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Bustos & Wenstrup Introduce Bipartisan Legislation to Support the Widows and Widowers of our Fallen Heroes

Washington, May 21, 2018 Contact: Ann Tumolo (202-225-3164)
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WASHINGTON, D.C. –Today, Congressman Brad Wenstrup (R-OH-2) and Congresswoman Cheri Bustos (D-IL-17) introduced bipartisan legislation to support widows and widowers of our fallen heroes as they adjust following the death of their spouse. The Gold Star Spouses Leasing Relief Act extends residential leasing protections in the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act to surviving spouses of servicemembers killed in the line of duty. Specifically, this bill will allow surviving spouses to terminate residential leases at the time of the servicemember’s death without penalty.

This issue first came to Congresswoman Bustos' attention after Sgt. Douglas Riney was killed in Afghanistan. His wife, Kylie Riney, wanted to bring their two children back home to Illinois where the rest of their family lives, but even in the wake of this tragedy, her landlord refused to allow her to end the lease she and her late husband signed.

“There’s a saying in the military: when you join the military, your spouse joins as well.  As servicemembers sacrifice on behalf of our nation, so do military spouses.  Part of our commitment to our men and women in uniform is a commitment to their families if they lose their life in the line of duty. When a servicemember pays the ultimate sacrifice, their families’ lives are forever changed.  This legislation ensures military spouses and their children have the freedom to relocate to fit their needs as they grieve,” said Congressman Brad Wenstrup.

“The families of our fallen heroes have already sacrificed far too much, and we should do everything in our power to ensure grieving spouses are able to do what they need to do to support their families,” said Congresswoman Cheri Bustos. “Although we will never be able to repay the debts of those who made the ultimate sacrifice for our freedoms, I am proud to work across party lines to extend these common-sense protections to our Gold Star families. I can't think of anything worse than taking advantage of a grieving military widow and I'm proud to work with Congressman Wenstrup to prevent this from ever happening again.”

Background:

This legislation was inspired by a Gold Star spouse, Kylie Riney of Fairview, Illinois. Kylie’s life was forever changed on October 18, 2016 when her husband, Sergeant Douglas J. Riney, tragically died 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 make the best decision 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.