Joining the military is a huge decision, not to be taken lightly. There are many loose ends you’ll need to tie up before enlisting, as well as things to consider regarding your eligibility. One area that the US government will look at is your finances. If you have debt or have recently filed bankruptcy, this won’t automatically disqualify you from joining. You will need to explain the circumstances that led to your current situation. Not only could this keep you from joining the military, but it could also limit your security clearance once you join.
Investigating the Why
Being a service member is a huge responsibility. Each branch will investigate your background to determine if you’ve been financially responsible. They’ll want to see that you’re consistent with your debt payments and discipline. They will also want to ensure that you can survive on the wages you’ll make once enlisted. If you have a lot of credit card debt, this can show a lack of discipline. Repossessions, foreclosures, and delinquent accounts may indicate irresponsibility. Tax evasion and embezzlement are crimes and show dishonesty.
Simply filing bankruptcy will not keep you from enlisting. Rather, you may be able to explain that the bankruptcy is an indication of you being more responsible by taking tangible steps to get your debt under control. Be honest about why you filed, especially if it was due to an illness, job loss, or other events that were out of your control. In these cases, your recruiter may actually see your bankruptcy as a positive event, especially if you can show a history of financial responsibility since filing.
If you’ve been convicted of bankruptcy fraud, have filed multiple times, or filed because you spent frivolously on luxury items, your recruiter may not agree to your enlistment.
Once you’re enlisted, your financial situation may continue to have an impact on your career, promotions, and security clearance. Each branch of the military has its own requirements and processes. Most of them base your security clearance on your job performance, financial responsibility, criminal history, alcohol/drug abuse history, mental health history, and any ties with foreign countries.
If you’re uncertain that you’ll be eligible for military service or your future opportunities for career advancement, speak to a military recruiter. He or she can discuss the various factors that might come into play and can guide you toward the best next steps. If you’re in debt and aren’t sure if you should file bankruptcy, I’d be glad to speak to you about your options and possible consequences of filing. There is hope through bankruptcy, whether it’s the new start you need to pursue a fruitful career or simply a way to take control of your finances for whatever life might throw at you next.