A bill protecting current and former service members from discrimination in housing and employment was introduced Thursday in the House and Senate.
The Veterans and Servicemembers Employment Rights and Housing Act of 2013 would build on legal and financial protections already in law.
Rep. Derek Kilmer, D-Wash., chief sponsor of the House version of the bill, HR 2654, said it is a response to complaints he has received from service members and veterans about being denied housing and turned down for jobs solely because of their military service.
“If you fight for our country, you should not have to fight for a job when you come home,” Kilmer said.
A federal law, the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act, already prohibits discrimination in hiring for veterans, but it does not specifically cover current service members looking for part-time jobs. Service members and veterans also are not a specifically protected class under federal housing discrimination laws.
Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., is chief sponsor of the Senate version, S 1281. “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,” he said. “Shamefully, veterans who served our country return from deployment and too often struggle to find a job or a place to call home.”
The bill would add military status to existing anti-discrimination laws for housing and employment, and set up a process for those who face discrimination to get legal assistance.
Kilmer previously sponsored a similar Washington state law.
Veterans of Foreign Wars, AmVets and the National Guard Association of the United States have endorsed the bill.