Senate Passes Bipartisan Warren Proposal to Enhance Financial Protections for Gold Star Spouses and Spouses of Injured Servicemembers
Language protects spouses of deceased servicemembers from car lease penalties and spouses of catastrophically injured servicemembers from penalties associated with residential and car leases
Washington, DC - United States Senators Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Rob Portman (R-Ohio), Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) Thom Tillis (R-N.C.), and Ranking Member of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee, Senator Jon Tester (D-Mont.), as well as Senators Deb Fischer (R-Neb.), Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.), Todd Young (R-Ind.), and Martha McSally (R-Ariz.) today applauded the United States Senate’s passage of the bipartisan Gold Star Spouses and Spouses of Injured Servicemembers Leasing Relief Expansion Act as part of the Fiscal Year 2020 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA).
Warren, Portman, Ranking Member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, Senator Jack Reed (D-R.I.), Sinema, and Tillis introduced the stand-alone bill in April, and Fischer and McSally joined them as co-sponsors. Representatives Cheri Bustos (D-Ill.) and Brad Wenstrup (R-Ohio.) are the lead sponsors of companion legislation in the House of Representatives.
“Military families are middle class families who make incredible sacrifices in service to our country. We must do our part to make sure they have the resources and support they need,” said Senator Warren. “I’m thankful that the Senate has chosen to advance our bipartisan legislation to strengthen financial protections for Gold Star spouses and spouses of injured servicemembers.”
“Military spouses dealing with the death or catastrophic disability of a loved one as the result of their service should have the ability to end leases without incurring high termination fees,” said Senator Portman. “I’m glad this bipartisan bill was included in the Senate-passed NDAA today as it will provide much-needed relief for these families.”
"Military spouses play a vital role in supporting our servicemembers and often handle signing a lease for a home or automobile when servicemembers receive orders to relocate," said Senator Tillis. "I am proud this bipartisan legislation that will provide military spouses with relief and financial protections to help them during an incredibly difficult time for their family was included in the NDAA."
"It is great to see Republicans and Democrats come together to stand for Gold Star families,” said Senator McSally. “Supporting families of those who have paid the ultimate sacrifice is the right thing to do and easing their financial burden is the least we can do."
“We were pleased to learn of the inclusion of The Gold Star Spouses and Spouses of Injured Service Members Leasing Relief Expansion Act in the Senate version of the 2020 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). Spouses of service members who have sustained a catastrophic injury/illness should not have to worry about the costs of terminating their residential and automotive leases, but instead, be able to focus on the care of their disabled service members,” said Steve Henry, Associate Legislative Director of Paralyzed Veterans for America.
"We applaud the Senate for supporting the spouses of our servicemembers and providing them the flexibility they need to care for their families without penalty in the terrible situation when the servicemember suffers from injury, illness, or death in the line of duty," said Linda Jun, Senior Policy Counsel, Americans for Financial Reform.
Military families may relocate frequently or suddenly as the result of a servicemember's military orders, and these moves often involve entering into leases for a house, apartment, or other dwelling, or an automobile. If a servicemember dies or sustains a catastrophic injury or illness during military service, his or her spouse may be forced to pay off the remainder of that residential or automobile lease or face a penalty for breaking the lease.
The bipartisan Gold Star Spouses and Spouses of Injured Servicemembers Leasing Relief Expansion Act amends the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA) to expand existing financial protections for military families' residential and car leases in the following ways:
· Allows the spouse of a servicemember who died while in military service to terminate a motor vehicle lease during the one-year period beginning on the date of the death of the servicemember, if that servicemember died while in military service or while performing full-time National Guard duty, active Guard and Reserve duty, or inactive-duty training.
· Allows the spouse of a servicemember who sustained a catastrophic injury or illness to terminate a residential lease AND a motor vehicle lease during the one-year period beginning on the date of the injury or illness of the servicemember, if that servicemember sustained the injury or illness while in military service or while performing full-time National Guard duty, active Guard and Reserve duty, or inactive-duty training.
This is the second Warren-Portman bill signed into law. The first, the Gold Star Spouses Leasing Relief Act, was included in the omnibus Veterans Benefits and Transition Act and allows Gold Star spouses to terminate a residential lease within one year of a servicemember’s death.
Senator Warren is one of the leading voices on the Senate Armed Services Committee calling for better protections for veterans, Gold Star families, and servicemembers.
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