Legislation could help military widows/widowers access full survivor benefits

Legislation could help military widows/widowers access full survivor benefits
Duckworth questioned the fairness of the current laws. (Source: KFVS)

ILLINOIS (KFVS) - According to Illinois Senator Tammy Duckworth, widows and widowers of veterans are prevented from receiving full survivor benefits.

The Military Widow’s Tax Elimination Act would repeal the current legislation and authorize payment of both SBP and DIC in the case of a service-connected death.

Duckworth questioned the fairness of the current laws.

“Current law places an unfair burden on spouses who are already struggling with raising children, paying their mortgages and so much more. Our nation should be doing a better job of making sure military spouses are able to access to these benefits their fallen spouses paid into,” Duckworth said. “That’s why I’m proud to support this bipartisan bill to fulfill our commitment to the spouses of the brave men and women who were willing to put their lives in danger to defend our country.”

She is joined U.S. Senator Doug Jones (D-AL) in reintroducing the Military Widow’s Tax Elimination Act of 2019.

Lawmakers said this will help more than 65,000 military widows across the country access the full survivor benefits earned by their fallen loved ones. Widows are not receiving full benefits from both the Department of Defense’s (DoD) Survivors Benefits Plan (SBP) and Veterans Affairs’ (VA) Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (DIC) according to lawmakers.

This is the case even if their spouses had paid into both programs.

According to lawmakers, a surviving spouse is entitled to DIC from the VA if their spouse dies of a service-connected cause, or a service member killed on active duty

This changes if the military retiree was also enrolled in SBP. Lawmakers said the surviving spouse’s SBP benefits are reduced by the amount of DIC (currently $1,319 per month) leaving many widows and widowers with as little as 62 percent of the monthly benefits they had. Cases vary depending on rank and the year of service-related death.

Lawmakers said the average DIC offset to SBP pay is $925 per month.

This legislation is supported by Veterans Service Organizations and advocacy groups such as the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW), Disabled American Veterans (DAV), the American Legion, Gold Star Wives of America, Inc., Military Officers Association of America, National Military Family Association, Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors (TAPS) and more.

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