Imagine being deployed on the other side of the world in a hostile environment cut off from your family and friends and then discovering that your house -- the place you dream every night of returning home to -- has been foreclosed.
That nightmare is all too real for some of the brave men and women in our armed forces today.
There is currently a federal investigation into whether Bank of America, Wells Fargo and eight other major banks illegally foreclosed on 4,500 active duty service members. This investigation comes on the heels of J.P. Morgan Chase's confession last year that it illegally overcharged more than 4,000 troops on their home loans and foreclosed 14 of them. These are just the cases we know about.
As irresponsible and wrong as the behavior of these financial institutions have been in regard to the near economic collapse of our country, their handling of military family mortgages marks a new low.
Home mortgage banks who knowingly overcharge our military community should be held fully accountable for their actions and prosecuted under the law. Having served on two combat tours to the Middle East with the Hawaii Army National Guard, I know firsthand how essential it is that our service men and women be completely focused on the missions at hand. They should not be distracted and wasting one second of thought on whether the criminal practices of their mortgage lender back home would foreclose on their home, and put their family on the street.
The Servicemembers Civil Relief Act restricts mortgage lenders from foreclosing on active duty troops and caps their interest rates. But the number of troops who have been overcharged and foreclosed on clearly proves that the law isn't getting the job done. It's repulsive that our troops are exposed to this nonsense while they serve on the front lines.
If the people of Hawaii's 2nd Congressional District choose me to represent them in our nation's capital, I would not only fully support existing bills to protect my fellow troops from harm from financial institutions, but would go even further and try to make it impossible to foreclose on active duty service members even six months after the return from their deployments.
I would also ensure that all applicable laws are being enforced by demanding briefings from the U.S. Treasury, U.S. Department of Justice and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau who are tasked with regulating and prosecuting financial institutions who violate the law -- as so many of them have repeatedly done when it comes to the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act.
Representatives from those agencies would get to know me very well, because, as a war veteran myself, this mission is personal.
Take Julia Rowles, whose husband, Marine Corps Capt. Jonathan Rowles, was deployed when their bank threatened to foreclose on their home:
I was left alone to deal with [J.P. Morgan] Chase and their problems. We have two children. One of them was born premature...Yet at the same time, I'm dealing with Chase, getting their phone calls, getting their harassment. This constant harassment and constant ignorance for the [Servicemembers Civil Relief Act] benefits to service members is ridiculous.
We can and must do more to protect military families like the Rowles'.
Just as we provide our troops with the best possible protection on the battlefield, we have a commitment to look out for them and their families while they're away. I'm running for Congress because we're failing to meet that obligation and it's putting our service members and their families under considerable and unfair strain. Join me and let's do something about it.
Follow Rep. Tulsi Gabbard on Twitter: www.twitter.com/tulsigabbard