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August 05, 2019

Senators Jones and Collins Lead Colleagues in New Push to Repeal Military Widow’s Tax

Jones, Collins, and 64 Senate colleagues call on Armed Services Committee leaders to include the Military Widow’s Tax Elimination Act of 2019 in the final annual defense bill

WASHINGTON -- Senators Doug Jones (D-Ala.) and Susan Collins (R-Maine) are leading a new effort to ensure that the Military Widow’s Tax Elimination Act of 2019 will be included in the final version of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA).

The senators today sent a bipartisan letter—co-signed by 64 of their Senate colleagues—to the chairmen and ranking members of both the House and Senate Armed Services Committees calling on them to ensure the House-passed provisions to repeal the Military Widow’s Tax remain in the final version of the NDAA conference agreement. The final bill is currently being negotiated between the House and the Senate.

“There has never before been more bipartisan support in Congress for repealing the SBP-DIC offset. Currently, there are 75 co-sponsors of legislation to repeal the widow’s tax in the Senate and 371 co-sponsors in the House,” the senators wrote. “We have an obligation to make sure that we are taking care of our military families who have sacrificed so much. This problem goes back decades, but this year we can finally solve it once and for all. It is our time to do our duty not only to support the brave men and women of our military, but also to support their families.”

If signed into law, this legislation will repeal the unfair law that prevents as many as 67,000 surviving military spouses nationwide from receiving their full Department of Defense and Veterans Affairs survivor benefits. Currently, military widows and widowers who qualify for the VA’s Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (DIC) are forced to take a dollar-for-dollar offset from the Survivors Benefits Plan (SBP) benefit, even though retirees elected to pay into the program.

Legislation to repeal the Military Widow’s Tax has been repeatedly introduced in the Senate over the past 18 years, but has reached an unprecedented level of support under Senator Jones’s leadership. With Senator Jones as the lead sponsor, the bill has earned a record-high 75 cosponsors in the Senate. In addition to encouraging continued support of this legislation in the Senate, Senator Jones has continuously engaged his House counterparts at the leadership and committee level to ensure support for the bill and its inclusion in the House version of the NDAA.

Text of the letter can be found below and a pdf can be found here:

August 5, 2019

The Honorable James Inhofe                                     
Chairman                                                                
Committee on Armed Services                                  
228 Russell Senate Office Building                             
Washington, D.C. 20510                                           

The Honorable Jack Reed
Ranking Member
Committee on Armed Services
228 Russell Senate Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20510

The Honorable Adam Smith                                      
Chairman                                                                
Committee on Armed Services                                  
2216 Rayburn House Office Building                          
Washington, D.C. 20515                                           

The Honorable Mac Thornberry
Ranking Member
Committee on Armed Services
2216 Rayburn House Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20515

Dear Chairman Inhofe, Chairman Smith, Ranking Member Reed, and Ranking Member Thornberry:

We write to ask you to include House-passed provisions which repeal the Survivor Benefit Plan – Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (SBP-DIC) offset, the so-called “widow’s tax,” in the final National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2020 (NDAA) conference agreement. The widow’s tax prevents more than 67,000 surviving spouses of servicemen and women who die of service related causes from receiving the full SBP annuities they deserve. 

As a result of the widow’s tax, tens of thousands of surviving spouses are prevented from collecting the full insurance benefits from the Department of Defense for which their military retiree spouses paid because those benefits are offset by the DIC payments they receive from the Department of Veterans Affairs. On average, this offset means that surviving spouses are denied more than $11,000 per year in SBP benefits. In response to this unfairness, thousands of military widows have become grassroots advocates, working in many cases for more than 30 years to right this wrong for their own families and the entire military family community. 

There has never before been more bipartisan support in Congress for repealing the SBP-DIC offset. Currently, there are 75 co-sponsors of legislation to repeal the widow’s tax in the Senate and 371 co-sponsors in the House. Numerous military and veterans advocacy groups have joined us in this effort.

We have an obligation to make sure that we are taking care of our military families who have sacrificed so much. This problem goes back decades, but this year we can finally solve it once and for all. It is our time to do our duty not only to support the brave men and women of our military, but also to support their families.

Thank you for your consideration of this request.

Sincerely,

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