Veterans

January 17, 2014

Consumer help a click away for veterans

AnhTuan Dang
March Legal Office legal intern

Have you ever been stuck and frustrated with a consumer issue and could not find a solution to your issue? The Department of Consumer Affairs recently created a Los Angeles-based division to provide services to military members throughout California. Help from consumer protection experts is now just a click away!

“Servicemembers and their dependents are encouraged to file a complaint with the L.A. County Department of Consumer Affairs to seek assistance in working to resolve their consumer protection issues by visiting their website, http://dca.lacounty.gov,” said Lt. Col. Deric Prescott, 951st Reserve Support Squadron judge advocate, March Air Reserve Base, Calif.

If the military member resides outside of L.A. County, the system will also notify the member’s local District Attorney’s Office.

Some of the remedies the DCA is able to seek for military customers are provided for in the California Military Families Financial Relief Act. For example, the Act allows reservists and guardsmen to defer payment on their mortgages, credit cards, property taxes, car loans and leases. The deferral period is equal to their periods of active duty plus 60 calendar days, or 180 days, whichever is less. No foreclosure or repossession of property, on which payment has been deferred, shall take place during this period. (California Military and Veterans Code 800). Additionally, health insurance companies that were providing coverage to a reservist at the time the reservist was ordered to active duty must reinstate that coverage with no waiting period when the reservist returns from duty (CMVC 804).

For more information on these protections, visit http://leginfo.legislature.ca.gov, click on California Law, Military and Veterans Code (MVC) and then Division 4-Veteran’s Aid and Welfare.

While there, you can also find help with other provisions through the California Military Families Financial Relief Act of 2005. Similar to the protections provided through the Servicemembers’ Civil Relief Act (SCRA), this legislative measure allows you, your spouse or legal dependents to terminate a cell phone contract without penalty, providing specific requirements are met (CMVC 823).

Your spouse or legal dependent may also apply for protection against a utility shut off by notifying the utility company that they’ve suffered a reduction in household income as the result of you being called away to active duty (CMVC 827).

The Act also requires public and private post-secondary schools to provide reasonable accommodations to students who serve in the military and restore them to the educational status they had prior to deployment without the loss of credits earned, scholarships or grants awarded. (CMVC 824).

If your SCRA rights have been violated, the L.A. County DCA team can also help. They specifically prohibit non-judicial foreclosure on mortgages that originated before your military service. You can also request a reduction of your interest rate, to no greater than six percent, on pre-service, credit card debt and most other interest-bearing accounts while in service. Moreover, SCRA permits you to break residential and car leases if you receive orders for a permanent change of station or deployment. With respect to landlord and tenant issues, a landlord must obtain a court order to evict you or your dependent due to nonpayment of rent. The court has the authority to stay (postpone) the eviction if you are able prove that you are materially affected by your military service.

Helping military members process complaints for any violations of these and many more issues is what’s available on the L.A. County DCA website. It contains a list of Self-Help Legal Centers (SHLAC) where you can get information on the process and forms required for small claims courts and learn how to represent yourself in other matters. Each SHLAC is staffed by a trained attorney, experienced professionals and volunteers. Be aware that there is no attorney-client relationship between SHLAC staff and the centers’ patrons. The centers can provide assistance with family law, landlord/tenant, name changes, obtaining a civil restraining order, civil complaints and expungements.

For all the offered programs and services, and the greatest and latest methods to protect yourself and your family, visit the L.A. County DCA website at http://dca.lacounty.gov. You can also call Consumer Affairs at 800-593-8222 for within the L.A. County and 213- 974-1452 if outside L.A. County.




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