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Congresswoman Escobar’s Servicemembers and Veterans Initiative Act of 2020 Signed into Law

The Bipartisan, Bicameral Legislation Signed into Law Would Permanently Establish the Servicemembers and Veterans Initiative Within the U.S. Department of Justice

Today, President Donald Trump signed into law Congresswoman Veronica Escobar’s bipartisan legislation to protect servicemembers, veterans, and their families and to permanently establish the Servicemembers and Veterans Initiative (SVI) within the Justice Department (DOJ)’s Civil Rights Division.

The Servicemembers and Veterans Initiative Act of 2020, ensures that the SVI, which started as an independent DOJ initiative in 2015, remains a permanent part of the Justice Department. Since 2015, the SVI has coordinated and expanded DOJ’s work to enforce statutes created to protect the legal interests and rights of servicemembers and their families. With Congresswoman Escobar’s legislation now law, the SVI’s mandate will be updated and formalized. The Servicemembers and Veterans Initiative Act of 2020 mandates that the SVI will advise the Attorney General on legal and policy matters related to federal laws that protect servicemembers and veterans, serve as the liaison between DOJ and military departments, and serve as a liaison within DOJ to coordinate prosecution of fraud that targets servicemembers and their families.

“El Paso is home to a strong and growing veteran community and to Fort Bliss and one of my top priorities is to protect them and their families in the same way they have served our country and defended the freedoms we enjoy each day,” said Congresswoman Escobar. “I am proud to have my first standalone bill – the Servicemembers and Veterans Initiative Act of 2020 – signed into law to make it easier for the Department of Justice to coordinate with the Department of Defense to ensure that their needs are met and that they are protected from abuses. I am grateful to Senators Hirono and Ernst and Congressman Taylor for their commitment to our heroes and bipartisanship in getting this crucial piece of legislation across the finish line.”

“Our servicemembers are increasingly becoming the target of fraud but this bill is an important step toward protecting our nation’s heroes. Just as they fought to keep us safe, we must also work to protect our servicemembers from those who wish to do them harm and I look forward to seeing this law implemented,” said Congressman Taylor.

“This new law will allow the Department of Justice to further its important work on behalf of our servicemembers, veterans, and military families across the nation by making the Servicemembers and Veterans Initiative a permanent part of the Department’s efforts. Bipartisan, bicameral partnership with Senator Ernst and Representatives Escobar and Taylor helped make this bill law, and demonstrates the success that can be had when we work together to support communities across our country,” said Senator Hirono.

“We owe it to our servicemembers, veterans, and military families to do all we can to protect their rights and legal interests, during and long after their service. I was proud to help lead this bipartisan effort to ensure the Department of Justice continues their work to do just that, and I’m grateful to the president for signing this important legislation into law,” said Senator Ernst, a combat veteran. 

"Paralyzed Veterans of America (PVA) is pleased that the Servicemembers and Veterans Imitative Act of 2020 is now law," said PVA Associate Executive Director for Government Relations Heather Ansley. “We appreciate the work of Representative Escobar to establish a permanent, dedicated focus in the Department of Justice on veterans and servicemembers to facilitate creating policy and carrying out the laws that protect those who have served.”

“Veterans, servicemembers, and their families are entitled to unique financial, employment, and voting protections in recognition of their service and sacrifice but it’s often challenging to assert these rights,” said Justin Hauschild, Legal Fellow with Student Veterans of America. “The signing into law of the Servicemembers and Veterans Initiative Act of 2020 establishes a permanent initiative at the Department of Justice that will protect these critical rights by providing legal resources and assistance to veterans, servicemembers, and their families. SVA thanks Representative Escobar and Senator Hirono for their dedication to this issue and their leadership in stewarding this legislation through Congress.”

Congresswoman Escobar introduced this bipartisan legislation on September 23, 2020 alongside Congressman Van Taylor (TX-03) and it was endorsed by Paralyzed Veterans of America, Veterans Education Success, and Student Veterans of America. The House of Representatives passed the legislation on a 400-1 vote on December 8, 2020. Senator Hirono originally introduced the Servicemembers and Veterans Initiative Act of 2020 in November 2020, and worked with Senator Ernst to file the updated, bipartisan version of the bill (S. 5010) which passed the Senate on December 15, 2020.

Ahead of the legislation’s passage in the House of Representatives, Congresswoman Escobar delivered remarks in support of the legislation and presided over debate. Click here to watch the full video

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