Lawmakers propose new bill to protect deployed military

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) – Indiana lawmakers want to protect military members and their families with a new bill. Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller announced the new proposal in Fort Wayne Thursday morning.

It’s called the Indiana Service Member’s Civil Relief Act. The bill increases consumer protections to service members during deployments. This includes suspending or postponing obligations like debt collections, foreclosures, cell phone contracts, and court hearings.

“Incorporating this into a state statute allows my office and the attorney general’s office to protect the men and women who are being deployed to protect all of us,” Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller said.

State Representatives Dennis Zent and Martin Carbaugh are also supporting the bill.

“The concerns that they have going off to serve our country, many times in war situations, has to do with their life, what would be left behind, should the unforeseen happen, and a lot of that falls to not just personal relationship but finances. That’s something I think we can help control for them while they serve us. They’re not going to have to worry about coming back to a financial disaster. They’ve got a whole host of other issues that they have to deal with, and I think we owe them the treatment that they deserve. It takes away one of those big concerns, big worries that they will have coming back,” Carbaugh said.

There is already a federal version in place, but state lawmakers want to expand it so they can have more of an impact.

“I think it kind of goes along with a general truth.  I think the government closest to the people tends to do a better job, and in this case, it’s not necessarily a knock on the federal government. It’s just a job to try and enforce all the laws and try to give those advantages or give those protections to our active duty. It would be a difficult thing for one department of the national government to get for all fifty states,” Carbaugh said.

Zoeller said this won’t be too much of a change or adjustment for banks and mortgage companies because they are already accustomed to the federal laws, regulations, and requirements.

“Incorporating this into the authority of my office gives us the ability to enforce what’s already the law, so it’s not like we’re changing the rules that the banks and the mortgage companies have to follow, it’s just that we can now represent the servicemen and women instead of asking somebody in Washington,” Zoeller said.

Four other states are also working on versions of the bill. Zent said lawmakers plan to collaborate with these states to figure out the best way to format and eventually enforce the bill.

“It’s a gold mine. Why reinvent the wheel. A lot of times you find out what they have that has worked,w hat they might have wanted to change, so that will all be part of the process and that gives us several months to go ahead and come up with something that’s going to fill just every little void and make sure we don’t have any missteps,” Zent said.

Zent is a veteran and said the bill will provide relief to so many military families.

“I can feel what they feel. Things and time have changed, but still, the anxiety is there. What you’re hoping is that somebody is taking care of things back home. I had a wife that I was not able to communicate with very regularly. Now, we have all kinds of communication devices. That’s part of what they’re dealing with is cell phones, but you always wanted to know that somebody was covering your back. You did not want some unforeseen instance to come up. Understandably, when you’re separated, you always hear that two people can live as cheap as one, but I can tell you when one is in Korea and one is back in the states, you don’t live as cheaply. I did not make in my Army pay what I made as an orderly at St. Joe Hospital before I went into the service, so there was a lot stretching, a lot of angst, a lot of anxiety. The proposal here to actually support these troops and lets them know that somebody’s got their back is huge. It doesn’t seem like it may be earthshaking, but a lot of it is just common sense. We’ll obviously have to get with the legislature and come up with something that thoroughly covers the issue. The idea is wonderful,” Zent said.

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