For Servicemembers, Veterans, and Military Family Members
For Servicemembers, Veterans, and Military Family Members
What We Do
The Department of Justice enforces laws that protect three categories of servicemember civil rights: financial/housing; employment; and voting. Should you have questions about your legal rights with respect to one of these categories, please click on the above links for more information.
The Servicemembers and Veterans Initiative also identifies current legal issues affecting servicemembers and veterans, and coordinates with Judge Advocate General’s Corps, Offices of the United States Attorneys, other federal agencies and bureaus, and legal assistance providers to resolve those issues.
Recent Department of Justice Successes
- On September 27, 2018, the United States filed a complaint and entered into a settlement agreement in United States v. United Communities, LLC (D.N.J.). The complaint alleges that United Communities, which provides on-base military housing at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst in New Jersey, engaged in a pattern or practice of violating the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (“SCRA”), 50 U.S.C. 3955, by imposing lease termination charges against 13 servicemembers who had properly terminated their residential leases under the SCRA. Specifically, the complaint alleges that United Communities was requiring servicemembers who terminated their leases early following receipt of permanent change of station or deployment orders to repay rent concessions they had received for prior months. The settlement agreement requires United Communities to pay $45,001.78 in damages to 13 servicemembers and a $17,500 civil penalty to the United States. The agreement also requires United Communities to adopt new polices and training to prevent future violations of the SCRA.
- On September 26, 2018, the United States entered into a settlement agreement in United States v. Northwest Trustee Services, Inc. (W.D. Wash.). The complaint, which was filed on November 9, 2017, alleges that a company that provided foreclosure services to mortgage lenders in the Western United States violated the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act by foreclosing on 28 homes owned by protected servicemembers without first obtaining the required court orders. The settlement agreement requires Northwest Trustee, which has gone out of business and is in state receivership proceedings, to pay up to $750,000 to aggrieved servicemembers.
- On February 22, 2018, the United States filed a complaint alleging that BMW Financial Services, N.A. (“BMW FS”) violated the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (“SCRA”) by failing to refund a type of up-front lease payment to 492 servicemembers who lawfully terminated their motor vehicle leases early since August 24, 2011. The settlement agreement, which was executed the same day that the complaint was filed, requires BMW FS to deposit over $2 million into an escrow account to compensate the 492 servicemembers whose rights were violated under the SCRA. BMW FS also must pay $60,788 to the United States Treasury, and revise its policies and procedures to ensure that servicemembers who terminate their vehicle leases early receive a full refund of eligible pre-paid capitalized cost reduction amounts.
- On February 15, 2018, the United States filed a complaint and entered into a settlement agreement in United States v. City and County of Honolulu, et al. (D. Haw.) resolving allegations that Honolulu and its contracted towing company violated the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (“SCRA”). The complaint alleges that Honolulu and All Island Automotive Towing violated the SCRA by auctioning or otherwise disposing of cars owned by protected servicemembers without first obtaining the required court orders. The settlement agreement requires Honolulu to adopt new SCRA-compliant procedures, compensate three servicemembers a total of $55,857.95 for unlawfully auctioning off their cars and personal effects while they were deployed, establish a $150,000 settlement fund to compensate other servicemembers whose rights may have been violated, and pay a $60,788 civil penalty to the United States.
- On September 27, 2017, the United States filed a complaint alleging that from 2011 to 2016, Westlake Services, LLC and its subsidiary, Wilshire Commercial Capital, repossessed 70 vehicles owned by protected servicemembers without first obtaining court orders, in violation of Sections 3952 and 3953 of the SCRA. The settlement agreement, which was executed the same day that the complaint was filed, requires Westlake and Wilshire to pay $700,000 in compensation to the servicemembers whose cars were illegally repossessed. Westlake and Wilshire also must repair the credit of all affected servicemembers, pay a $60,788 civil penalty, and adopt new SCRA policies and procedures.
- On September 19, 2017, the Duval County, Texas, Sheriff’s Department agreed to compensate a Deputy Sheriff and Army Reservist for lost wages and employee benefits, and pay him liquidated damages to resolve allegations that it violated USERRA by, among other things, terminating the Deputy Sheriff twice, once while he was on leave for military duty, and a second time for pursuing a USERRA claim after he was belatedly rehired after his period of military service.
- On September 18, 2017, CitiFinancial Credit Company, as successor to CitiFinancial Auto Corporation, agreed to pay a total of $907,000 to individual SCRA protected servicemembers to resolve allegations that it violated the law by repossessing 164 cars owned by these servicemembers without first obtaining required court orders.
- Under a July 6, 2017 settlement agreement between the United States and COPOCO Community Credit Union, a state-chartered, federally-insured credit union in Michigan was required to pay $10,000 in compensation to each of three servicemembers whose motor vehicles it allegedly repossessed without a court order in violation of the SCRA, and another $7,500 to a servicemember whose vehicle was returned after an allegedly wrongful repossession by COPOCO.
- A military member received $1,425 in damages under a June 16, 2017 SCRA settlement agreement between the United States and an Alabama landlord. The lawsuit, filed on June 13, 2017, alleged that the landlord violated the SCRA when she refused to return any part of a security deposit to the servicemember after he lawfully terminated his lease early upon receipt of military orders.
- On June 1, 2017, the Pierce County Transportation Benefit Area Corporation of Pierce County, Washington (“Pierce Transit”), agreed to pay $105,000 to a Washington Army National Guard Lieutenant Colonel to resolve allegations that it violated USERRA by failing to reemploy the Lieutenant Colonel after he returned from a period of military service. Pierce Transit also agreed to adopt a USERRA policy, provide training to its high-level officials and human resources staff on the USERRA rights and obligations of employers and covered employees, report allegations of violations of USERRA, and certify its compliance with USERRA to the Department of Justice for a period of two years.
- When it has been needed, the Department of Justice has gone to court or entered out of court settlements to obtain relief to ensure that UOCAVA voters are not disenfranchised by late-transmitted ballots or other violations of this federal law. Since the statute was enacted in 1986, the Department has brought 50 lawsuits to protect the ability of service members and U.S. citizens overseas to exercise the right to vote and have their votes counted.
Deputy Associate Attorney General
Director of the Servicemembers and Veterans Initiative
U.S. Department of Justice
810 Seventh Street, NW
Washington, DC 20531