For All Veterans, Active Duty Military Personnel, National Guard, Reserve Call-Ups, and Their Families
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Recognizing the disruption that military call-ups cause to National Guard and reservists' lives and intending to free them from harassment and injury in connection with their civil-non-military affairs, so that they can devote full attention to duty, Congress, the Massachusetts Legislature and the City of Boston has provided protection and a number of rights and benefits.
To assist the military people and their families, the City of Boston has highlighted some of the benefits:
Under this law, the Federal Soldiers and Sailors Civil Relief Act of 1940 (SSCRA), 50 United States Code, Appendix. s.510 your protection begins on the date you enter active duty and generally terminates within 30 to 90 days after the date of your discharge.
Maximum Rate of Interest:
If, prior to entering service, you incur a loan or obligation with an interest rate in excess of 6%, you will, upon application to the lender, not be obligated to pay interest in excess of 6% per annum during any part of the period of military service, unless the court finds your ability to pay has not been materially affected.
Landlords cannot, unless they get a court order, evict your dependents if the rent is under $1,200.00 per month. The Court may stay proceedings for up to three months. The Court will likely protect dependents where the rental amount exceeds $1,200.00 when the agreed rent is modest and, taking inflation into account is equal to or less than the $1,200.00 limit.
If you entered a residential lease before you started active duty, and you or your dependents have occupied the leased premises for that purpose, you can terminate it. To terminate the lease, you must deliver written notice to the landlord at any time after call to active duty or receipt of orders for active duty. The effective date of termination for month-to-month rentals is 30 days after the first date on which the next rental payment is due subsequent to the date when the notice of termination is delivered. For all other leases, termination becomes effective on the last day of the month following the month in which proper notice is delivered. You are required to pay rent for only those months before the lease is terminated. If you paid rent in advance, the landlord must prorate and refund the unearned portion. If you paid a security deposit, it must be returned upon termination of the lease.
Protection from Court Proceedings:
For certain important provisions of the SSCRA to be of benefit, your ability of the service member to either defend or pursue a civil action must be materially affected by his or her military service.
Before a court can enter a default judgment for your failing to respond to a lawsuit or appear at trial, the person who is suing you must provide the court with an affidavit stating you are not in military service. If not, and you are in the military, the court will appoint an attorney to represent you, and seek a delay in the proceedings. If a default judgment is entered against you, the judgment may be reopened if you apply within 90 days after leaving active duty and show how you were prejudiced, and had legal defense.
If you cannot assert or protect a legal right because of military service, the court must delay a civil proceeding. The stay provisions are applicable during the period of service plus 60 days thereafter, and include a stay on the execution of judgments, court actions, attachments and garnishments.
Your time in service cannot be used to compute the time limits (statute of limitations,) for bringing any action or proceeding by or against a member, whether in court or elsewhere. (Except for federal tax laws.)
If, prior to entry into active duty, you entered an installment contract for the purchase of real or personal property, you will be protected if your ability to make the payments is materially affected by the military service.
Foreclosures on Installment Contracts:
You are protected against foreclosure so long as the obligation is secured by real or personal property, the debt was incurred before active duty, the property was owned by you or your dependents before active duty, and is still owned by you or your dependents; and the you/your dependents' ability to pay is materially affected by such service.
You are entitled to reinstatement as of the date of reemployment of any health insurance that was in effect on the day before service began. USSERA, discussed below, provides that you can elect to buy COBRA-type coverage during military service
Life and Professional Insurance:
Your private life insurance policy is protected against lapse, termination, and forfeiture for nonpayment of premiums or for the nonpayment of any indebtedness for the period of military service plus two years. You can suspend your Professional liability insurance upon written request to the insurance carrier for the period of your active duty. You or your beneficiary must make application to the Veterans' Administration for protection.
Your state of legal domicile may tax your military income and real and personal property. Legal domicile is not changed solely by military service. State income tax may be deferred for period of service plus six months if your ability to pay is materially impaired by military service. Property cannot be sold to satisfy a tax obligation or assessment except upon a court order. The Court then determines if a stay is appropriate. (See also Mass. real estate tax below under number 3.)
The state's version of the Soldiers' and Sailors Civil Relief Act of 1941 (SSCRA) provides employment protections if you are a public servant called to, or volunteering for military service in an emergency, so long as you are not dishonorably discharged. There are also civil protections for all persons who serve in terms of litigation, and official documents. In that this law is more generous than the federal SSCRA in terms of extensions for certain proceedings, it supercedes the federal law. It does not apply to proceedings if you are a defendant-executor or administrator.
If you are a public employee who resigns to serve in the military, you are considered on a leave of absence, and can be reemployed so long as you return within two years of military service. You are entitled to all seniority rights so long as you return to public service within two years. Your employee pension is protected and your military service is credited to it. (N.B. In that these time provisions are more generous than those provided in USSERA, above, they supercede it.)
Civil Service Exams:
You are protected if you have passed an exam and are unable to appear for the physical exams and/or strength test. Those eligible for promotional exams but unable to appear because of military service are protected as if presently available for appointment or promotion. A civil service employee with a discharge other than dishonorable, may be retired if otherwise eligible if physically or mentally incapable of being reinstated
Certain Municipal, District, County Employees:
Certain elected municipal, district and county officers' positions are protected by temporary substitutes.
You can have real estate deeds, powers of attorney and other instruments acknowledged before certain commissioned officers. Certain commissioner officers have the power and authority to be commissioners, notaries public and justices of the peace in order to administer oaths and take depositions, affidavits and acknowledgments of those in military service.
Renewals of Licenses, Permits, Certificate or Registrations:
If these expire while you are in military service, you have six months after their termination to renew. However, if your drivers' license expires, you have two months after the end of your service to renew.
National Guard Members:
If you are in the Massachusetts National Guard, you receive extra protections. No employer (public or private,) can discriminate against you under Mass. G.L. c.33 s.13. If you work for the state you get paid your state salary while you are on certain types of duty in the Commonwealth at the order of the commander-in-chief. This applies to counties and municipalities, if they adopt Mass. G.L.c.33 s.59. These duties include annual training, emergency assistance, repelling invasions or suppressing insurrections, controlling riots or mobs or protecting persons or property during catastrophes or natural disasters.
Real Estate Tax:
If you can show poverty or financial hardship resulting from a call-up, in the judgment of the assessor, and if you file timely, you can get a property tax exception under Chapter 470 of the Acts of 2002. The exemption is executed in a tax deferral and recovery agreement providing protection for the member's share in the property and for your surviving spouse and heirs. For more information, see Session laws under www.state.ma.us/legis/laws.
If you meet the Massachusetts definition of "veteran" under Mass. G.L. c.4 s.7 cl.43rd you are entitled to certain additional benefits, including preference in civil service appointments and promotions under Mass. G.L. c.31 s.26, s.28 and c.41 s.112. Those "veterans" in a public retirement system can buy back their military time under Mass. G.L. c.32 s.4(h). For more information see Chapter 468 of the Acts of 2002, Session laws under www.state.ma.us/legis/laws.
If you are non-civil service and laid off while on active service, and if you are a "veteran," as defined above, your job may be protected under Mass. G.L c. 30 s.9A. You have tenure if you have three years in your position. In the event of a lay-off, you have a right to a similar existing position, in the same group or grade, unless all are held by veterans, in which case lay-offs are in inverse order of their original appointments. Tenured veterans have preference amongst themselves according to the date of their appointment.
Veterans who are civil service employees, classified under Chapter 31, also have lay-off protection in that disabled veterans are retained in preference to all other persons, including veterans. G.L. c.31 s.26.