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What are my rights as a servicemember under the Equal Credit Opportunity Act? Can a creditor refuse to extend credit to me just because I’m a servicemember?

It depends. Service in the military—whether current or prior service—is not a protected class under the Equal Credit Opportunity Act (ECOA).

But just like your civilian counterparts, you are covered by the ECOA.  The ECOA is a federal law that makes it illegal for a creditor to discriminate against you, in any aspect of a credit transaction, because of:

  • Sex (including sexual orientation and gender identity)
  • Age (provided the applicant is old enough to enter a contract)
  • Race
  • Color
  • National origin
  • Religion
  • Marital status
  • Whether all or part of your income is from any public assistance program. This includes, but is not limited to, Social Security and Supplemental Security Income (SSI), unemployment compensation, Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF), and Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program benefits (SNAP). Some Veterans’ benefits may also be considered income from a public assistance program (in which case no creditor may discriminate against a veteran on the basis of receiving such benefits).
  • Whether you’ve exercised in good faith a right under the Consumer Credit Protection Act (CCPA). The CCPA is a collection of consumer protection laws, including ECOA, relating to credit

Some state laws do make it illegal to discriminate against covered persons based on active duty or veteran/military status.  These states include:

If you are in one of these states and believe you may have been discriminated against, contact your local JAG. Use the JAG Locator to find your local JAG Legal Assistance attorney.