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Military Members Facing Repossessions After Returning From War

By    |   Tuesday, 17 March 2015 07:20 PM

Many members of the U.S. Armed Forces are returning home from the battlefield to find their vehicles repossessed — and with little recourse.

Army National Guard Sgt. Charles Beard returned home to California after serving in Iraq to find that his car was repossessed, even though it is prohibited by federal law, which says that banks cannot repossess vehicles or foreclose on homes without a court order, The New York Times is reporting.

Beard's only option in the situation was to dispute the matter in mandatory arbitration, after he attempted to file a lawsuit, which was tossed by a judge.

Arbitration often gives the companies the advantage because typical rules that apply to a courtroom don't apply in arbitration, and the arbiters are often hand-selected by the company. Also, the customers aren't able to appeal the outcome.

"Mandatory arbitration threatens to take these laws and basically tear them up," said Col. John S. Odom Jr., a retired Air Force lawyer who now works at a private practice in Shreveport, Louisiana.

Officials at the Department of Defense told Congress that "service members should maintain full legal recourse" and not be forced into arbitration.

Toward that end, lawmakers introduced a bipartisan measure aimed at giving troops permission to opt-out of arbitration agreements.

But the bill was opposed by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association, which is a major trade group from Wall Street.

The industry groups argue that banks try to make arbitration a simple process, but some say that there is fear that if arbitration becomes optional for military members, it will eventually trickle down to other consumers.

While the bill didn't make it to the Senate floor last year, South Carolina Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham, who introduced the measure along with Rhode Island Democratic Sen. Jack Reed, said he plans to introduce the bill again.

According to the Times, court records show that the Service Members Civil Relief Act is widely violated.

Beard said that it was more than four years before there was a ruling on his vehicle from the arbiter, in which it was decided that his vehicle was wrongfully possessed and he was awarded $6,500.

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Many members of the U.S. Armed Forces are returning home from the battlefield to find their vehicles repossessed — and with little recourse.
military, members, repossessions, return home, cars, against law, court, bill, congress
Tuesday, 17 March 2015 07:20 PM
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