WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Doug Jones (D-Ala.) and U.S. Senator Susan Collins (R-Maine) today announced the inclusion of their bipartisan Military Widow’s Tax Elimination Act in the final annual defense bill, known as the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). This marks a significant step in the 18-year effort to pass legislation to repeal the law that penalizes our nation’s Gold Star families by preventing them from receiving the full survivor benefits for which they have earned and paid for. The NDAA will now go to the House and Senate for final consideration, where it will receive an up-or-down vote with no further amendments allowed.
Legislation to repeal the widow’s tax has been repeatedly introduced in the Senate for nearly two decades to roll back the law, which was enacted in 1972. Under Senator Jones’ leadership, the bill has earned a record-high 78 total cosponsors in the Senate. Since introducing the bill with Republican Senator Susan Collins in March, they have worked tirelessly to garner support among their colleagues in both the Senate and House as well as make the case on behalf of the 67,000 surviving spouses who are impacted by the military widow’s tax. Most recently, Senator Jones led an effort on the Senate floor to call for inclusion of the repeal in the final defense bill. His proposal passed by a vote of 94-0.
“Words cannot begin to express the gravity of this news for the tens of thousands of Gold Star families who have been hurt by this policy for four decades,” said Senator Jones, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee. “I am grateful to the leaders of the Senate and House Armed Services Committees – Senators Jim Inhofe and Jack Reed and Congressmen Adam Smith and Mac Thornberry – who have heard our voices and are doing right by our military widows. A great deal of credit must also go to the widows themselves, so many of whom have been coming to Capitol Hill year after year to bring attention to this gross injustice on behalf of their fellow surviving spouses. Today, we can finally see the light at the end of the tunnel and I am more hopeful than ever that we can finally end this injustice and show our military families how much their sacrifices truly mean to our country.”
“This provision we secured in the NDAA is a major victory for surviving military and retiree spouses to whom we are deeply indebted. The Military Widow’s Tax was an unfair offset that prevented as many as 67,000 surviving spouses—including more than 260 from Maine—from receiving the full benefits they deserve. Its repeal is a step toward fulfilling our obligation to military families who have sacrificed so much for our country. I am glad that Senator Jones and I, along with a bipartisan group of our colleagues, were able to correct this glaring inequity,” said Senator Susan Collins.
The Military Widow’s Tax Elimination Act would 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 their retired spouses elected to pay into the program.
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