VVA Settles SCRA Lawsuit with DoD
The Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA) is a federal law designed to ease financial burdens on servicemembers during periods of military service, with the intent of providing protections for military members as they enter active duty—covering issues such as rental agreements; security deposits; prepaid rent; evictions; installment contracts; credit-card interest rates; mortgage interest rates; mortgage foreclosures; civil judicial proceedings; automobile leases; life insurance; health insurance; and income tax payments.
Since 1985, the Department of Defense has been operating a website for the purpose of allowing persons or entities engaged in financial and legal transactions to verify a servicemembers’ eligibility for the benefits provided by the SCRA. Vietnam Veterans of America brought suit under the Privacy Act and related laws to ensure that DoD prevent disclosure of personal information through the website to individuals or entities for the purposes of marketing, datamining, commercial profit, frauds, scams, or any other purposes other than verifying servicemembers’ eligibility for the benefits provided by the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act.
DoD has agreed to implement significant changes to the SCRA website to enhance security of the site and better protect the personal information of servicemembers while restricting access, to those individuals and entities who are using the website for its intended purpose, so as to ensure the website achieves its intended purpose.
Further, DoD has agreed to make changes to the SCRA website interface to make clear that a social security number is not required in order to access SCRA information, thus discouraging collection of social security numbers from third party users of the site for the purpose of SCRA verification.
DoD will implement analytics to monitor the use of the SCRA website in order to identify patterns of misuse that would indicate a user is attempting to misuse the database; and will deactivate the user’s account if misuse is confirmed. DoD, on a quarterly basis, will provide VVA with reports that include a list of the company names of active users; information on volume of searches per active user; the number of suspected and terminated accounts; and the company names of suspended and terminated accounts. DoD has agreed to provide the initial report within three months of (date), and the final report will be provided two years after DoD notifies VVA that the final element of the settlement has been implemented.
Vietnam Veterans of America is grateful for the representation of Jonathan Manes, supervising attorney at the Civil Liberties and Transparency Clinic of the University at Buffalo School of Law, and Buffalo School of Law student attorneys Richard Barney III, Khalil Williams, Alex Betschen, along with many other former student attorneys of the UB School of Law.