Ever since then, there's been a tacit understanding that if you risk your life for your country, the federal government's going to look out for you when you come home.
[Except if you served in Vietnam – Editorial Bear]
Which makes stories like this one really troubling: A sergeant in the National Guard who served valiantly in Iraq, only to have the bank foreclose on him while he was away.
It was at the height of the War in Iraq when Sgt. James Hurley was sent overseas. He left his wife and children in his small house in Michigan and bravely did his duty – expecting them all be waiting for him when he got back.
Because he would be serving on a reduced income while he was in Iraq, Hurley even expressed concerns that his family wouldn't be able to keep up with the mortgage payments, but the US army reassured him that the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act would protect his family while he was away. It's against the law to foreclose or evict an Active Duty Servicemember while they're on tour – and the law also ensures a VA refinance can never have an interest-rate higher than 6%.
But despite the law, agents of Deutsche Bank still foreclosed on his modest home while Hurley was in Iraq, and callously evicted his wife and kids. They then sold the property for about half of what it was worth to a developer who quickly scooped up the plots next door as well.
When Hurley returned, it took him a four-year legal battle for Deutsche Bank to even acknowledge that what they'd done was wrong, and offer him 'fair market value' for his lost home. Considering their illegal action had cost him tens of thousands in legal fees, broken up his marriage and made certain that he'd never be able to reclaim the home he'd lovingly built over the course of decade, that seems like an absolute travesty of justice.
Currently, the courts are deciding whether or not Hurley deserves 'punitive damages' from Deutsche Bank. The fact that this is even up for debate astonishes and enrages me.
I have some serious questions about the whole situation that I am singularly failing to get answered:
- Why was Hurley's family evicted in the first place? If the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act protects against foreclosure, how did Deutsche Bank manage to push through foreclosure proceedings? Couldn't Hurley's family have just picked up the phone and explained the situation? Were the Deutsche Bank agents so ignorant or unscrupulous that they just didn't care?
- Why is Deutsche Bank not being charged for this disgusting violation of trust? They broke the law – almost certainly knowingly and with intent. Yet not only are they not being punished for it, they've been allowed to spend the last four years fighting from giving Sgt. Hurley even the most basic compensation for what they did. Why is there no accountability here?
- How can the question of punitive damages even be up for debate? Sgt. Hurley lost his home, his wife and tens of thousands of dollars in legal fees, and the bank won't be held responsible for that? If they're not punished for so flagrantly breaking the law, what's to stop them doing it again with another active servicemember?
Across the country, other servicemembers were thrown into financial turmoil when banks ignored the rules about how high interest rates could go, so a Virginian soldier whose Virginia VA Home Loan were never meant to go above 6% would up being expected to cover an interest rate comparable to the most sharkish of adjustable rate mortgages.
What makes it especially appalling is that it wasn't until this scandal hit the news that Holly Petraeus, who heads the Office of Service Members Affairs, warned 25 banks that they were breaking the law – and that warning came with little action or consequence.
How come in America banks can operate with such impunity? How come the government is willing to turn a blind eye to them churning the families of servicemembers onto the streets?
Given that over 80% of all home loans wind up going through one of the pseudo-socialistic mortgage agencies overseen by the government – Freddie Mac and Frannie Mae – how can a responsible government allow this to happen?
I fear the answer is that the government feels more duty and loyalty to the billion-dollar bankers than it does to the men and women dodging bullets overseas; and that's a situation responsible Americans should work very hard to change.