January 05, 2021

Hirono, Ernst Bill Signed Into Law, Permanently Establishes Servicemembers and Veterans Initiative Act in Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Senators Mazie K. Hirono (D-Hawaii) and Joni Ernst (R-Iowa), and Representatives Veronica Escobar (D-Texas) and Van Taylor (R-Texas), announced that their bipartisan, bicameral legislation to permanently establish the Servicemembers and Veterans Initiative (SVI) inside the Justice Department (DOJ)’s Civil Rights Division was signed into law today.

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. In 2018, the SVI helped inform DOJ’s settlement with the City and County of Honolulu and its contracted towing company for illegally auctioning cars owned by servicemembers on deployment.

“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,” Senator Hirono said.

The Servicemembers and Veterans Initiative Act of 2020 updates and strengthens the SVI’s mandate and ensures that the Department continues the Initiative. Senator Hirono and Senator Ernst’s bill requires the SVI to 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.

“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. 

“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.

Senator Hirono introduced the Servicemembers and Veterans Initiative Act of 2020 in November, and worked with her House counterparts and Sen. Ernst to pass the House version of the bill (H.R. 8354) in December.