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House Defense Bill Includes Pay Raise, Widows Tax Repeal

House Defense Bill Includes Pay Raise, Widows Tax Repeal
(Geoff Livingston/Getty)

The House is expected to vote on the annual defense authorization bill this week. The annual legislation includes some of MOAA’s biggest priorities.

But House lawmakers may have a tough time getting it passed. And if they fail, it would be the first time in almost 60 years Congress couldn’t approve the National Defense Authorization Act.

Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle are at odds over spending levels. The administration issued a veto threat to the bill. And with over 400 amendments to debate, there are a number of potential poison pills that could derail the bill’s chances of passage.

The House version of the defense bill authorizes $733 billion in spending, or $17 billion less than President Trump’s request for $750 billion. The Senate’s version of the defense bill, passed on July 1, approved the administration’s request.

Here are some important amendments the House will consider:

  • Gus Bilirakis (R-Fla.) introduced an amendment to expand concurrent receipt to military retirees with disability ratings under 50%.
  • Kurt Schrader (D-Ore.) introduced an amendment to exempt servicemembers who voluntarily separate from active duty, are involuntarily recalled, and incur a 100 percent service-connected disability during that time from the requirement to repay voluntary separation pay.
  • Joe Wilson (R-S.C.) introduced an amendment to repeal the widows tax, the dollar-for-dollar deduction of survivor benefits annuities from the VA’s Dependency and Indemnity Compensation.
  • Jackie Speier (D-Calif.) introduced an amendment authorizing the Secretary of Defense to refer military members for mental health services within the TRICARE network if services cannot be provided at a military medical facility within 15 days.

In addition, House Armed Services Committee Chairman Adam Smith (D-Wash.) introduced a separate amendment to end the widows tax and authorize a 3.1% military pay raise for servicemembers, necessary for recruitment and retention.

The House needs to pass this bill. Aside from the terrible message it would send to the men and women serving in harm’s way, failure to pass the defense bill would have serious national security implications.

Contact your elected officials and send them a MOAA-suggested message urging them to pass a defense bill.

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About the Author

James Naughton

James Naughton focuses on survivors issues and military compensation in addition to playing a key role in legislative research and analysis for MOAA's Government Relations team. He currently serves as the Corporate Secretary of The Military Coalition.