May 08, 2020

Rep. Levin and Chairman Takano Introduce Bipartisan, Bicameral Bill to Address Personal Financial Losses for Servicemembers Following COVID-19 Stop Movement Orders

San Juan Capistrano, CA – Today, U.S. Rep. Mike Levin (D-CA), Chair of the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs Subcommittee on Economic Opportunity, introduced bipartisan, bicameral legislation with House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs Chairman Mark Takano (D-CA) and Ranking Member Dr. Phil Roe (R-TN) to address personal financial losses that some military families have suffered as a result of the stop movement order issued in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Some military families were in the midst of a Permanent Change of Station (PCS) move when a stop movement order was made by the Department of Defense (DoD), forcing them to pay for multiple housing arrangements and make two payments -- one for housing at their current duty station and another at their intended PCS.

The legislation amends the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA), which protects servicemembers’ civil rights during military service, to expand the list of orders that qualify for residential lease termination to include a stop movement order issued by the Department of Defense in response to a local, national, or global emergency for a period of not less than 30 days. Similar legislation was introduced in the Senate by Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs Chairman Jerry Moran (R-KS) and Ranking Member Jon Tester (D-MT). The legislation follows a letter sent last week by Rep. Levin, Chairman Takano, and other Members to the DoD Secretary Mark Esper urging the Department to take actions to support impacted military families who are incurring additional costs incurred as a result of the stop movement order.

“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.”

“The COVID-19 pandemic has strained budgets for servicemembers and their families as a result of DoD’s stop movement order,” said 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 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.”

“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 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.”

“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.”