domicile or state of legal residence for tax purposes remains the same.

What are the Enhanced SCRA Benefits?

amended SCRA benefits

Like any other law, the SCRA has been amended and enhanced for the benefit of active-duty military members. Here are fundamental changes that help the service members focus on military service:

  • Expanded coverage for contract termination. As of January 2023, the coverage for contract termination has been expanded. This SCRA protection now extends to fitness programs, gym or fitness center memberships, and home security services. This protection also covers dependents that accompany service members on relocation.
  • Residency. The new SCRA protections allow service members and their spouses to elect a domicile for their taxes. Before, military service members were protected from state income tax based only on their duty station but were also limited in their ability to change their residence.Because of this update, service members can choose between their residence, spouse’s residence, or permanent duty station as their domicile.
  • Utilization of professional certificates and licenses. As of January 2023, the US Congress has mandated that service members and their spouses can utilize their professional certificates and licenses when they relocate because of military orders under certain circumstances. The only exception to this SCRA benefit is a license for practicing law.To activate this particular SCRA benefit, the applicant must provide a copy of the order to the licensing authority in the new jurisdiction. They should be in good standing with the jurisdiction they were formerly part of and have been actively using their license for the last two years.

The difference between the original SCRA protections and the enhanced ones is that the latter allows added flexibility and expansion of covered institutions. Moreover, the improved SCRA protections empower eligible people with the ability to lessen their financial obligations and other problems.

Eligibility Criteria for Enhanced Benefits

SCRA rights, including the enhanced ones, extend to the following eligible people:

  • Active duty commissioned National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration or Public Health Service officers;
  • Active duty service members of the Coast Guard, Marine Corps, Air Force and Army;
  • National Guard component members mobilized under federal orders for over 30 consecutive days, and
  • Reserve component members called to active duty.

Some SCRA rights may extend to the service member’s spouse and dependents. However, these people are required to submit additional requirements as proof that SCRA protections cover them. Individuals with a valid power of attorney for the service member may exercise the service member’s SCRA rights.

It should be highlighted that dependents may include the service member’s spouse, children, and other people that the service member cares for. Dependents rely on the service member for at least half of their financial support for at least 180 days before the active duty status period started.

SCRA rights are enacted when the service member enters active duty military service. SCRA protections are activated for Reserve components once they receive specific military orders.

Who Mandates Enhanced SCRA Benefits?

As per the SCRA, the Attorney General of the Department of Justice is authorized to file a federal lawsuit against any person or entity that violates service members’ SCRA rights. This is as long as the service members meet the eligibility requirements and the SCRA conditions are met.

The Civil Rights division of the Department of Justice is mandated to enforce the SCRA benefits. This entity ensures that service members and their dependents are granted their protections. This institution also ensures that affected entities and people adhere to SCRA rights.

The benefits granted to service members aren’t limited to the ones mandated by the SCRA. Other institutions like banks and other private companies voluntarily provide enhanced benefits to service members. This is provided that the service member can present evidence that they’re on active duty service.

The Process to Apply for SCRA Benefits

Unfortunately, no singular form informs all creditors and companies that they must respect SCRA rights. To properly invoke SCRA benefits, service members and their dependents must obtain and submit specific documentation and send these documents to the particular institution.

Here’s a quick step-by-step guide for one’s reference:

  1. Gather all relevant documents. The most vital part of enacting one’s SCRA rights is getting a copy of the active-duty orders from the military. This may be requested from the applicant’s military branch office.
  2. Submit a written notice. The applicant should submit a written notice detailing which SCRA protection that person wants to be activated. Each letter should be customized for every recipient and the particular SCRA benefit requested. Each person or entity may choose how to receive these messages in writing. This is why it should be ensured that the letter arrives at the correct location. Service members should be aware that phone calls do not suffice as a notice because the notice should be submitted formally.
  3. Provide proof of one’s active duty status. The applicant must prove that they’re on active duty military service. The easiest way is to get a copy of active-duty orders from the federal organization or military branch they serve. A letter from one’s commanding officer with an official letterhead and contact details may suffice. The letter should specify when the service member began active duty service.


protections provided by the SCRA

SCRA benefits, including the enhanced ones, can greatly help service members and their dependents. They must know their rights and take the proper steps to ensure that they take advantage of the protections provided by the SCRA. Explore the Military Verification website further for more information on life in the United States military.


Who is eligible for SCRA? 

The SCRA covers active duty commissioned National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration or Public Health Service officers, active duty service members of the Coast Guard, Marine Corps, Air Force, and Army, National Guard component members mobilized under federal orders for over 30 consecutive days, and reserve component members called to active duty. Select provisions also affect military spouses and other dependents.

What does SCRA stand for?

The SCRA stands for Servicemembers Civil Relief Act. This law used to be called the Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Civil Relief Act.

What are the enhanced SCRA benefits?

The enhanced SCRA benefits cover expanded coverage for contract termination, residency, and utilization of professional certificates and licenses. These benefits improve the original provisions of the SCRA.

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