WASHINGTON, D.C.—Chairman John D. (Jay) Rockefeller IV (D-W.Va.) today convened a forum with Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.), Ranking Member of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, to examine illegal foreclosures against U.S. service members and their families. At the forum, Chairman Rockefeller stressed the need to get banks and other creditors to follow the law and show U.S. services members the respect they deserve when fighting for America.
Chairman Rockefeller’s remarks follow:
I would like to welcome Congressman Cummings and our other guests today to the Senate Commerce Committee hearing room.
Although this is not technically a Commerce Committee hearing, we are holding this forum here today because my colleague Mr. Cummings was not able to persuade his Republican counterparts on the House side that this issue was worthy of that committee’s time. I think it’s a good fit. This issue crosses the jurisdiction of several committees and is especially relevant to me because of my work as the past chairman of the Veterans Committee.
So I am very proud to be the hosting here. Although the debt ceiling and the deficit are central to our work in Congress right now, the way we treat the men and women of the military should always be at the top of the list.
In the Senate Commerce Committee, we tackle everything from space policy and telecommunications to transportation and manufacturing. But since I have been chairman of this Committee, I have insisted that we keep a sharp focus on consumer protection. In fact, the very first hearing I held as Chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee in 2009 looked the same issue we are discussing today—families struggling to meet their financial obligations in these tough economic times.
Too often, we forget that our soldiers are consumers too. Like other Americans, our military personnel and their families rent houses, they take out mortgages, and they have credit cards. But our soldiers also have to deal with things that Americans in civilian life can barely imagine. They deploy overseas to dangerous war zones. They endure long periods of separation from their loved ones. If they are Reservists or National Guardsmen, they have to leave their civilian jobs and lives with just a few months’ notice.
One of the basic promises we make to our soldiers is that when you make these extraordinary sacrifices, we will protect you on the home front. The law that makes this promise is called the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act. It says that if an active duty soldier gets into a dispute with his bank or his landlord, we give the soldier the benefit of the doubt.
This is not a new law. It’s been around for decades. But for some reason, many banks in our country still don’t seem to get it. We have been at war for more than ten years now in Iraq and Afghanistan, and active-duty soldiers are still getting foreclosure notices in violation of the law; their family members are still receiving harassing collection calls; and their credit cards are still being improperly cancelled.
What I hope to learn more about today is what we can do to get banks and other creditors to follow the law and show our soldiers the respect they deserve. I also want to know what we can be doing to help our soldiers understand what their rights are and use them. I look forward to the discussion today.