Can a Soldier be forced to reveal financial information? | AskTOP.net - Leader Development for Army Professionals
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Can a Soldier be forced to reveal financial information?

If a Soldier is having financial difficulty can he refuse to provide financial information to his squad leader to help develop a plan of action?

Soldiers can not be forced to provide personal financial information to the command, even if they are facing financial difficulty.

In these situations, the command should refer the Soldier to ACS and the unit Financial NCO for debt counseling. The Soldier does not have to cooperate, even though it is in their best interest.

Convince the Soldier to get help

Approach the Soldier in private. Financial difficulties are sensitive and embarrassing. By assuring the Soldier that you are there to help them and that their private business will not be exposed to those outside the chain, you may be able to convince the Soldier to accept the assistance. He need not reveal his personal financial details to his leaders and/or command, only to the ACS personnel and financial NCO who are trained to assist in these matters.

The Soldier should be counseled in writing on his responsibility to meet his financial obligations and the fact that failure to meet those obligations could be a violation of Article 134, UCMJ, Debt, dishonorably failing to pay.

Follow through

The entire counseling should be geared toward helping the Soldier, however, if the Soldier refuses the help and the command continues to receive negative correspondence from his creditors, then UCMJ and administrative actions have to be considered by the command. However, if a Soldier is having financial difficulties, taking a Soldier’s pay and rank through UCMJ is not going to help them overcome their financial difficulties. A Summarized Article 15, which can only give extra duty and restriction may be more appropriate in a case like this, if the Soldier is otherwise a good Soldier. If a Company Grade or Field Grade is pursued, then a suspended rank reduction and forfeiture may be in order. That suspension, coupled with some extra duty, may get the Soldier’s attention to accept the help.

Disclaimer: I am not an attorney and any views presented are my own and are not to be
interpreted as legal advice. Furthermore, my views do not necessarily
represent the views of DoD or its Components.

posted on 06/11/2012 under Q&A
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Staff Sergeant(R) Douglas “Eck” Eckstein is a former Paralegal NCO with over eleven years of service in the Army. He has served overseas tours in Korea and Iraq. Eck served on active duty for seven years working in the personnel administration field then, after a break in service, returned to active duty in 2009 when he earned the Military Occupational Specialty, 27D (paralegal). He has worked in the Office of the Staff Judge Advocate from Division level down to unit level. He has expertise in all aspects of military law, with extensive emphasis in Administrative Law and Soldiers Rights. “I am not an attorney and any views presented are my own and are not to be interpreted as legal advice. Furthermore, my views do not necessarily represent the views of DoD or its Components.”

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Counsel Quick

    Comments

  • SSG

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    I am in an MOSQ course. The cadre do not follow any sort of standardized POIs. Instructors are very unprofessional and constantly conflict each other, and TMs/Army Regs. They also fraternize with junior enlisted soldiers to include bars/alcohol. Instructors are dating each other and boasting about it. Most of the NCOs in course are fed up with the incompetence. I am very outspoken and tactfully and professionally addressed the senior instructor. In return I received a negative counseling for attempting to undermine the cadre and hinder school. What are your thoughts?

  • MEDIC NCO

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    Hello,
    My Unit is currently deployed, and I want to make sure my soldiers are all being payed correctly. Can any NCO in the soldiers chain of command request to see an LES of that soldier, or is that right only reserved for the commander ?

  • FRANK

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    what chapter and para is it in i have been looking for this info in ar 340-21 but dont understand it

    • Eck

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      Hi Frank,

      I am doing some research on this and will provide additional input in the next day or two.

      AR 340-21 covers Privacy Act Data that the governs what personal information the military can reveal about individual Soldiers to third parties with and without the Soldier’s permission.

      The command does have the right to look at a Soldier’s LES since it is a military record. However, ordering a Soldier to produce their bank statements, savings information, expenditures, etc. is another issue. While it is my initial belief that the command cannot arbitrarily force a Soldier to produce this private information, I am still researching this issue.

      More to follow.

      Eck
      “I am not an attorney and any views presented are my own and are not to be interpreted as legal advice. Furthermore, my views do not necessarily represent the views of DoD or its Components.”

      • Eck

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        This is one of the issues that I thought would be an easy answer and turns out to be multifaceted in it’s complexity.

        After researching this and conferring with some of my fellow legal professionals, this issue is not directly referenced in any Army regulations that I am aware of. It falls under two main issues: 1) The Soldier’s constitutional right to privacy; and 2) Lawfulness of Orders. I will address each one issues.

        1. Every Soldier has a constitutional right to privacy. This includes personal financial data. A government agency cannot arbitrarily look at the financial records of an individual without just cause and most times a court order.

