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Surviving military spouses have many reasons to be frustrated and angry over the "widow's tax" or SBP-DIC Offset law, 10 U.S. Code 1451 (c)(2), organizers say.

It financially penalizes only spouses of military members who died of service-caused illnesses, they say. A subsequent court action makes the law even harder to apply and understand.

Here are some issues surrounding the law, and Congress' lack of action to repeal it:

• The law forbids payment of dual survivors' benefits that widows and widowers qualify for when their military spouses die in retirement of service-related illnesses or on active duty.

One, VA Dependency and Indemnity Compensation, must be subtracted from the other, a Survivors Benefit Plan annuity. The law targets only "a surviving spouse," not parents, children or other beneficiaries.

• A federal court decision, Sharp v. United States (Federal Circuit, No. 2008-5105), ruled that some of the military spouses affected -- those who remarry after age 57 -- can keep both their deceased military member's full Survivors Benefit Plan retirement annuities and VA death compensation.

• Arkansas' U.S. Rep. Steve Womack of Rogers drew criticism from a Facebook military widows group in June.

The Republican and retired Army National Guard colonel, a co-sponsor of the House "widow's tax" repeal bill, voted "no" against an amendment that would have helped advance the repeal. He urged others in the House Budget Committee that he chaired to also vote no against the Democratic-sponsored amendment.

The Offset law that penalizes widows "is a legislative issue that Chairman Womack agrees needs to be addressed," a Womack spokesman said recently.

Womack, who will lose his budget committee chairmanship when Democrats assume control of the U.S. House in January, thinks it "should be a priority for the incoming majority and will continue to work for a fix to this important issue in the next Congress."

"The moral compass has gone askew," said Kathy Prout, founder of "Military Widows: SBP-DIC Offset" group after the June vote. "They could fix this."

Information for this article was contributed by Frank E. Lockwood of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.

SundayMonday on 12/30/2018

Print Headline: Issues with law, Congress' lack of action


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Archived Comments

  • susangeer1959hotmailcom
    December 30, 2018 at 6:12 p.m.

    Yarmuth (KY- 3) is the Democrat that offered up the amendment to end this disgraceful theft of a an EARNED military benefit. He not only offered an amendment, he also identified a funding source.

    Dems are now in control of the house and Congressman Yarmuth has been named Chair of the House Budget Committee. We are hopeful that he follows through with what he attempted to do last year.

  • esmithcapitolcrusadercom
    January 1, 2019 at 8:34 p.m.

    Powerful House Budget Committee vote AGAINST survivors reflects personal prejudices?

    My sincere appreciation to members of the Budget Committee who voted FOR Mr.Yarmuth’s amendment to repeal the SBP-DIC offset: Rep. Jack Bergman, R-1st-MI, (LtGen.USMC, Ret.) Rep. Bill Johnson, R-6th-OH, (LtCol, USAF, Ret.) and Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-1st-FL. They appeared to ignore Chr. Womack’s guidance to vote against. These three Members had the personal integrity to be consistent in their support FOR a bi-partisan amendment repealing the SBP-DIC offset.

    I am a beneficiary of the Survivor Annuity that my husband EARNED and responsibly purchased at retirement. The Government has not honored their commitment to him as the payor of the annuity. Instead, the DoD realizes a monetary profit on his misfortune of disability and death. Unlike Chr. Womack, my husband did not LIVE to be paid the military retirement he EARNED.

    I was heartbroken to watch Chr. Womack’s vote AGAINST the Survivor Benefit amendment. Col. Womack’s has lived to have a value to the taxpayers of $7500 mo. retired pay for his military service. How then can Col. Womack not work to provide funding for an average SBP of $607 per mo. EARNED by those who died to be paid to their surviving spouses. How does Col. Womack personally view a small funding priority for the “Ultimate Sacrifice”...for the family who has paid the “Highest Price?”

    Budget Committee Members, Chr. Womack, Rep. Tom Cole, R-4th-OK and Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, R-25th-FL are also members of the House Appropriations Committee, Defense Subcommittee. Those three Congressmen were uniquely positioned in the 115th Congress to seek funding from Appropriations in order to include the Survivor Concurrent Receipt in the Budget Resolution. Even an incremental addition of $25. mo. would have acknowledged their commitment to take a small step forward on behalf of servicemembers who died.

  • SteDon
    January 12, 2019 at 1:37 p.m.

    The over 65,000 surviving spouses, 02% of the American population, whose husbands or wives, made the ultimate sacrifice so we can continue to enjoy our freedom. The time is NOW for our Senators and Representatives to reset their moral compasses from usually seeking “whose support do I need and what do I need to do to be reelected” to point to REPEAL THIS OFFSET.