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DelBene’s Fix for Survivors of Child Abuse Clears Committee, Heads to Floor

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Washington, DC, June 28, 2017 | comments

The House Armed Services Committee today added Congresswoman Suzan DelBene’s (WA-01) bipartisan bill to the 2018 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), closing a legal loophole that denies justice for some survivors of child abuse.

“Anyone who falls victim to physical, sexual or emotional violence — particularly children — deserves the opportunity to seek justice, regardless of who abused them,” DelBene said. “It is unacceptable that current law shields some convicted child abusers from paying the restitution they owe. My bipartisan bill closes this loophole to ensure justice for all survivors of these vile and horrific abuses.”

Currently, there is a loophole in federal law that shields convicted child abusers from paying the restitution they owe, if their income comes from the Defense Finance and Accounting Services (DFAS) — the agency responsible for military retirement pay. While Congress unanimously approved a law in 1994 allowing child abuse survivors to receive garnishment from most federal retirees’ pay, it inadvertently excluded military retirees, whose pay is not disbursed by the Civil Service Retirement System (CSRS) or the Federal Employees Retirement System (FERS).

DelBene heard firsthand from survivor Pennie Saum, who as a child suffered abuses at the hands of her father, an Army veteran. Her father was convicted and sentenced to 17 years in prison, and Pennie and her brother were awarded a civil judgment for $5 million in damages. However, because their father’s primary source of income is military retirement pay, existing law has shielded him from paying a cent of the restitution he owes his children. After hearing Pennie’s story, DelBene introduced the Child Abuse Accountability Enhancement Act (H.R. 1103) with Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler (WA-03). Video of DelBene speaking on the floor can be found HERE.

DelBene asked Rep. Rick Larsen (WA-02), a member of the House Armed Services Committee, to offer her bill as an amendment during the NDAA markup. Larsen is also a cosponsor of DelBene’s bill.

The NDAA heads to the House floor for further consideration expected in July.

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