WASHINGTON – Today, Congresswoman Cheri Bustos (IL-17) applauded Toyota’s recent decision to provide protections for spouses of servicemembers who sustain catastrophic injury detailed in her bipartisan, bicameral legislation – the Gold Star Spouses and Spouses of Injured Servicemembers Leasing Relief Expansion Act. This bill would extend home and automobile leasing protections in the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act, allowing the spouses of catastrophically injured servicemembers to terminate property leases and automobile leases, and Gold Star spouses to terminate automobile leases. Last week, Congresswoman Bustos had the opportunity to meet with Toyota Financial Services President and Chief Executive Officer, Mark Templin, to discuss the implementation of the policy and thank him for acting on behalf of veterans and their families.
“It’s great to see leaders in the private sector step up – even when the law does not yet require it,” Congresswoman Bustos said. “I’m glad that Toyota joined us to support our veterans and military families who have already sacrificed so much. I hope more leaders in the business community follow their example and that this legislation is passed swiftly to build of our bill the president signed into law last year.”
“Toyota is grateful to the service members who have given so much to protect our country,” said Mark Templin, President and CEO of Toyota Financial Services. “We humbly thank the families of those who have sacrificed their lives or suffered catastrophic injuries to keep the United States safe, and we are honored to work with Representatives Bustos and Wenstrup in recognizing their service.”
“PVA sought this legislative change because we feel very strongly that the spouses of servicemembers who sustain a catastrophic injury/illness should be allowed to focus on the care of their loved ones and not have to worry about the costs of terminating their residential and automotive leases,” said Carl Blake, Executive Director of Paralyzed Veterans of America. “We applaud Toyota for its proactive leadership to extend these protections to its military customers immediately, and hope many others will soon do the same.”
The inspiration for this legislation comes from testimony submitted by the Paralyzed Veterans of America (PVA) last Congress during a markup of the Gold Star Spouses Leasing Relief Act – another piece of legislation introduced and passed by Congresswoman Bustos. In their testimony, PVA advocated that the same protections being offered to widows and widowers also be provided to the spouses of servicemembers who sustain catastrophic injury. As a result of injury, servicemembers may spend a significant amount of time in rehabilitation facilities – additionally, cars or property that they own may become inaccessible. This legislation would eliminate the loophole and alleviate potential financial burdens for servicemembers and their families.
A companion bill was introduced in the United States Senate by Senators Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Rob Portman (R-OH), Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) and Thom Tillis (R-NC). This bill has earned the support of the American Legion, Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors and PVA.
Congresswoman Bustos’ Gold Star Spouses Leasing Relief Act was signed into law by President Trump last December – allowing surviving spouses of servicemembers killed in the line of duty to terminate residential leases at the time of the servicemember’s death without penalty. The legislation was inspired by Kylie Riney, whose husband – Sergeant Douglas J. Riney – tragically died defending our country in Afghanistan. Kylie and her two young children chose to move back to their home state of Illinois from Texas 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 at the time. Congresswoman Bustos testified in front of the House Veterans Affairs Subcommittee on Economic Opportunity in May of 2018 in support of the Gold Star Spouses Leasing Relief Act, which is where PVA submitted testimony and drove inspiration for the introduction of the Gold Star Spouses and Spouses of Injured Servicemembers Leasing Relief Expansion Act.