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Rubio, Colleagues Introduce Bill to Help Victims of Domestic Abuse by Service Members

Nov 4, 2021 | Comunicados de Prensa

Washington, D.C. — U.S. Senators Marco Rubio (R-FL), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), and Maggie Hassan (D-NH) introduced the Rachael Booth Act to fix a gap in the way that current law treats dependents of service members who have suffered from domestic abuse. Currently, these dependents are eligible to apply for Transitional Compensation (TC) to help them transition to financial independence after the service member has been discharged from the military for a domestic abuse offense. However, there are cases in which the service member is convicted of a domestic abuse offense in a civilian court, but is discharged from the military for another offense. Current law requires a dependent in this situation to request “exceptional eligibility” from the member’s service secretary to be awarded TC, a process which could last as long as four years to be resolved. The Rachael Booth Act would fix this error by ensuring standard eligibility for dependents of service members who are convicted of domestic abuse in civilian court, even if they are separated from the military for another offense. It would also allow the service secretaries to delegate the authority to grant TC to those seeking an “exceptional eligibility,” a fix which would significantly decrease the time these claims are decided. Representatives Vern Buchanan (R-FL) and Jackie Speier (D-CA) introduced companion legislation in the U.S. House of Representatives.

The bill is named after Rachael Booth, a Florida constituent, who found herself outside of the law and without her main source of financial support when her husband was convicted of domestic abuse in a civilian court and discharged from the military on an unrelated offense.

“Our current law did not serve Rachael Booth and it will not serve future victims who find themselves in the same difficult situation,” Rubio said. “This legislation fixes the error in current law that prevents victims whose cases are handled by civilian courts from being eligible for transitional compensation. I urge my Senate colleagues to support this bill and deliver financial relief to these individuals.”

“Domestic abuse victims often suffer from financial abuse, especially when trying to break free from their abuser–transitional compensation is a lifeline for victims when they need it most,” Gillibrand said. “While this funding exists for victims whose cases are handled by the military, victims whose cases go through civilian courts must request exceptional eligibility to receive these funds. The bipartisan Rachael Booth Act would streamline the program, cut through the red tape and get victims transitional funding when they need it. It is a commonsense solution to an urgent problem and I look forward to working with my colleagues to get it done.”

“Domestic abuse victims can be in paralyzing situations, isolated from friends and family and with limited financial resources,” Hassan said. “The bipartisan Rachael Booth Act will provide survivors with financial support to help them build safe lives. I thank Senators Rubio and Gillibrand for their work in supporting these survivors.”

“Just as our men and women in the Armed Forces sacrifice for their country, so too do military spouses. In times of crisis, it’s critical that they are able to access these benefits in a timely and efficient manner,” Buchanan said. “I’m pleased to introduce this important legislation alongside Congresswoman Speier and Sens. Rubio, Gillibrand and Hassan to help domestic abuse victims get back on their feet as soon as possible.”

“For many survivors of domestic violence by military servicemembers, the Pentagon’s transitional compensation program has been an empty promise,” Speier said. “I am pleased to join Congressman Buchanan and Senators Gillibrand and Rubio in introducing bipartisan legislation to close two of the most egregious gaps in this program, allowing for financial support to survivors when the servicemember is convicted of domestic abuse in a civilian court or when a domestic abuse allegation against a servicemember is substantiated, but the abuser is court-martialed or administratively separated for a different offense. Congress can and must do more to eliminate financial dependence as a barrier to reporting intimate-partner violence, and this bill is an important step.”