The Honorable Elijah Cummings (MD-7)
Thank you Chairman Stutzman, Ranking Member Braley, and Members of the Subcommittee for inviting me to testify today on H.R. 5747, the Military Family Home Protection Act.
For the past several years, and particularly as Ranking Member of the House Oversight Committee, it has been my number one priority to help millions of American families who have been trying to protect their homes against foreclosure during the economic crisis that has gripped our nation. In my opinion, nobody is more deserving of our help than our military servicemembers fighting overseas.
H.R. 5747 is a common-sense bill that would expand the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA) to protect more of our brave men and women in uniform from losing their homes while they protect our freedoms abroad.
This legislation is supported by the American Legion, Veterans of Foreign Wars, Paralyzed Veterans of America, Disabled American Veterans, and the Military Officers Association of America, all of whom have written letters of support. I respectfully ask that these letters be included in the record.
In addition, this legislation has already been passed by the House as an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) that I offered with Ranking Member Filner and Ranking Member Smith of the Armed Services Committee. It passed by an overwhelmingly bipartisan vote of 394-27, including the majority of Members on this Committee.
Here is what the legislation would do. First, under current law, some home foreclosure protections for servicemembers are set to expire at the end of this year. My legislation would fix that by eliminating this sunset provision and ensuring that foreclosure protections are extended to 12 months. We need to act this year to make sure those protections do not expire.
My legislation also would ensure that servicemembers serving in contingency operations, such as in Iraq and Afghanistan, do not have to worry about losing their homes, regardless of when they were purchased.
In addition, it would extend foreclosure protections to the surviving spouses of servicemembers who are killed in the line of duty, as well as to veterans who are 100% disabled due to service-connected injuries at the time of discharge.
Finally, the legislation would prohibit discrimination against servicemembers and their families who are covered by these protections, and it would double penalties to deter future violations.
I crafted this legislation after more than a year of investigating cases in which military servicemembers and their families had suffered illegal foreclosures and inflated fees.
For example, last July, I issued a staff report documenting these abuses entitled “Fighting on the Home Front: The Growing Problem of Illegal Foreclosures Against U.S. Servicemembers.” I ask that this report be included in the record.
In addition, Senator Jay Rockefeller, the Chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee, joined me in co-hosting a congressional forum on this topic with a number of officials, including Holly Petraeus, the Director of the Office of Servicemember Affairs at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, who appeared alongside servicemembers and others to provide recommendations.
I also want to extend my thanks to Ranking Member Braley, who participated in that bicameral forum, is an original co-sponsor to my legislation and has been integral to our efforts over the past year.
The results of our investigation demonstrate the clear need for these improvements to the SCRA. Nobody fighting abroad to protect our country should also have to fight here at home just to keep a roof over the heads of their loved ones.
I thank the members of this Committee for supporting my legislation, and even though it has passed the House as part of the NDAA, I ask my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to continue to work together to ensure that we enact these reforms into law.