The FY2020 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) passed by Congress in December included legislation to repeal the Military Widow’s Tax, which affects an estimated 67,000 military spouses. The tax deducts money paid to Gold Star families by the Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (DIC) program from a second payout, the Survivor Benefit Plan (SBP) – which service members can pay into so that families of retirees can receive up to 55 percent of their veterans’ retirement after their death.
The legislation marks the end of an 18-year effort to repeal the tax. Here’s what some champions of the bill had to say:
“When we introduced this legislation, we knew we were fighting an uphill battle on behalf of these surviving spouses. But together, we were undeterred by the task and committed to them that this was the year it would finally get done. There is no more noble cause than to do the right thing for military families who have lost their loved one in service to our country. We took up this fight for those surviving spouses and their families, and I’m honored to be standing with them as we finally put this injustice behind us.”Senator Doug Jones (D-Ala.), Member, Senate Armed Services Committee; Co-Sponsor, Widow’s Tax Elimination Act of 2019
“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. This problem goes back decades, but this year we finally solved it once and for all. I appreciate the overwhelming support we received from our colleagues, as well as veterans advocates who helped make this possible.”Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), Co-Sponsor, Widow’s Tax Elimination Act of 2019
“This is an exciting day for more than 67,000 military widows and widowers who have been waiting years for the survivor benefits they are owed. “When brave men and women pay the ultimate sacrifice serving our nation, it’s our duty to provide economic security for their loved ones. Our Widow’s Tax Elimination Act follows through on this important obligation, and ensures that military families who have sacrificed the unimaginable are provided more financial certainty.”Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.), Ranking Member, Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee
“Surviving family members of fallen service members have already lost an important part of their lives. Denying them access to the full benefits earned by their loved one’s sacrifice creates an undue burden on their finances. No surviving spouse should have to face this unexpected and unfair cut to their benefits. Congress’ bipartisan action to fully repeal the Military Widow’s Tax is a much-needed improvement.”Sen. Mike Crapo (R-Idaho)
“For 26 years, I have been denied the full benefits that my husband earned and paid for to help take care of his family in the event of tragedy. The long fight to repeal the Military Widow’s Tax has been difficult and none of us want to talk repeatedly about the deaths of our spouses, but that has been necessary to inform our public officials and ask for their help. Though I will be 76 when my husband’s benefits are fully reinstated, I am happy to know that those who sadly become military widows and widowers in the future will no longer have to fight this battle year after year.”Cathy Milford, Surviving military spouse from Mobile, Ala.
“This will be the culmination of the efforts of many over the last four decades: military and veteran service organizations, the media, an amazing army of surviving spouses, The Military Coalition, and members of Congress and their dedicated staffs.”Lt. Gen. Dana Atkins, USAF (Ret), MOAA, President and CEO