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IAVA | April 14, 2021

READ: IAVA CEO Jeremy Butler Explains Why Servicemembers Should Back Vanita Gupta for Associate Attorney General

The COVID-19 pandemic has taken a toll on many communities, including those who serve in the armed forces and among veterans.

Since the onset of the pandemic, servicemembers and veterans have been targeted by fraudsters, and military families have had to adapt to Pentagon stop movement orders that froze the ability of many of the 3 million active-duty, reservist and civilian defense personnel from traveling.

Congress fortunately recognized some of the hardships posed to military families from the pandemic, and extended the Servicemember Civil Relief Act on a bipartisan basis in 2020 to protect military families from having to pay two rents or multiple utility bills. (Congress has long recognized on a bipartisan basis the need to protect the legal interests of servicemembers while they serve the nation and are unable to meet their obligations).

I got to know Vanita Gupta through our shared work in protecting servicemembers’ right to vote while deployed and stationed abroad. The Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act (UOVAVA) requires that servicemembers and their families be allowed to vote absentee in federal elections.

While Vanita served as the head of the Civil Rights Division, she worked to ensure that states like Illinois allowed sufficient time for servicemembers to have their ballots submitted and counted. She believed that this sacred right to vote should not be compromised, especially for those defending the United States while serving overseas.

During the pandemic, our organization — which represents 425,000+ post-9/11 veterans — worked diligently alongside Vanita Gupta to ensure that veterans’ and servicemembers’ voting rights were protected and upheld for those at home and abroad. This meant a great deal to me. And I saw up close how Vanita Gupta obsesses over protecting members of the military (and their families) the same way I do.

Vanita Gupta has been nominated for associate attorney general by President Joe Biden, Andrew Harnik, AP

But voting rights are not the only rights that Vanita Gupta has fiercely protected for members of the military. While at the helm of the Civil Rights Division, she worked closely with agencies such as the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and other federal agencies to ensure that servicemembers’ economic rights were protected.

She fought — and obtained — relief for more than 144,000 service members and their co-borrowers, receiving more than $450 million in relief for home foreclosures, auto repossessions and interest rate overcharges. During a time when servicemembers are being targeted by fraudsters, having a watchdog like Vanita Gupta in the Justice Department will be of paramount importance.

Time and again, Vanita Gupta has stood by the rights of those in uniform who defend and serve the United States. She will do the same as Associate Attorney General. I am therefore proud to stand alongside Vanita Gupta. I urge Republican and Democratic Senators to do the same and vote to confirm her unanimously.

Jeremy Butler is the CEO of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America. He served on active duty with the U.S. Navy from 1999-2005.

This piece was originally published in The Fayetteville Observer publication on April 14, 2021.

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