By Lt. Col. Suzanne Walker, USA (Ret), MOAA staff advisor to the Surviving Spouse Advisory Council
MOAA annually demonstrates its advocacy acumen by arranging for councils and chapter leaders, board members, and staff to meet with elected representatives face-to-face to explain and discuss issues of importance to uniformed servicemembers and their families.
This year was no exception. Included in the cohort of grassroots advocates during this year’s Storming the Hill event were the members of the Surviving Spouse Advisory Council. This group of six committee members — each of whom lost a spouse in or because of military service — was especially helpful in explaining why it is unfair to deduct an earned veterans compensation benefit (Dependency and Indemnity Compensation or DIC) from an annuity funded by premium payments by the servicemember (Survivor Benefit Plan).
The surviving spouses joined more than 160 participants in the effort to educate and gain support for two bills under consideration on the measure: H.R. 553, the Military Surviving Spouses Equity Act, and S. 622, the Military Widow’s Tax Elimination Act. This ongoing issue has previously failed to gain traction due to cost. Estimates of $7 billion in mandatory spending in the first 10 years without a way to fund this is the problem.
As in past years, participants visited the offices of their senators and congressional representatives and explained the problem, shared stories of the impact, and encouraged members to co-sign the bill. New this year, however, was the additional attention the issue received from local media. A local news station accompanied the group and reported on the issue (view the news story), which increased public awareness and encouraged support for MOAA’s advocacy effort. As a result, the number of cosponsors has increased and a remedy might be on the horizon.
In mid-May, H.R. 553 reached 290 cosponsors, so bill sponsor Rep. Joe Wilson filed paperwork to advance the bill out of committee and onto the calendar for a floor vote. The vote could come possibly as early as mid-July. Read more.