LEGISLATION NEWS WILL BE POSTED BY OUR NEW CHAIR--ROSALIE HORTON, contact her at  rosehorton@me.com
 
9 November 2016
 

Society of Military Widows:

As military widows eligible for federal benefits, we need to be informed about the process for establishing and maintaining these benefits. Our benefits are established by law and funded through appropriations of the federal government.

There are several proposed bills in Congress that could impact benefits received by military widows.

First are the bills to extend SSIA-Special Survivor Indemnity Allowance. SSIA is currently $310/month. However, SSIA funding is currently set to expire at the end of this fiscal year. Without passage of new legislation, we will see our income further reduced by as much as $3720.00. There are currently several bills in Congress. HR 4493 and HR 5151 would extend SSIA for 1 year. HR 4519 would extend SSIA for 5 years. An excellent article on the subject can be found at http://www.militarytimes.com/story/military/benefits/2016/04/21/sbp-dic-ssia-military-widows-lost-checks/83329846.

Work continues to try to eliminate the SBP-DIC offset. The SBP-DIC offset is the dollar reduction of SBP for every dollar received in DIC. DIC is currently set at $1254.19. Senate bill 979 and HR 1594 has been proposed in this the 114th Session of Congress; however neither bill has made it out of committee. We need to continue the work on this legislation. Call your elected officials-both Representatives and Senators. Send them emails and post messages on their Facebook pages. Learn when they have town halls in your area. Attend and speak with them or their staff. Let them know eliminating this offset is important to you and the positive impact it would have on your life. Then follow-up periodically. Let them know you are relying on them for their continued support of this important matter. Also consider asking your family and friends to help with the calls, letters and emails. The more contacts a legislator has regarding a piece of legislation, the more likely they are to cosponsor.

A third area of legislation that widows need to stay informed about concerns the bills proposed in your state. Many states have specific legislation affecting military veterans and surviving spouses in their state. For example, in Virginia there are reduced fees for registering a vehicle, real estate tax exemptions for KIA widows and educational benefits. If you are not familiar with benefits that may be available in your state, ask. You can ask a veterans service representative in your state, ask other widows, or ask me. As your SMW Legislative Chair for 2016 - 2018 , I want to inform you what I know or find out, and help you find resources and information. Those we elect need to know we exist, that we are grateful for the benefits we receive and the work they do for us and how things can be improved.

Whenever I can I try to make trips to Capitol Hill to speak to legislators ad their staffs regarding issues affecting military widows. I have also attended Congressional hearings. If you need help, formulating your letter to your elected official please don’t hesitate to ask. If you would like me to deliver it to their Washington DC office, I am willing to do that as well. Please do not send letters via the post office. Given the security procedures mail goes through to get to federal offices in the Capitol, paper is sometimes destroyed. It is usually better to send communications by electronic means.

Finally, I would like to ask you not to get discouraged. We have been working on some of our legislative issues for many years. We have to keep up the challenge. In giving up we are assured of the negative outcome. It is only by working together and being persistent, that we can bring about change. Tell your story. Make it real to those in elected offices.

I look forward to being your SMW Legislative Chair for 2016 – 2018. If I can help you, please let me know. I can be reached at rosehorton@me.com.

 
 
 
 

Repeal the SBP/DIC Offset for Surviving Spouses

SBP allows uniformed services retirees to elect to provide continuing financial support for an eligible survivor. SBP provides the survivor 55% of the servicemember’s selected military retired pay. Enrollment is elected at the time of retirement, and the retired member pays 6.5% of retired pay as a premium. Automatic coverage is extended to survivors of servicemembers who die on duty. SBP PREMIUMS ARE PAID MONTHLY DURING RETIREMENT, UP TO 30 YEARS of payments.. SBP MONEY COMES FROM THE DEFENSE DEPARTMENT

Dependency and Indemnity Compensation is a VA program providing a modest annuity of $1,254.19 per month ($15,050) for survivors of veterans whose death is determined to have been caused by military service. DIC IS PAID FROM THE VETERANS ADMINISTRATION

TWO DIFFERENT FUNDING SOURCES

Often, the offset wipes out the SBP annuity the military retiree paid for.

The October 2007 report of the Veterans Disability Benefits Commission urged elimination of the offset for all SBP-DIC widows, asserting that when military service causes the member’s death, the indemnity compensation from the VA should be paid in addition to SBP coverage, not subtracted from it.

In multiple Congresses, a majority of House and Senate members acknowledged the inequity and cosponsored corrective legislation to recognize SBP and DIC are paid for different reasons. SBP is a servicemember-purchased annuity, whereas DIC is an indemnity payment when military service caused the member’s death. Further, service-disabled retirees have limited opportunities to purchase additional life insurance, and policies that are available impose exorbitant premiums.

In 2008, Congress acknowledged the inequity in law, authorizing a modest Special Survivor Indemnity Allowance (SSIA) for SBP-DIC widows to begin phasing out the offset. In June 2009, Congress took the next step, increasing SSIA monthly payments to $200 beginning in FY2015 and rising to $310 in FY2017. Barring an additional law change, SSIA authority will expire October 1, 2017. The accompanying House Armed Services Committee press release stated, “This legislation (SSIA) is latest step in our continuing effort to eliminate the so-called ‘widow’s tax’, which has long denied surviving family members the full payment of their Survivor Benefit Plan benefits… this bill does not completely end the offset

SSIA WILL BE DISCONTINUED IN OCTOER 2017. THERE HAVE BEEN NO COLAS AS THE GOVERNMENT SAYS THERE IS NO INCREASE IN THE COST OF LIVING! THIS MEANS INCOMES WILL BE CUT $310 PER MONTH.

In the ultimate irony, a separate law, validated by the courts, terminates the offset for SBP-DIC-eligibles who remarry at age 57 or later. So current law punishes survivors who remarry before age 55 by ending their SBP and DIC eligibility – and punishes survivors age 57 or older who don’t remarry by imposing the SBP-DIC offset.

No other federal surviving spouse is required to forfeit his or her federal annuity because military service caused their sponsor’s death. Further, the offset does not apply to surviving military children – only to the spouse. And no other federal survivor is required to remarry to avoid a reduction in his or her survivor annuity eligibility.

AS OF 30 SEPTEMBER 2015:

24,384 Surviving spouses received a SBP offset of $1254 per month, but received SSIA $275 of their SBP in a separate payment, losing approximately $1000 per month.

38,798 Surviving spouses received DIC and no SBP, (because their SBP payment was less than DIC). This mostly affects Enlisted ranks.

63,182 Surviving spouses affected by this problem, with numbers declining rapidly due to the aging of the survivors. (Maybe Congress hopes we will all be gone soon?)_

IF THE SSIA PROBLEM IS NOT FIXED PERMANENTLY THIS YEAR, WIDOWS WILL PROBABLY NOT GET A COLA, AND WILL BE CUT $310 PER MONTH.

When the SSIA was put in effect, it was with the expectation that the total Offset would be settled within the 10 year period, which Congress has not managed to do.

FIX THE OFFSET COMPLETELY THIS YEAR, we do not need another BandAid approach to this.