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Widows Tax Bill Reaches Senate Milestone, But More Work Needs Done

Widows Tax Bill Reaches Senate Milestone, But More Work Needs Done
Photo by Airman 1st Class Rito Smith / Air Force

This week, three more senators signed on as cosponsors of a bill to eliminate the “widows tax,” giving the bill enough support to surpass a critical legislative hurdle.

S. 622, the Military Widow’s Tax Elimination Act, introduced by Sen. Doug Jones (D-Ala.), now has the backing of an additional 60 senators – enough to end debate on the bill and move to a vote.

“This is a fantastic development, and we thank Sen. Jones for his steadfast support of military families,” said MOAA President and CEO Lt. Gen. Dana Atkins, USAF (Ret).

[TAKE ACTION: Ask Your Legislators to End the Widows Tax]

Under current law, survivors of deceased military members must forfeit part or all of their purchased Survivor Benefit Plan (SBP) annuity when they are awarded the VA’s Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (DIC). The loss of any portion of the SBP annuity is known as the widows tax, and for approximately 66,000 military survivors, it makes SBP the only insurance product in the country that you pay into but are legally prohibited from collecting.

SBP is a voluntary, member-purchased annuity provided by DoD, allowing a continuation of a portion of military retired pay upon the death of the servicemember. According to DoD, the intended purpose of SBP is to “ensure that the surviving dependents of military personnel who die in retirement or after becoming eligible for retirement will continue to have a reasonable level of income.”

Coverage later was expanded to active duty personnel who die from a service-connected injury or illness.

DIC is a VA-paid monetary benefit for eligible survivors whose sponsors died of a service-connected injury or disease. These separate benefits are paid for separate reasons and should not be construed as duplicative compensation.

“Ending the military widow’s tax is long overdue,” Jones said in a prepared statement. “These families have sacrificed more for our nation than most people can ever fully appreciate, and they deserve to get the full survivor benefits to which they are entitled and have paid for.” 

Before the bill can go to the floor for a vote, it must first advance out of the Senate Armed Services Committee. Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.), chairman of the committee, is a cosponsor of Jones’s bill.

“We are encouraged by the level of support we’ve seen and urge Sen. Inhofe to allow this bill to go to the Senate floor for a vote,” said Atkins.

Act now to send your elected officials a MOAA-suggested message to end the widows tax.

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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.