Military members are held to a higher standard than civilians. You must maintain a certain level of fitness, you must have professional bearing at all times, and you cannot abuse alcohol or illegal drugs. Failing to do these things can be extremely detrimental to your career.
But did you also know that you cannot have excessive debt? In fact, just like being overweight or using illegal drugs, it can ruin your career.
Credit reports and Security Clearances
You credit report will be pulled any time you apply for a security clearance or clearance renewal. Did you know that if your debt to income ratio is too high your security clearance application can be denied?
Many jobs require security clearances and having your clearance application denied can either get you reclassed into a career field that doesn’t require a clearance, or kicked out of the military altogether. And sometimes the choice isn’t yours.
Military members are required by the UCMJ to pay their debt
As a military member, you know that you are required to pay your debts. If you didn’t know this, it is spelled out for you in Article 134 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ).
And guess what? Every place of business near your base also knows you are required to repay your debts. That is why there are so many businesses willing to extend credit to service members. The businesses know that one way or another, they will receive their money. A quick phone call to a First Sergeant or Commander can get things taken care of very quickly. I’ve even seen Commanders order an allotment against a military member’s pay check to pay their debts.
There is free help on base
Most Supervisors, First Sergeants, and Commanding Officers will work diligently with troops before actions need to be taken that can ruin a career. Most bases offer financial planning courses such as budgeting, credit repair, beginner investing and more. Check with your local installation for more information.
If this assistance is not available, it is common for supervising NCOs, First Sergeants, or other volunteers to offer budgeting help and learning skills such as balancing checkbooks.
Discharge for failure to pay debt
Some military members have too much debt or simply refuse to honor their obligations. Military members who repeatedly fail to make payments or honor their debts can receive various punishments up to and including being discharged. The maximum punishment is a Bad-conduct discharge, forfeiture of all pay and allowances, and confinement for 6 months.
Do your part. Excessive debt can have a severe impact on your career and your personal life. If you have problems with debt, seek assistance now – before the damage becomes too great. Your supervisor, First Sergeant, or base Family Support Center is a great place to seek more information.