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