Senate Passes Bipartisan Bill to Protect Surviving Military Spouses

December 20, 2018 | Press Releases

Legislation Will Allow Spouses of Deceased Servicemembers to Break Jointly Held Residential Leases Without Penalty

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senators Rob Portman (R-OH) and Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) today applauded Senate passage of their bipartisan Gold Star Spouses Leasing Relief Act. The legislation, which was originally introduced in the House of Representatives by Reps. Brad Wenstrup (R-OH) and Cheri Bustos (D-IL), would modify the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA) to allow a widow or widower of a servicemember who died while in military service (i.e., a Gold Star spouse) to terminate a jointly held residential lease, without penalty, within one year of the servicemember’s death. This protection will also extend to the widow or widower of a member of the National Guard or Reserve whose death occurred while on active duty orders. The legislation now heads to the president’s desk to be signed into law.

A grieving military spouse dealing with the death of their loved one on active duty should be able to end their lease without paying high termination fees,” said Senator Portman.  “This bill, with the support of numerous veterans groups and the Department of Defense, is a commonsense fix for Gold Star spouses. I encourage the president to sign this into law quickly to provide relief for our Gold Star spouses.

“Gold Star spouses shouldn’t be forced to bear the burden of unnecessary residential leases after the death of their servicemember spouse,” said Senator Warren. “I’m glad to have partnered with Senator Portman and my other colleagues on this bipartisan bill to strengthen an important financial protection for military families.”

When a servicemember receives military orders, his or her spouse is often required to relocate and then sign a lease for a house, apartment, or other dwelling. But when the servicemember dies during military service, the surviving spouse may be forced to pay off the remainder of that residential lease even though the couple only entered into that contract to accommodate the servicemember’s assignment. Under the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA), active duty servicemembers may cancel agreements such as home or apartment rental contracts when they are deployed or relocated. However, these protections do not explicitly apply to Gold Star spouses who are in these agreements jointly with a servicemember who died while in military service. 

The Gold Star Spouses Leasing Relief Act is also supported by The American Legion, Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors (TAPS), and the National Military Family Association (NMFA).