ICYMI: Senators Jones, Collins, Tester, and Crapo Introduce Legislation to Eliminate the Military “Widow’s Tax”
The Military Widow’s Tax Elimination Act of 2019 would help more than 65,000 military widows nationwide and is endorsed by key veterans advocacy groups
WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Senator Doug Jones (D-Ala.) and his colleagues Senators Susan Collins (R-Maine), Jon Tester (D-Mont.) and Mike Crapo (R-Idaho) reintroduced the Military Widow’s Tax Elimination Act of 2019 (S.622), a bipartisan bill to end the so-called “Widows Tax.” The legislation would repeal the unfair law that prevents as many as 65,000 surviving military spouses nationwide from receiving their full Department of Defense (DoD) and Veterans Affairs (VA) survivor benefits. Currently, military widows and widowers who qualify for the VA’s Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (DIC) are forced to take prorated annuities from the Survivors Benefits Plan (SBP), even though they elected to pay into the program.
Under current law, the surviving spouse of a retired member who dies of a service-connected cause, or a service member killed on active duty, is entitled to DIC from the VA. If the military retiree was also enrolled in SBP, the surviving spouse’s SBP benefits are reduced by the amount of DIC (currently $1,319 per month). This leaves many widows and widowers with as little as $2,200 of the $3,525 per month they had expected to receive to support their families after their loved one’s passing. Each case varies depending on rank and the year of service-related death, but the average DIC offset to SBP pay is $925 per month. The Military Widow Tax Elimination Act would repeal this required offset and authorize payment of both SBP and DIC in the case of a service-connected death.
“It is absolutely unacceptable that our federal government refuses to pay the widows and widowers of our nation’s heroes the full benefits they are entitled to, especially those benefit plans for which they have voluntarily paid into. No surviving spouse should be faced with this unexpected and completely unfair cut to the benefits they count on in these tragic circumstances. This is a tax on military families who have already sacrificed so much. We are going to work to right this wrong,” said Senator Doug Jones, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee.
“We have a duty to not only support the brave men and women of our military, but also their families,” said Senator Susan Collins. “Military spouses make countless sacrifices while their loved ones are serving our nation in uniform, and they should not endure financial hardship due a provision that unfairly curtails the survivor benefits their families purchased. Our legislation would repeal the SPB-DIC offset to ensure surviving spouses receive the full benefits they deserve.”
“Families who are grieving the loss of a father or mother should never face financial uncertainty,” said Senator Jon Tester, Ranking Member of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee. “When brave men and women pay the ultimate sacrifice serving our nation, it’s our duty to give their loved ones the economic security they deserve.”
“It is burdensome and unfair to deny the surviving spouses of military retirees – including 340 surviving spouses in Idaho – the full benefits earned by their servicemembers’ sacrifice,” said Senator Mike Crapo. “During their service, many of our nation’s servicemembers choose to purchase annuities through the Survivor Benefit Plan to ultimately provide for their spouses and families after their deaths. This bill would stop the stripping of these benefits that our veterans themselves purchased and earned for their families.”
The legislation reflects the widely held belief that those who give their lives for their country deserve fair compensation for their surviving spouses and, at the very least, should be paid what they are owed from the investment they made in the SBP. In previous sessions of Congress, the legislation has also earned wide bipartisan support as well as support from key veterans advocacy groups, including the Gold Star Wives of America, Inc., Military Officers Association of America, National Military Family Association, Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors (TAPS), Veterans of Foreign Wars, and more.
“I am thankful that a bipartisan effort has been undertaken in the United States Senate to ensure that our military surviving spouses receive all the funds that have been earned through the sacrifice of our nation’s finest,” said Crystal Wenum, President of the Gold Star Wives of America, Inc. “Ensuring that the Survivor Benefit Plan no longer offsets the Dependency and Indemnity Compensation benefit is one way to ensure that the promise this nation has made to our veterans and their surviving families is kept.”
“The SBP-DIC offset remains grossly unfair to the members of the military community who deserve our support the most,” said Lt. Gen. Dana T. Atkins, USAF (Ret), President and CEO, Military Officers Association of America. “We thank Senator Jones for his leadership on this issue, and we encourage his fellow legislators to join the fight. This is uniformly agreed-upon throughout Congress, but they haven't found the political will to resolve it. The 116th Congress has an opportunity to be known for getting this done.”
“We are gratified by the bi-partisan effort to eliminate this injustice for the survivors of those who died while serving our country or because of their service,” said Joyce Wessel Raezer, Executive Director, National Military Family Association.
“Over 65,000 surviving spouses are denied their earned and paid for survivor benefits. TAPS firmly believes the families of America’s fallen heroes should not be made to sacrifice twice. We are committed to eliminating the SBP/DIC offset and applaud Senators Doug Jones (D-AL), Susan Collins (R-ME), Jon Tester (D-MT), and Mike Crapo (R-ID) for sponsoring this important legislation (S.662). Members of Congress on both sides of the aisle are dedicated to ending this unjust tax on our surviving families and we urge passage this year,” said Bonnie Carroll, President and Founder of (TAPS), Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors.