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Mr. STUTZMAN. I thank the gentleman from New Jersey for yielding.
I also want to thank Ranking Member Mr. Filner and Mr. Braley for helping us move this important piece of legislation to improve the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act, or SCRA.
Earlier this year, allegations surfaced of mortgage-related violations of the SCRA by JPMorgan Chase Bank and other lending institutions. These allegations alleged that these institutions were unlawfully foreclosing on servicemembers' homes and charging interest rates above the 6 percent cap required by SCRA.
On February 9, 2011, the full committee held an oversight hearing to review these allegations and received testimony from Captain Jonathon Rowles, United States Marine Corps, and Mrs. Julia Rowles about the trouble that they had with JPMorgan Chase when they tried to assert their rights under SCRA. They commented that when they called the toll-free number provided by the bank, their employees were woefully inadequate in their knowledge of SCRA and there didn't seem to be anyone in charge to ensure that the bank was complying with the rules.
In response to this hearing and the committee's continued oversight of SCRA abuses, section 2 of this bill clarifies requirements for banks to comply with SCRA provisions related to foreclosures and maximum interest rates. The section requires all lending institutions affected by SCRA to employ and/or designate an SCRA compliance officer. This will make it clear that all banks and other lending institutions must take SCRA seriously and have at least one person responsible to ensure their institution's compliance. The section further requires banks that have annual assets of $10 billion to have a toll-free hotline for servicemembers to call and ask questions about their mortgage and SCRA. I want to thank Mr. Johnson of Ohio for originally proposing this provision in H.R. 2329.
Section 1 and section 3 of the bill expand foreclosure protections under SCRA for servicemembers and surviving spouses. The section prohibits foreclosure within 12 months of a servicemember coming off active duty or for a surviving spouse 12 months following the servicemember's death on active duty or as a result of a service-connected injury.
When a servicemember separates from the armed services, they need sufficient time to establish good economic footing to be successful. Some military families experience difficulties--often related to owning a home where the servicemember is stationed--in the transition from the military to the civilian world. By providing this expansion, we will be providing more time and options for the estimated 9,000 servicemembers who face foreclosure every year. These are important protections that help our servicemembers and their families who have already given so much in defense of our country and for our freedoms.
Once again, I thank the chairman of the VA Committee and the ranking member for moving this bill forward, and I urge all Members to support H.R. 1263, as amended.
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