By MOAA Staff
Members of the conference committee that will reconcile the House and Senate versions of the National Defense Authorization Act have the chance to become "courageous, skillful leaders who seize the opportunity to change things for the better," by showing the resolve needed to end the "widows tax," a MOAA board member writes in a Sept. 13 commentary for The Hill.
Surviving spouses of active duty or retired servicemembers who died of a service-connected cause are forced to forfeit $1 of their military Survivor Benefit Plan (SBP) annuity for each $1 received in the VA's Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (DIC). That offset costs about 67,000 surviving spouses roughly $12,000 a year in benefits they deserve; in his commentary, MOAA board member Rear Adm. Tom Jurkowsky, USN (Ret), calls this widows tax "an incomprehensible injustice."
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Wide majoriities of both the House and Senate have signed on as cosponsors for legislation that would repeal the tax, but neither chamber has offered a way to pay for the change.
"This is where the conferees can shine," writes Jurkowsky, who penned another piece on the topic for The Hill in April. "This is their opportunity to show leadership by correcting a wrong that has gone on for more than 40 years and has allowed our nation to turn its back on the survivors of the men and women who gave their lives to protect this country."
MOAA has fought to end the offset, redoubling efforts recently as part of the Summer Storm campaign. As Jurkowsky points out in his commentary, the fight has reached a crucial stage as the conferees begin their work on the bill; the House version includes language that would end the offset, but the Senate bill does not.
"The bipartisan support that House and Senate members have shown for ending the widows tax is an acknowledgement of the issue," Jurkowsky writes. "The conferees now can show real leadership by finding the funds that will take the issue — once and for all — over the goal line."
Read the full commentary here.