Surviving Spouse Column: SSAC Storms the Hill
By Patricia Bergquist, Surviving Spouse Advisory Committee (SSAC) member
On April 5, Surviving Spouse Advisory Committee members joined over 165 participants — including members of MOAA’s board of directors and staff, council and chapter leaders from almost every state, and members of the Currently Serving Advisory Committee, and Currently Serving Spouse Advisory Committee — for MOAA’s annual Storming the Hill event in Washington, D.C. The storming teams provided congressional legislators detailed fact sheets on sequestration, the Survivor Benefit Plan (SBP)/Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (DIC) offset, and TRICARE.
The return of sequestration in FY 2018 will cut billions from the defense budget and impose increased risks to U.S. national security. Debt reduction is a national responsibility, and the budget should not be balanced by placing a disproportional burden servicemembers and their families. Sequestration puts our national defense at risk with reduced spending on readiness and modernization, hollows our uniformed forces, and affects morale. A bipartisan debt-reduction package is needed to avoid disproportionate penalties to DoD that impact servicemembers and military retirees and their families.
SBP is an insurance annuity to provide a military spouse up to 55 percent of the servicemember’s retired pay upon death for any reason. For active duty post-9/11 deaths, the coverage automatically is provided to the spouse. Under current law, survivors of deceased active duty and retired servicemembers must forfeit DIC dollar-for-dollar from their SBP when military service causes the death and DIC is awarded by the VA, currently $1,258 a month ($15,095 a year). Those impacted by this inequity (64,100) lose all or part of their SBP. MOAA has been fighting for full repeal of the offset for 16 years.
In 2008, Congress approved a Special Survivor Indemnity Allowance (SSIA) to partially compensate for the SBP/DIC injustice with incremental increases over 10 years (October 2017) toward eliminating the offset. The SSIA was extended last year at $310 a month ($3,700 a year) and ends May 2018.
MOAA Hill stormers ask legislators to cosponsor and support current legislation (H.R. 846 and S. 339) and engage House and Senate Armed Services, Appropriations, and Budget committee members, as their support will be needed for a solution to fully repeal the offset. If a full repeal cannot be funded, the SSIA should be extended.
Stormers also provided a document on TRICARE fee increase prevention to each congressional office. MOAA believes congressional actions should remain consistent with current philosophy and prevent disproportionate TRICARE fee increases.
Please contact your legislators on these issues using MOAA’s toll-free line to the capitol switchboard, (800) 272-6622. Ask the operator to connect you with your legislator’s office, then ask to speak with the legislative assistant or military legislative assistant, and request cosponsorship of H.R. 846 or S. 339.