Tester, Colleagues Lead Bicameral Call to Defense Secretary to Expand Protections for Servicemembers During Pandemic

Members and military service organizations urge Secretary Esper to ease financial burdens on families impacted by stop movement order issued due to COVID-19

(U.S. Senate) – Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee Ranking Member Jon Tester and his House colleagues are calling on the Department of Defense (DoD) to ease financial burdens facing servicemembers planning to relocate as a result of the “stop movement” order issued due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Although the Defense Department rightly implemented stop movement orders at the onset of the pandemic, military families in the process of moving experienced unintended consequences,” said Ranking Member Tester. “After following proper precautions, servicemembers with pending lease agreements and outstanding moving costs were unfairly left to foot the bill. Secretary Esper must work with Congress to right this wrong, and protect servicemembers from further bearing the brunt of this unprecedented crisis.”

In late March, the DoD issued a stop movement order leaving many servicemembers and their families in the midst of a Permanent Change of Station (PCS) to cover the costs of moving as well as housing payments at their current duty station and at their intended PCS.

“As we continue to work together to stop the spread of COVID-19 and mitigate its impact on our military, our nation, and our world, we ask you to remind leadership throughout the Department that our servicemembers are our most important asset, and it is every leader’s duty to take care of them and their families,” the Members wrote in a letter to Defense Secretary Mark Esper. “We applaud the commanders who have taken this to heart and prioritized their responsibilities to approve or deny ETPs [Exception to Policy]. Congress stands ready to enable the Department, its leadership, and its servicemembers to succeed in these goals.”

In addition to Tester, the letter was signed by House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs Chairman Mark Takano (D-Calif.), Rep. Mike Levin (D-Calif.), Chair of the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs Subcommittee on Economic Opportunity, and Rep. Jackie Speier (D-Calif.), Chair of the House Armed Services Committee Military Personnel Subcommittee.

The Military Coalition (TMC), a group of 34 military veterans and uniformed services organizations, additionally urged action in a letter to Secretary Esper on April 30.

“We have been alerted that some service members in this position are now faced with two housing payments, one at the location of their gaining installation and one at the losing installation where they have been ordered to remain,” wrote TMC President Jack Du Teil. “Clearly, this creates an unfair burden on military families, especially as the situation is not their fault and they were moving at the direction of the military service.”

A copy of Ranking Member Tester’s letter can be found HERE.