Suncoast Congressman Buchanan, Rubio Introduce Bill to Help Victims of Domestic Abuse Perpetrated by Service Members
Francesco Abbruzzino, The Uncensored Report, LLC
Buchanan Press Release
WASHINGTON —Congressman Vern Buchanan and Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) today introduced the Rachel Booth Act, legislation to fix a gap in current law that prevents some individuals who suffer domestic abuse at the hands at a service member from receiving much-needed financial assistance.
Buchanan introduced the legislation in the House with Congresswoman Jackie Speier (D-CA) and Rubio introduced the companion bill in the Senate with Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) and Maggie Hassan (D-NJ).
The bill is named after Rachel Booth, a constituent of Congressman Buchanan’s from Lithia, FL, who found herself unable to access the financial assistance she should have been eligible for when her husband was convicted of domestic abuse in a civilian court and then discharged from the military on an unrelated offense.
“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.”
Currently, dependents of service members 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 Rachel Booth Act would fix this error by ensuring standard eligibility for TC 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.
“Our current law did not serve Rachel 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.”
“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.”