(Washington, DC) – Today, U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) and U.S. Representative Derek Kilmer (D-Wash.) introduced the Veterans and Service Members Employment Rights and Housing Act of 2013, a bill that would provide veterans and service members with the same protected status as many other groups and prohibit discrimination on the basis of military service or veteran status. Under Blumenthal and Kilmer’s bill, veterans and service members facing discrimination could appeal their grievances to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, and the Fair Housing Act would be amended to add military status as being protected under the law for service members or veterans who want to rent or purchase a home.
“Shamefully, veterans who served our country return from deployment and too often struggle to find a job or a place to call home,” Blumenthal said. “By making military service a protected status, this bill will ensure that those who sacrificed to keep us safe are not discriminated against when they return home.”
“If you fight for our country, you shouldn’t have to fight for a job when you come home,” Kilmer said. “I’ve worked with a coalition of veterans from all generations to fight for our service members and veterans at the state level and now I’m proud to work at the federal level to ensure that military status isn’t used against anyone looking for a home or a job. I look forward to working with Senator Blumenthal, Representative Renacci, and Representative Duckworth on this important issue.”
“Our service members have fought hard to protect the freedoms we are so blessed to enjoy in America, often risking their lives in the process,” said U.S. Representative Jim Renacci (R-Ohio) who is a lead co-sponsor of the bill in the House. “Under no circumstances should the brave men and women of our Armed Forces face job or housing discrimination based on the service they provided our country, especially considering the sacrifices their families have already made in their absence. I am proud to join with this bipartisan group of Representatives and Senators to ensure our veterans are not punished once they return home having safely completed their missions.”
Misperceptions about veterans have led some employers and landlords to hesitate when looking at a veteran’s application. In a 2012 Center for a New American Security study, over 50 percent of interviewed employers cited “negative stereotype” as a reason why they might not hire a veteran. AMVETS – a veterans service organization that has worked extensively to combat this issue – has found numerous examples of people who were fired or denied rent applications because of their military or veteran status.
“AMVETS is appreciative of Senator Blumenthal and Congressman Kilmer’s leadership in introducing this important and long overdue legislation that will grant American veterans freedom from discrimination in both the workplace and housing,” AMVETS National Executive Director Stewart Hickey said. “The same rights these veterans fought to preserve for their fellow Americans will now be afforded to them upon passage of this bill.”
While many states – including Connecticut – have legal protections for veterans, and some states – including Washington – have already made veterans a protected class, there is no comprehensive federal law that protects all those who have served in uniform. For example, although the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA) is in effect, far too many Reservists still return home to find that they have missed out on a job promotion, or that some employers do not want to hire them because they are wary of their future deployments. In addition, USERRA does not cover housing discrimination at all. Blumenthal and Kilmer’s bill would protect all military service members and prohibit housing discrimination.