WASHINGTON – Yesterday, Representatives Cheri Bustos (IL-17) and Brad Wenstrup (OH-02) introduced bipartisan, bicameral legislation to support the spouses of servicemembers who sustain catastrophic injury. The Gold Star Spouses and Spouses of Injured Servicemembers Leasing Relief Expansion Act 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.
“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 this 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.
“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.
“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 and Rep. Bustos this year to expand it to spouses of those who are injured and ill,” said Ashlynne Haycock, Deputy Director of Policy & Legislation at Tragedy Assistance Program For Survivors.
“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.
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 by Representatives Bustos and Wenstrup. 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. Today’s legislation would eliminate this loophole and alleviate potential financial burdens for servicemembers and their families.
A companion bill will be 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).
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. Representatives Bustos and Wenstrup testified in front of the House Veterans Affairs Subcommittee on Economic Opportunity last May in support of the Gold Star Spouses Leasing Relief Act, which is where PVA submitted testimony and drove inspiration for yesterday’s introduction.