WASHINGTON – Yesterday evening, the U.S. Senate unanimously passed Congresswoman Cheri Bustos’ (IL-17)to support widows and widowers of fallen soldiers, sending the bill to the President’s desk. The bill extends residential leasing protections to surviving spouses of servicemembers killed in the line of duty. The language of this legislation was included in a bipartisan package of bills to help veterans and their families, the Veterans Benefits and Transition Act, which is what ultimately passed the Senate.
“When I first heard from Kylie about this issue, I knew we needed to act – families of our fallen heroes have already sacrificed so much for our country, and we ought to do everything in our power to make sure grieving spouses receive the support and protections they deserve,” Congresswoman Bustos said. “By working across the aisle, we were able to make real progress for families and Gold Star spouses like Kylie.”
“After my husband was killed in Afghanistan, all I wanted was to move my children back home to Illinois to be closer to our family. But my landlord wouldn’t allow me to break my lease without paying excessive penalties – a costly burden no person should have to bear after losing a spouse in combat,” said Kylie Riney, a Gold Star spouse from Farmington, Illinois. “This legislation would make sure nobody has to experience what I did after losing Doug and, I want to thank Congresswoman Bustos for not only listening to my concerns – but for getting results and turning this idea into law. American veterans and their families will be better off because of her efforts.”
The Gold Star Spouses Leasing Relief Act was inspired by Kylie Riney, whose husband – Sergeant Douglas J. Riney – tragically died defending our country in Afghanistan. Kylie and her two young children, who were living in Texas due to Sgt. Riney’s assignment to Fort Hood prior to deployment, chose to move back to their home state of Illinois as they mourned his passing. While trying to make the best decision for her family, Kylie was confronted with costly lease cancelation fees due to a hole in the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act, which failed to extend protections to Gold Star spouses. Congresswoman Bustos’ bill will fix that loophole to protect Gold Star families who have recently suffered a great tragedy.
Congresswoman Bustos worked tirelessly on behalf of veterans and their families to pass this legislation. In May, she testified with her Republican colleague in front of the House Veterans Affairs Committee – urging them to pass the bill to provide support to Gold Star spouses. The House passed her legislation in July and, following the Senate’s passage yesterday evening, the bill is headed to the president’s desk to be signed into law.