Hi. I'm attorney and reserve Marine officer Mike Cardoza. read transcript
I'm here with a special message today for servicemembers and their families. Perhaps you've heard that it's illegal under the UCMJ not to pay your debts. Okay, well that's technically true, but nobody in your command wants to court-martial or NJP or Article 15 you for getting behind on some bills. The people that you're going to hear that from are the payday lenders and the installment loan lenders, maybe the vehicle title loan people, possibly even your credit union or your credit card companies. They're going to tell you this because they want to scare you into paying more and paying faster. When they do that, they may be violating debt collection laws and laws that apply specially to service members and their families.
If that's happening to you, here's what you do: Go seek out the legal assistance office on the base nearest you. That help is free for service members and family members of service members and most importantly, these folks are real attorneys. When you tell them your problem, they're bound by the confidentiality requirements of the attorney-client privilege. That means they can't go tell your command that you have this problem. That means that going to seek help isn't going to get you in trouble. So, if you're having this problem, don't worry about it - just go get some help real quick because the solution is probably a lot simpler than you think!
Whether you’re in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Coast Guard, or Marines, many “helpful” people think of Military Debt Relief or Military Debt Management as just a set of tools to help you pay whomever is demanding payment from you.They don’t understand the stress you’re facing (particularly if collectors are threatening to call your command) when it comes to your security clearance, your military record, and your career!
Have you gotten a 4856, 6105, 1616, or 174 counseling for “failure to pay a just debt?” Then you know what I’m talking about! Have you had your LPO, SFC, First Sergeant, or supervisor tell you that failure to pay a debt is a violation of UCMJ Article 134? Or maybe that your inability to pay a debt is no defense to military charges?
Let me tell you how it all really works: Unless you’re the kind of soldier, sailor, airman, coastie, or Marine who deliberately takes on actual debt that you know you never intend to pay, you’re not going down for Article 134 “Failure to Pay Just Debts.”
That law doesn’t apply when you have a dispute about a debt or when you didn’t know about or understand the debt that supposedly you owe. Creditors, collectors, and even your military leadership will often try to use this threat of legal punishment in order to get you to pay whatever to whomever and to make their problem go away - really.
The bigger question is, how did anyone in your command find out about this debt in the first place? Maybe you have a military personal loan, a payday loan, a credit card, a vehicle title loan, or some other kind of debt and the creditor or collector called your work and talked to someone other than you. In many cases, that’s illegal! Behavior like that can entitle YOU to elimination of that debt and to compensation. Even threatening to call your command or contact your CO may be illegal!
Before you consider any kind of debt consolidation or financial assistance from the military relief societies, get your situation checked out by an experienced consumer financial protection attorney who also understands the UCMJ and military law in general. Preferably one who has been both a military defense attorney AND a prosecutor!
Take action and get help - the consultation and case evaluations are free, and, most cases will qualify for a contingent fee arrangement where you don’t have to pay ANY legal fees unless you recover compensation from your creditors or collectors.
But - don’t put this off because debt collection laws only give you a limited amount of time to get compensation!