        2. Lawfulness of the order to provide your financial data. Your command has to have a reason to ask for the information. The Manual for Courts-Martial (MCM), Paragraph 14c(2)(a)(iv), “Relationship to Military Duty” states in part, “The order must relate to military duty, which includes all activities reasonably necessary to accomplish a military mission, or safeguard or promote the morale, discipline,and usefulness of members of a command and directly connected with the maintenance of good order in the service. The order may not, without such a valid military purpose, interfere with private rights or personal affairs…” Paragraph 14c(2)(a)(v), “Relationship to statutory or constitutional rights” states, “The order must not conflict with the statutory or constitutional rights of the person receiving the order.”

        So what does this mean to you the Soldier?

        Your command should have a legitimate reason to order a Soldier’s to release their personal finance information. This can be a complaint from a lender to the unit that a Soldier is not paying their bill, a complaint of failure to support family members (AR 608-99) or some other legitimate issue. Failure to pay a financial obligation is punishable under the UCMJ, Article 134, Debt, dishonorably failing to pay.

        Failing to pay your debt could result in civilian court proceedings against you that could take you away from your military duties. This alone could meet the “Relationship to Military Duty” requirement. However, the lawfulness of an order is a question of law to be determined by a military judge. (MCM, para 14c(2)(a)(ii))

        If the command does have a legitimate reason to ask for your financial information and you do not comply, then the command will make their determination of the issue based on the what ever information/evidence they have. It normally works in the Soldier’s favor to cooperate, even if they are behind on payments. There are agencies that can assist the Soldier in getting their financial house in order.

        If the command does not have a legitimate reason, they are probably just trying to make sure the Soldier is on the right track financially. Most units have a trained Financial NCO/Officer that assists Soldiers with financial issues, AER, budgeting, etc. There are also agencies within Army Community Service (ACS) that can help the Soldier. I strongly recommend my Soldiers take advantage of these agencies, even if they appear not to have financial issues. It can only help, but the decision is still up to the Soldier.

        This is not a clear cut issue. If you fail to obey an order, you run the risk of being punished under the UCMJ. If it’s your NCO and not your commander/1SG asking for the information, try a compromise that you would be willing to speak with ACS and/or the unit Financial NCO/Officer who is trained in finances.

        This is not legal advice on how to respond to a request for your financial information. If you still have questions, speak with an attorney at your local Legal Assistance Office.

        I hope you found this information useful.
        Eck
        “I am not an attorney and any views presented are my own and are not to be interpreted as legal advice. Furthermore, my views do not necessarily represent the views of DoD or its Components.”

  • Part-Time-Commander

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    Personally, I don’t believe any Soldier should ever have to reveal their financial information to their supervisor. That is a totally private matter. More importantly, just because your boss outranks you doesn’t mean they are qualified to give financial advice. For all I know, they could be just as bad off financially as you are. When you need help, seek out an expert. ACS is a great starting point.
    Chuck

  • Matt

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    Exactly what AR covers this? It’s easy for me to say but I’ll need something to back it up.

    • Mark Gerecht

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      See AR 340-21 “The Army Privacy Program”

  • SGT NICK

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    Interesting article, I wonder if this applies to that Military Star credit card that I loathe. I can’t even count how many counseling’s I have to do on soldiers when a commander gets a letter from them about a miss payment. Aafes is all over the commander if it becomes delinquent. I have to counsel them and they must show me a payment confirmation. Not a big deal but has become routine with new privates.

    • Eck

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      Hi SGT Nick,

      The same rules apply to the Military Star credit card as any other creditor. The Military Star Card, while provided to military personnel, is still a private company such as any other financial institution. Because the Military Star is so closely affiliated with AAFES, commanders generally put more emphasis on reports of non-payment.

      The command can not force a Soldier to pay their debts; the command can only take action, after counseling the Soldier when it is proven the Soldier has not paid their debt. The military has no obligation to assist a private organization to collect a debt. It is the creditor’s responsibility to seek recourse through the local civilian courts.

      This issue is very time consuming to commands and NCO leadership, as well as the legal offices. Especially, as you pointed out, with new Soldiers. There are many extremely high interest loans geared toward Soldiers that get them in trouble quickly. During my NCOPD’s I cover this fact and strongly recommend that the NCO leadership sit down with new Soldiers and go over those companies that advertise easy loans to Soldier’s “with little or no credit.” I also push for the NCO’s to make themselves available to go to a dealership with these young Soldiers when they are looking for a vehicle. Get a financing quote and take it to the unit financial NCO to establish a budget and see if the Soldier can afford the car payments. Of course, the Soldier does not have to accept the help, but at least the offer is there.

      Disclaimer: I am not an attorney and any views presented are my own and are not to be interpreted as legal advice. Furthermore, my views do not necessarily represent the views of DoD or its Components.

      • Part-Time-Commander

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        This is some great information, SGT Nick. Thanks for sharing.
        Chuck

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