A new legislative proposal would provide free credit monitoring for all uniformed service members and their family members, building on a five-year-old law that provided the free benefit to active duty members.

The monitoring, which generally costs around $30 a month or more, can help troops and family members keep on top of their finances, with information about new activity on their credit reports. With early detection, troops can take steps to nip fraud and other problems in the bud. The three credit reporting agencies are currently providing the service to all active duty members.

The bipartisan proposal, introduced Thursday by Sen. Tom Carper, D-Delaware; Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minnesota; Sen. Kevin Cramer, R-North Dakota; and Sen. Steve Daines, R-Montana, would amend the Fair Credit Reporting Act to expand the definition of those eligible for free credit monitoring to include all in the uniformed services, regardless of duty status, to include members of the National Guard and reserve components. It also would expand the free credit monitoring to their spouses and dependents over 18.

“We owe it to our service members and their families to make sure that their financial well-being is protected while they are protecting our country at home and abroad,” said Carper, a 23-year veteran of the Navy and the Navy Reserve, in an announcement about the proposal. “Military families are often more vulnerable to cybersecurity breaches, which can expose personal data like sensitive financial and identification information.”

Ensuring that military families have full access to credit monitoring services will help keep their information secure, said Cramer, in the announcement.

Credit files maintained by the credit reporting agencies include information about where you live, whether you pay your bills on time and the amount of debt your are carrying; whether you’ve been sued or arrested; or filed for bankruptcy. The information is used to make decisions on whether to lend you money, rent you an apartment, and, importantly for many in the military, whether you should be given a security clearance.

The legislation is endorsed by TransUnion, one of the three major credit reporting agencies, and by The Military Coalition, according to the announcement.

“The current law … provides a safety net for most but not for all of our uniformed services as we would intend,” said Jack Du Teil, president of The Military Coalition, in a statement provided in the senators’ announcement. “The key to oversight is to expand the current law to include all service members — a course of action TMC has long supported.

“We appreciate that this legislation also expands credit monitoring coverage to spouses and dependents of uniformed service members,” he said.

A proposal was introduced in the House in March to expand the free credit monitoring to all uniformed service members, but it didn’t include family members.

Karen has covered military families, quality of life and consumer issues for Military Times for more than 30 years, and is co-author of a chapter on media coverage of military families in the book "A Battle Plan for Supporting Military Families." She previously worked for newspapers in Guam, Norfolk, Jacksonville, Fla., and Athens, Ga.

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