Excessive Debt Can Ruin Your Military Career

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.




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Date published: May 6, 2008. Last updated: November 9, 2008.

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Ryan Guina is the founder and editor of this site. He is a writer, small business owner, and entrepreneur. He served over 6 years in the USAF and also writes about money management, small business, and career topics at Cash Money Life. You can also see his profile on Google

Comments

  1. You can not be denied a security clearance or have your clearance revoked based solely on a high debt-to-income ratio. Your clearance can be denied/revoked due to “consistent spending beyond one’s means, which may be indicated by . . . high debt-to-income ration . . . .” There are other reasons one can have a high debt-to-income ratio that will have no effect on a security clearance

    William Henderson, Author
    Security Clearance Manual

  2. ZenPanda says:

    “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.”

    Unfortuneatly I see the opposite everyday. I am a military wife & I work with the local courts. The local military installation does nothing to enforce repayment of debt.

  3. William,

    Thank you for clearing up my wording.

    Zen Panda,

    My comment about the military forcing repayment of debt is based on events i have witnessed while enlisted in the USAF. I don’t think the military can actually “force” members to repay debt, but I have seen some commanders give direct orders to repay debt. If the troop does not he is then disobeying a direct order. Can they “legally” enforce troops to pay? I’m not sure. But they can kick them out if they don’t pay, and many (not all) troops prefer paying to getting kicked out.

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