"Latest Update from National Headquarters"
February 28, 2020
The House this week approved the "Gold Star Spouses and Spouses of Injured Servicemembers Leasing Relief Expansion Act" (H.R. 2227), sponsored by Representative Cheri Bustos (IL) and Brad Wenstrup (OH). The bill would extend the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act, allowing spouses of catastrophically injured service members to terminate property leases and automobile leases and Gold Star spouses to terminate automobile leases.
In December 2018, President Trump signed into law the Gold Star Spouses Leasing Relief Act (H.R.5882) allowing surviving spouses of service members killed in the line of duty to terminate residential leases at the time of the service member's death without penalty.
The provision of the current law does not include leases on automobiles nor the spouses of catastrophically disabled service members. Spouses of catastrophically disabled service members often require special housing or automobile accommodations for the service member. The requirement to break a lease is once again on the table with severe financial penalties. Representatives Cheri Bustos (IL) introduced an expansion of the 2018 law that would eliminate this loophole and alleviate potential financial burdens for service members and their families.
The bill now goes to the Senate for further consideration. Please use this Action Center to contact your Senators today to ask for their support of this important legislation!
Secretary of Defense Enacts Only Parts of the Tenant Bill of Rights
Privatized military housing was again highlighted this week during the House Armed Service Committee FY2021 Defense Budget hearing.
Recent news reports on privatized military housing condition paints a picture of horrific inexcusable living situations confronting military families. Although Congress took measures to rectify the situation within FY2020 NDAA (S.1790) with an addition of the tenant bill of rights, there's still much room for improvement. On February 25th, Secretary of Defense Dr. Mark T. Esper, Secretary of the Army Ryan D. McCarthy, Acting Secretary of the Navy Thomas B. Modly and Secretary of the Air Force Barbara M. Barrett signed the Military Housing Privatization Initiative Tenant Bill of Rights. However, the secretaries only signed 15 of the 18 stated rights as authorized by congress. The following 3 rights were excluded from the letter:
- Access to maintenance history.
- Process for dispute resolution.
- Withholding of rent until disputes are resolve.
Privatization of military housing began in 1996 with the Military Housing Privatization Initiative (MHPI). Since then, private companies manage, repair, renovate, construct and operate base housing. Some military families claim that there is little to no accountability or oversight of these companies. FRA is working to ensure service members and their families have safe, quality homes and communities. The Association wants to increase the accountability of privatized housing companies by putting more oversight authority in the hands of local military leaders
DoD Releases Fact Sheet on SBP Changes
The Department of Defense (DoD) has recently released a FAQ for recent changes to the Survivor Benefit Program (SBP) that were enacted in the FY 2020 National Defense Authorization Act (S. 1790). This FRA-supported provision provides for the elimination of the Survivor Benefit Plan (SBP)/Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (DIC) offset for widows and widowers of service members over three years. This offset, also known as the "widow's tax," impacts approximately 65,000 widows and widowers of our Armed Forces.
Under the previous law, a surviving spouse who receives DIC is subject to a dollar-for-dollar reduction of SBP payments, which can result in SBP being either partially or fully offset. The repeal will phase-in the reduction of this offset beginning on January 1, 2021 and culminating with elimination of the offset in its entirety on January 1, 2023. For the remainder of calendar year 2020, surviving spouses remain subject to the existing dollar-for-dollar offset of SBP payments by the amount of DIC paid by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).
To view the DoD publication online.
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