Stop denying earned survivor benefits to military surviving spouses
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My husband was serving his 30th year in the Navy when the F-18 he was riding in crashed. He was killed, and in a moment, my family's life changed forever. While my children and I were devastated, and then we were saddened to discover that the Dept. of Defense and Congress was far less supportive.
My husband’s earned survivor benefit insurance, the Survivor Benefit Plan (SBP), a insurance annuity, was not paid to me in full. When he died, I was informed that I would only be getting a fraction of the benefit promised. When I asked why, it was explained to me that those spouses who also were eligible to receive Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (DIC) from the Veterans Administration will have their SBP survivor annuity insurance benefits offset dollar for dollar by DIC. Full SBP payment is unfairly denied to those surviving spouses. This is known as the SBP-DIC offset, and we must fight to end it.
When I lost my husband, I lost 75% of our household income. Today, most SBP-DIC offset surviving spouses receive compensation of only $15,095 a year. These surviving spouses deserve better from their country. I’m calling on Congress to provide surviving spouses with 100% of the Survivor Benefit Plan promised.
Our government is reneging on a voluntarily purchased insurance plan whose entire purpose is to ensure that surviving spouses are taken care of financially should the sponsor pre-decease her/him. When a servicemember makes the ultimate sacrifice, their family shouldn’t have to worry about how they will survive. As a Navy spouse, I was there for countless others who experienced loss. When I lost my husband, I realized how negligent the government bureaucracy is towards families who have paid the ultimate price. I want to be there for those families again. Hopefully, if we can gather enough petition support, the government will not ignore us.
Please sign the petition to end SBP-DIC offset for military surviving spouses and ask Congress to pass HR 846, (Rep Joe Wilson, SC) and S 339, (Senators Nelson, FL and Collins, ME), the two bills to change the law and end this unjust offset.
- President of the USA
President Donald J. Trump
- Senator, Kentucky, Majority Leader
Senator Mitch McConnell
- Senator, NY, Minority Leader
Senator Chuck Schumer
- Senator, FL
Senator Bill Nelson
- Congressman, SC
Congressman Joe Wilson
Issue: Current law unfairly makes military survivors forfeit part or all of their military Survivor Benefit Plan (SBP) insurance annuity when military service causes the member’s death and the widow is eligible for DIC, an indemnity compensation for a service caused death. End the SBP-DIC offset. Even in a budget-constrained environment, fair treatment for survivors of servicemembers who gave their lives for their country must not be a low funding priority. Repeal the SBP/DIC Offset for Military Surviving Spouses.
Issue: Current law unfairly makes military survivors forfeit part or all of their military Survivor Benefit Plan (SBP) annuity when military service causes the member’s death.
Background: SBP is an insurance annuity that 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 the portion of retired pay elected as a premium. Automatic coverage is extended to survivors of servicemembers who die on duty as they are posthumously retired in order to receive SBP.
Dependency and Indemnity Compensation is a VA program providing a modest indemnity compensation of $1,258 per month ($15,095) for survivors of any veteran whose death is determined to have been caused by military service.
Under current law, survivors who are eligible for both SBP and DIC must forfeit a dollar of their SBP annuity for every dollar of DIC received from the VA. Often, the offset wipes out the SBP annuity the military retiree paid for. In such cases, the survivor receives a proportional refund of SBP premiums – with no interest on what often has been many years of premium payments.
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, paid by DFAS, is a servicemember-purchased annuity and a benefit of retirement, whereas DIC, paid by the VA, 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 over 10 years starting at $50 a month with an eventual payment of $310 in 2016 expiring in Oct. Congress extended SSIA at $310 for 7 months. Barring an additional law change, SSIA will expire May of 2018. 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 … the House Committee …will continue to explore every opportunity to pursue legislation that brings us closer to eliminating the ‘widow’s tax’.
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 57 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 insurance 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.
End the SBP-DIC offset. Even in a budget-constrained environment, fair treatment for survivors of servicemembers who gave their lives for their country must not be a low funding priority.
House: Cosponsor/pass Rep. Joe Wilson’s H.R. 846
Senate: Cosponsor/pass Sen. Bill Nelson’s and Sen. Susan Collins’ S. 339.
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