Anyone who is serving in the military needs to be aware of how debt can negatively affect their military career. Most people by now should understand that the military will pull a credit report on anyone who is applying for a security clearance, and that the security clearance can be denied if the person is carrying too high of a debt load. If your MOS (job) depends on obtaining that clearance and it is denied, you could be involuntarily reclassed into a different job that doesn’t require a clearance… hope you like cooking if that is your situation!
What some don’t know is that you can actually be discharged from the military for too much debt. I saw it happen to a Desert Storm vet back when I was a private in 1999. Once the commander got the letter of indebtedness, and it was determined the soldier couldn’t pay it, they proceeded to revoke his security clearance for it. Since our MOS required a Secret level clearance, he had the choice of being involuntarily reclassed or separated under Article 134 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ). He chose separation over becoming a cook.
Years later, as a sergeant I had to write one of my soldiers up for being in debt that he couldn’t pay. I had to take him to budgeting class, since the bad debt was a repossessed car, and he ended up with extra duty and and a repayment plan drafted up by our commander.
Anyone who has ever served knows that the military pay is less than generous when compared to the civilian equivalent. So it becomes imperative to operate your household on a budget in light of the negative consequences of debt! Here is the excerpt of Article 134 that the specialist was discharged under, and that I wrote up my soldier for:
Article 134 – (Debt, dishonorably failing to pay)
(1) That the accused was indebted to a certain person or entity in a certain sum;
(2) That this debt became due and payable on or about a certain date;
(3) That while the debt was still due and payable the accused dishonorably failed to pay this debt; and
(4) That, under the circumstances, the conduct of the accused was to the prejudice of good order and discipline in the armed forces or was of a nature to bring discredit upon the armed forces.
Explanation. More than negligence in nonpayment is necessary. The failure to pay must be characterized by deceit, evasion, false promises, or other distinctly culpable circumstances indicating a deliberate nonpayment or grossly indifferent attitude to-ward one’s just obligations. For a debt to form the basis of this offense, the accused must not have had a defense, or an equivalent offset or counterclaim, either in fact or according to the accused’s belief, at the time alleged. The offense should not be charged if there was a genuine dispute between the parties as to the facts or law relating to the debt which would affect the obligation of the accused to pay. The offense is not committed if the creditor or creditors involved are satisfied with the conduct of the debtor with respect to payment. The length of the period of nonpayment and any denial of indebtedness which the accused may have made may tend to prove that the accused’s conduct was dishonorable, but the court-martial may convict only if it finds from all of the evidence that the conduct was in fact dishonorable.
Lesser included offenses. None.
Maximum punishment. Bad-conduct discharge, forfeiture of all pay and allowances, and confinement for 6 months.
As you can see, excessive debt can have a severe impact on your career. It will also have a negative impact on your personal life.
This is a guest post from Ana, the author of the blog Debt-Free Revolution. Ana is “an Army wife, an Iraq veteran, a college student, a mom, family CFO, and a “Pizza Delivery Expert” a.k.a. a Domino’s pizza delivery driver to get her family out of the chain of debt!”