From the Staff Judge Advocate: Personal Financial Responsibility

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SEYMOUR JOHNSON AIR FORCE BASE, N.C.  — When you joined the military, you may have been surprised to learn the Air Force had specific rules that governed your personal finances.

Air Force Instruction 36-2906, Personal Financial Responsibility, dictates requirements of Airmen concerning areas of financial responsibility. Air Force members are required to satisfy all of their financial obligations, from mortgages to child support, in a proper and timely manner. Failure to do so can result in administrative or disciplinary action and/or the debt being paid involuntarily via official Air Force channels.

Divorce and marital separation are unfortunate realities for many people, and often a source of financial difficulty for service members. As long as you’re legally married to your spouse, you are still expected to provide adequate financial support to your dependents. However, commanders cannot force a member to provide support or act as intermediaries. State courts with the proper jurisdiction can order child support and/or alimony payments if the complainant obtains a garnishment order and serves it on the Defense Finance and Accounting Service.

If you have financial troubles, you can contact your creditors and try to make arrangements for lower payments or extended payment plans. The Servicemembers Civil Relief Act is a tool that provides a wide range of protection for individuals in the military. The SCRA is intended to postpone or suspend certain civil obligations to enable service members to devote full attention to duty.

One example of how the SCRA protects service members is in regards to maximum rates of interest. The interest rate on a member’s pre-service obligation must be capped at six percent unless the creditor shows that the ability of the service member to pay interest above six percent is not materially affected by reason of their military service.

If you’re unable to seek relief through the SCRA or other means and your financial obligations become overwhelming, the Air Force maintains a policy of strict neutrality with respect to bankruptcy. Filing for bankruptcy protection is a statutory right of all citizens and does not provide a basis for adverse action. However, any underlying misconduct that led to bankruptcy may be a proper basis for discipline.

Legal assistance attorneys can assist Air Force members and eligible beneficiaries with advice regarding personal bankruptcy. The legal office staff can also advise commanders whether disciplinary action is appropriate in a particular case.

Finally, since February is Military Saves Month, your installation’s Airmen and Family Readiness Center may be hosting several relevant classes on debt management, investing, and budgeting, among other topics. For more information, call your local A&FRC.