Will Bankruptcy Affect My Ability to Join the Military?

The circumstances surrounding your bankruptcy can affect your chances of joining the military as well as your security clearance.

Filing for bankruptcy won’t automatically disqualify you from enlisting in the military, and in fact, taking care of outstanding debt can be viewed positively. But, you’ll have to meet financial eligibility standards, and the circumstances leading up to your bankruptcy can affect:

  • your chances of joining the military, and
  • your security clearance.

Read on to learn more about whether filing for bankruptcy will affect your ability to join the military.

(Not sure which type of bankruptcy would be best for you? Read What Are the Differences Between Chapter 7 and Chapter 13 Bankruptcy?)

You Must Be Financially Responsible to Join the Military

Each branch of the military has eligibility requirements, and financial responsibility is one of the criteria the military considers in the recruitment process. So you should count on most military branches reviewing your financial history before allowing you to enlist.

The military checks your financial background to make sure you are dependable, responsible, and can survive on your military salary. The following are some of the most common financial circumstances that can affect your ability to join the military:

  • large amounts of credit card debt
  • foreclosures and repossessions
  • delinquent accounts, and
  • embezzlement, tax evasion, or other financially fraudulent conduct.

(For more information on whether filing for bankruptcy is in your best interest, see our topic area on Bankruptcy: Should I File?)

How Filing for Bankruptcy Can Affect Your Chances of Joining the Military

While a bankruptcy filing might be considered a negative financial event, it can also show that you’re taking control of your finances by eliminating your debts. Some of the things that a military recruiter might view as a negative include:

On the other hand, bankruptcy can help improve your financial situation by eliminating many of your debts and giving you a fresh financial start. Typically, military recruiters will view your bankruptcy more positively if you had to file because of circumstances that were out of your control (such as job loss or illness) and you have remained financially responsible since then.

(Find out if you can get rid of your obligations by reading Which Debts Are Discharged in Chapter 7 Bankruptcy?)

Bankruptcy and Your Security Clearance

Whether bankruptcy will have a negative impact on your security clearance or career advancement will depend on the branch of the military you want to join and the type of position you are looking for.

In most cases, the level of security clearance you can obtain will depend on numerous factors including:

  • how financially responsible you are
  • whether you’ve committed any crimes in the past
  • whether you have a history of abusing drugs or alcohol
  • your relationships with foreign individuals and your ties to other countries, and
  • whether you have any personality disorders.

(Learn more in Will Bankruptcy Affect My Military Security Clearance?)

Get More Information From a Military Recruiter

Speaking with a military recruiter can provide you with detailed information regarding whether a bankruptcy filing will hurt your chances of joining the military or your future military career. For this reason, it's a good idea to talk to a recruiter to learn about all of your options before filing your bankruptcy case.

(For more information, see Bankruptcy and Members of the Military.)

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