Repealing the widows tax was a key topic at this year’s Maryland Council of Chapters' Congressional Appreciation Luncheon, where members of Congress gathered to discuss legislative priorities with MOAA members.
The Council thanked the Maryland delegation for their work in support of servicemembers and veterans this past year, especially their push to repeal the widows tax, which deducts annuity benefits paid to surviving spouses as an offset to a VA benefit for survivors.
“For sure, we are pushing hard for the repeal of the so-called widows tax. I’m proud to be a co-sponsor and I’m seeking to fix those challenges,” said Rep. John Sarbanes, who represents Maryland’s 3rd District.
MOAA has long supported the legislation to repeal the SBP-DIC offset and has ramped up efforts in the past year, including making it a primary agenda item during the 2019 Storming the Hill event in April. The House’s Military Surviving Spouses Equity Act and the Senate’s Military Widow’s Tax Elimination Act have garnered the support of more co-sponsors than ever before.
Kathy Thorp, a retired Navy captain and military widow, has been outspoken in her support of a repeal on the offset. She attended the meeting to push Senate lawmakers to approve the bill.
Experience from constituents like Thorp, combined with the advocacy from organizations like MOAA, make a difference to lawmakers who review legislation to support, said Rep. Steny Hoyer, who serves Maryland’s 5th District and as a House Majority Leader.
“Your mission, your experience, your engagement is critically important,” he said. “The widows tax – we’re taking care of it in the [National Defense Authorization Act], and I think we’re going to have success.”
Maryland’s other Congressmen also shared their support of legislation to repeal the offset. Sen. Chris Van Hollen called the repeal Congress’ “obligation.” Rep. Jamie Raskin, who represents Maryland’s 8th District, called the legislation “deeply unfair” and said “we’ve got to abolish it.”
Other Congressmen who attended the luncheon were Sen. Ben Cardin and Reps. Andy Harris, C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger, Anthony Brown and David Trone.
Lawmakers also expressed support for mandating a Defense Department review of proposed cuts to medical billets; maintaining Tricare fees; and increasing pay for active duty troops.
MOAA President and CEO Lt. Gen. Dana T. Atkins, USAF (Ret), lauded the efforts of lawmakers who attended the annual luncheon.
“We’re in that last lap before we get to the finish line,” Atkins said. “Hopefully, we’ll have the NDAA that supports the legislative agenda.”