Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Gerry Connolly Bill, H.R. 2874 Protects Military and Their Families

I received the following press release from Gerry Connolly, announcing his bill to protect military men and women. Representative Connolly is rapidly becoming a leading light in Congress for his determined support for the military and federal workers. Many of these people, of course, are his constituents in the 11th CD. But his leadership on this benefits members of the military across the nation.

H.R. 2874 Makes Financial Penalties for Cell, Rental Lease, and College Contracts Illegal

WASHINGTON – Congressman Gerry Connolly believes it is wrong that active-duty military personnel can be forced to pay financial penalties for terminating contracts for cell phone service, leases on their rented residences, or unfinished college courses when they are deployed to Iraq, Afghanistan, or other duty stations around the globe.

That is why Connolly has introduced legislation to provide relief and make such early termination fees illegal for military personnel who get orders to deploy or change stations. On Monday, June 15, Connolly introduced H.R. 2874, the Helping Active Duty Deployed Act of 2009 (HADD Act).

“It is unjust that our military personnel, who make great sacrifices on our behalf, are required to pay onerous financial penalties when they are deployed and attempt to terminate contracts for the cell phone family plans they can no longer use, the rented housing they must vacate, and the college courses they cannot complete,” Connolly said.

“It is wrong, it is disrespectful, and I am outraged that we allow this to happen to our military men and women who put themselves in harm’s way to protect our nation’s interests,” Connolly said.

While current law prohibits charging penalties for deployed military personnel who terminate individual cell phone contracts and automobile leases, there are no such prohibitions against early termination penalties levied against deployed service members for family cell phone plans, residential property leases, or unused tuition and other college fees.

Connolly’s legislation has already received the endorsement of the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America. In a letter to Connolly supporting H.R. 2874, the organization’s chief counsel, Patrick Campbell, said Congress must “ensure that our men and women in uniform are focusing on their missions overseas and not bureaucratic morass back at home.”

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Below is a fact sheet:
Fact Sheet – H.R. 2874 – Helping Active Duty Deployed Act of 2009

General Overview: To provide assistance to active duty, deployed military service members who currently face financial penalties for early terminations of certain contracts entered into prior to their deployment.

Section 2:
Family Plan Cellular Telephone Service: The 110th Congress amended the Service members Civil Relief Act to allow deployed service members to end a cellular telephone service contract prior to its scheduled expiration without incurring an early termination penalty. However, service members who have entered into family plan cellular telephone service cannot end those contracts without the normal penalty. The HADD Act would allow any cellular telephone service contract entered into “on behalf of” a service member, which courts have ruled to include family plans, to be ended by a deployed service member without penalty.

Section 3:
Rental Lease Early Termination Penalty: The Service member Civil Relief Act currently permits active duty deployed service members to terminate rental residential property leases and motor vehicle leases. As currently written, there is an explicit section stating that there can be no early termination penalties in the case of a motor vehicle lease. The HADD Act would amend current law to prohibit early termination penalties on real property leases ended early due to a service member’s deployment.

Section 4:
Higher Education Tuition Payments: The 110th Congress amended Title 20 of the U.S. Code to permit active duty service members who were deployed subsequent to enrollment in an institute of higher education to regain admittance following the cessation of their deployment. The HADD Act would amend the Code to permit deployed service members to obtain a refund of the tuition payments made to an institute of higher education for the portion of the educational program that the service member had not yet received academic credit prior to being deployed.

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