Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee (SVAC) Chairman Jerry Moran (R-Kan.) and Ranking Member Jon Tester (D-Mont.) introduced bipartisan legislation to expand the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA) to provide additional legal protections for servicemembers impacted by the COVID-19 crisis. House Veterans’ Affairs Committee (HVAC) Chairman Mark Takano (D-Calif.), Ranking Member Phil Roe (R-Tenn.) and Rep. Mike Levin (D-Calif.) introduced companion legislation in the U.S. House of Representatives.
The SCRA provides legal protection to servicemembers to prevent them from being taken advantage of while on duty or deployed. The SCRA can postpone or suspend financial or civil obligations, including preventing foreclosures, evictions or repossession of a vehicle under the right circumstances.
The Senators’ legislation expands SCRA protections to servicemembers who were previously issued orders to change duty stations but, due to the COVID-19 global pandemic, received a stop movement order and may have a housing or car lease in two different locations.
“Our servicemembers and their families are often asked to pick up their lives and move around the world due to deployments or a change in duty station, and the SCRA provides military families with legal protections to help with these transitions,” said SVAC Chairman Moran. “As we face a global pandemic, military families are being impacted by orders to stay at their current duty station after they received orders and made plans to move. Our bipartisan legislation will help provide much needed assistant and additional legal protection for military families in this situation and therefore have lease commitments in two locations.”
“When our military families are called upon to relocate to posts around the world in service to this nation, we have a responsibility to ensure their transitions are as smooth as possible,” said SVAC Ranking Member Tester. “For servicemembers facing two housing payments because they followed the military’s stop movement orders in response to the pandemic, this means we’ve got to provide them with legal and consumer protections. Our bipartisan proposal will expand protections under the SCRA to cover lease terminations, and provide much needed assistance for military families during this unprecedented time.”
“The COVID-19 pandemic has strained budgets for servicemembers and their families as a result of DoD’s stop movement order,” said HVAC Chairman Takano. “These families are stuck-- unable to relocate to their new duty station, while getting double billed and paying rent twice over. By helping slow the spread, these military families have suffered unintended financial hardship due to their service-- that’s why I’m proud to support this permanent legislative fix to expand SCRA protections and help relieve the financial burden on these servicemembers.”
“No servicemember or their family should have to worry about whether they will face an added financial burden because of the stop movement order DOD put in place to stop the spread of COVID-19,” said HVAC Ranking Member Roe. “By allowing them to cancel a lease for a new car or house without penalty, this legislation would give them the flexibility and peace of mind they need during these trying times. I am proud to introduce this important bill with my House and Senate colleagues on behalf of the hardworking men and women of our Armed Forces who continue to adapt and serve so well in the unchartered waters we find ourselves in.”
“Servicemembers are prepared to sacrifice for our country, but they should never suffer significant personal financial losses as a result of following orders,” said Rep. Levin. “While I appreciate the Defense Department’s efforts to keep servicemembers safe during this pandemic, it’s unacceptable that some military families have been forced to pay for a second home that they can’t even move into due to the stop movement order. I’m glad to introduce bipartisan legislation to rectify this situation.”
This legislation is cosponsored by Sens. Bill Cassidy (R-La.), Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.), Mike Rounds (R-S.D.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), John Boozman (R-Ark.), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.), Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii), Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska), Thom Tillis (R-N.C.), Kelly Loeffler (R-Ga.) and Joe Manchin (D-W.V.).