Senators Unveil Bipartisan Bill to Enhance Financial Protections for Surviving Military Spouses and Spouses of Injured Servicemembers
Legislation would protect 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), Ranking Member of the Senate Armed Services Committee Jack Reed (D-R.I.) and Senators Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) and Thom Tillis (R-N.C.) today introduced the bipartisan Gold Star Spouses and Spouses of Injured Servicemembers Leasing Relief Expansion Act. 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 Warren-Portman Gold Star Spouses Leasing Relief Act, included in the omnibus Veterans Benefits and Transition Act passed into law last year, ensured that Gold Star spouses can terminate a residential lease within one year of a servicemember's death.
The bipartisan Gold Star Spouses and Spouses of Injured Servicemembers Leasing Relief Expansion Act, which was simultaneously introduced in the House of Representatives by Representatives Cheri Bustos (D-Ill.) and Brad Wenstrup (R-Ohio), amends the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA) to expand existing financial protections for military families' residential and car leases in the following ways:
- Allow 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.
- Allow 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.
"All three of my brothers served in the military, and I deeply appreciate the sacrifices that servicemembers make for our country. We owe them and their families the very best," said Senator Warren. "I'm glad to partner with my colleagues on a bipartisan bill to provide military spouses with financial relief after a loved one's death or catastrophic injury."
"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. "This bipartisan bill, with support from veterans' groups, will provide much-needed relief for these families. I encourage my Senate colleagues to join me in supporting this common-sense legislation."
"We have a moral obligation to do right by military spouses. We can never fully repay our fallen heroes, but we can expand protections to their grieving spouses. This is a commonsense step to help folks address one small challenge as they deal with a tragic, life-changing event," said Senator Reed.
"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. "This bipartisan legislation will provide military spouses with relief and financial protections to help them during an incredibly difficult time for their family."
"When a servicemember suffers an injury in service of our nation, we have a responsibility to respond to their needs," Congresswoman Bustos said. "The brave men and women who step up to defend our freedoms abroad deserve to be protected when they return home, and that's what makes today's legislation so important. Building off our bill the president signed last year, I'm proud to continue working with members of both parties and both chambers towards common-sense solutions for our veterans and their families."
"The spouses of those who sacrifice in service to our nation should be supported when tragedy strikes, not trapped in leases and contracts. This legislation would ensure that spouses of servicemembers who are catastrophically injured in the line of duty are able to terminate their leases without penalty," said Congressman Wenstrup.
The Gold Star Spouses and Spouses of Injured Servicemembers Leasing Relief Expansion Act is also supported by Paralyzed Veterans of America, The American Legion, Assistance Program for Survivors (TAPS), and Americans for Financial Reform (AFR).
"We are pleased with the introduction of the Gold Star Spouses and Spouses of Injured Servicemembers Leasing Relief Expansion Act. This legislation will allow spouses of service members who sustained a catastrophic injury/illness to terminate residential and automotive leases without penalty. We support this legislation and look forward to its swift passage," said Heather Ansley, Associate Executive Director of Government Relations at Paralyzed Veterans of America.
"Gold Star Families have suffered and share in their servicemembers ultimate sacrifice and the nation owes them the fullest support possible. The American Legion is serious about its obligation to our servicemembers and their families and wants to ensure that the surviving families receive the highest level of support as they face tough decisions upon being notified. The Gold Star Spouses and Spouses of Injured Servicemembers Leasing Relief Expansion Act would help ensure Gold Star Families are given the best our country has to offer them. We look forward to expeditious action on the measure and thank Senator Warren, Senator Portman and a number of their colleagues in the Senate and the House for introducing this legislation," said Brett P. Reistad, National Commander of the American Legion.
"TAPS was so grateful for the work put in last year to pass the Gold Star Leasing Relief Act and we are excited to work with Sen. Warren this year to expand it to spouses of those who are injured and ill," said Ashlynne Haycock, Deputy Directory Policy & Legislation at Tragedy Assistance Program For Survivors.
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