If you’re a veteran or an active-duty military member, thank you for your service!
Service members sacrifice their lives for the good of our country. And the US government, to show its appreciation, has enacted several laws that protect the civil rights of these heroes. These laws aim to make the lives of our servicemen and women while on duty and after they return to their civilian life a bit easier.
Being informed of these rights and protections is not only important for the members of the military. If you do business with service members, you need to check military status of your clients. In addition, you must also be in the know when it comes to protections and rights that relate to service members If you aren’t aware of these protections, you may find yourself in violation of their rights.
So, what rights and protections do military members enjoy during active duty and after completion of their service?
1. Employment Rights
When you decide to join the military, you will leave your civilian job for active duty. The Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA) provides for employment rights and protections for service members and veterans, which include:
- Service members have protection from being fired by their former employers unless there is a fair cause
- Your seniority if you’re a military member on active duty should continue as if you were still in employment
- You have protection from discrimination at the workplace based on your military affiliations
- An employer should also not deny your initial employment or a promotion at your former place of work due to your status as a military member
- You also have a right to continue using your employer’s health plan coverage for two years while on active military duty
- Service members who are no longer in active service have a right to be put back to work by their former employers two weeks after application after their military service
However, for you to be reemployed at your former employers, you must meet the following criteria:
- You must have left the job for military service
- You must have provided your employer with a verbal or written notice detailing that you’re leaving your job for military service
- You should not have exceeded the five-year limit in service
- You must have been released from active service in an honorable manner
- You should provide your employer with a reemployment application promptly
2. Financial Protection
The ServiceMembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA) provides some financial reliefs to service members on active duty. This act, formally referred to as the Soldiers and Sailors Civil Relief Act (SSCRA), suspends some civil obligations for military members and their families.
Some of the issues detailed in the act include security deposits, rental agreements, eviction, prepaid rent, income tax payments, health insurance, life insurance, car leases, civil judicial proceedings, mortgage foreclosure, mortgage interest rates, credit card interest rates, and installment contracts.
Some of the protections included in this act include:
- Reduction of interest rates to 6% for debts that the service member incurred before enrolling for active duty
- Allowing for the termination of motor vehicle leases so long as the lease was obtained before the person joined the military
- Protection of the servicemen against default judgments and repossession of property
Another protection under this act relates to housing. Service members are protected against mortgage foreclosure and from eviction so long as the monthly rent is below the allotment provided annually.
In case of eviction, you have a right to seek a three months temporary stay of proceedings. If your property is facing foreclosure, your lender should get approval from a court. And just in case you acquired your mortgage before you entered the military, you have a high chance of winning the case.
3. The Right to Vote
One of the most cherished rights in any country is the right to vote. The Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act (UOCAVA) allows service members to exercise their voting right no matter where they are stationed. This act also allows for a service member on active duty to vote absentee if they so wish.
In 2010, the Military and Overseas Voter Empowerment Act was upgraded to UOCAVA, which also saw an expansion of the provisions in the former act. Some of the additional protections provided in UOCAVA include:
- The right for service members to request voter registration and absentee ballots by fax, email or any other electronic means
- The right for service members to register to vote electronically
- The right for military members who are on active duty to receive their requested ballots not later than 45 days before a federal office election
- The right to use the backup ballot to vote in case the member hasn’t received the regular ballot on time
4. The Right for FMLA Leave
The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) provides for the military members’ families who include children, spouses, and parents the right for FMLA leave. Under this provision, the family members of service members who are employed can take unpaid leave for 12 workweeks without the fear of losing their jobs. However, this provision only works for qualifying exigencies where the leave is sought:
- To attend a military briefing or ceremony
- When there is a need for the family member to seek child care arrangements for the deployed person’s child
- When the family member needs to make financial or legal arrangements in the absence of the military member
The act also provides the employed family members of the serviceman or woman a job-protected 26 workweeks unpaid leave if they need to take care of a seriously injured or ailing active military member or a veteran discharged within five years before a military caregiver leave is requested.
In closing, the above protections and rights aim to honor our brave military members for their service. If you’re a service member on active duty or a veteran and you feel your rights are being violated, you can always seek help from your local US Armed Forces Legal Assistant Office or seek the services of a military law attorney if you need further legal assistance.