Although there are federal laws protecting the military community, such as the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA) and the Military Lending Act (MLA), these statutes do not apply to National Guardsmen. Instead, most states have enacted their own laws to protect state Guardsmen and other servicemembers. In many states, these state laws are enforced by attorneys general. In some cases where state laws are triggered by violations of federal law, attorneys general may also have authority to enforce the SCRA and MLA.
Below are some examples of the work that attorneys general have undertaken on behalf of veterans and servicemembers:
- File enforcement actions to stop scam artists in a variety of shady business practices, such as small dollar high interest loans, credit repair schemes, automobile purchase scams, VA benefit frauds, charities frauds, identity theft, and misleading marketing of for-profit education opportunities.
- Offer legal service for servicemembers and protection of their rights during deployment and upon return.
- Provide information and services to veterans and servicemembers about their legal rights and advocate for strengthening these legal protections.
Most work in attorney general offices protecting military service members is performed by the offices’ consumer protection divisions. These divisions provide educational resources, review complaints from servicemembers and veterans, and, where appropriate, take enforcement action to address legal violations.
Actions taken by attorneys general to protect servicemembers include:
- Pursuing retailers targeting servicemembers with illegal credit sales and debt collection practices.
- Filing suit against privatized military housing operations who engage in eviction-related misconduct.
- Preventing education scams seeking access to GI Bill funds.
- Working with Veterans Treatment Courts to provide an alternative to the criminal justice system by addressing the physical and emotional needs of veterans.
Veterans Treatment Courts
Veterans Treatment Courts, modeled after Drug Treatment Courts, are an alternative option to the criminal justice system for non-violent offenders. These courts provide resources and services to veterans, including moral support, through veteran mentors.
Although attorneys general don’t oversee the court process, they often advocate on behalf of veterans. Some attorneys general have committees or divisions dedicated to working with veteran courts in their state.
Through NAAG, attorneys general have endorsed the Veteran Treatment Court Coordination Act (H.R. 886), legislation that would support veterans suffering from substance abuse and mental health issues by providing grants and technical assistance to state, local, and tribal courts that implement Veteran Treatment Courts.