OnWatch is a quarterly newsletter of the Fleet Reserve
March 3, 2020
The Gold Star Spouses and Spouses of Injured Servicemembers Leasing Relief Expansion Act
There’s a saying in the military: when you join the military, your spouse joins as well. The spouse in most cases become an estate manager, a psychologist and overall support system that allows you to focus on being the lethal and effective warrior your command expects you to be. Spouses are one of the essential bedrocks of the military readiness agenda.
Joining the military comes with the perks of traveling the world, obtaining employable life changing skills, the honor of defending the American way of life among many other benefits. However, none of us travels down this path of life without acknowledging the ultimate sacrifice that awaits some of us. When one of our warriors ultimately pays that sacrifice, the spouse and dependents lives are changed forever.
As a nation we seek to ease the pain and suffering of the dependents as they attempt to return to some sought of normalcy. When this tragedy occurs, one will think a landlord will be accommodating and allow a spouse to break a rental lease to move back home to grieve, but there’s always one; as in the case of Gold Star spouse, Kylie Riney of Fairview, Illinois. Kylie’s husband Sergeant Douglas J. Riney paid the ultimate sacrifice on October 18, 2016 while defending our freedom in Kabul, 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 their loss. While trying to decide the best course of action for her family, Kylie was confronted with costly lease cancelation fees due to a hole in the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act that fails to extend protections to Gold Star spouses.
The loophole in the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act opened the door for a new legislation, Gold Star Spouses Leasing Relief Act sponsored by Representative Cheri Bustos (IL-17). The legislation was signed into law by President Trump December 2018 – 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 provision of the new law does not include leases on automobiles nor the spouses of catastrophically disabled servicemembers. Spouses of catastrophically disabled servicemembers sometimes require special housing or automobile accommodations for the servicemember. The requirement to break a lease is once again on the table with severe financial penalties. Representatives Cheri Bustos (IL-17) introduced an expansion of the legislation that would eliminate this loophole and alleviate potential financial burdens for servicemembers and their families.
The expansion bill has not reached the president’s desk, but some companies such as Toyota have taken the initiative to apply the concept of the bill in their policies. “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.
In conclusion It’s common sense laws such as this allows our servicemembers to focus on their mission while reducing stress during deployments and overall increases readiness. The FRA has written a letter of support for the Gold Star Spouses and Spouses of Injured Servicemembers Leasing Relief Expansion Act. Please focus on the FRA Action Center because your input allows congress to hear your voices in important matters that may or may not directly affect you but overall improves the lives of military families!
OnWatch is a quarterly news update for active duty and Reserve personnel, written by Theo Lawson. He served 8 years total reserve and active duty in the United States Marine Corps and has a personal interest in these matters. As the assistant director of Legislative Programs for the Fleet Reserve Association (FRA), he’s also committed to FRA’s mission to maintain and improve the quality of life for Navy, Marine Corps and Coast Guard personnel and their families. He looks forward to keeping you up to date on FRA’s legislative efforts to protect and enhance your earned military and veterans’ benefits.