Bipartisan legislation to correct a financial injustice for new survivors was introduced in the Senate on May 18, joining a House bill on the issue introduced in March.
The Senate version of the Military Retiree Survivor Comfort Act (S. 1669) was introduced by Sens. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) and Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass). Reps. John Garamendi (D-Calif.) and Michael Turner (R-Ohio) introduced H.R. 2214 on March 26.
When a retired servicemember passes, the Defense Finance and Accounting Services (DFAS) recoups the last month of retirement pay. This action often adds terrible financial stress to a grieving widow. The Military Survivor Comfort Act would allow survivors to avoid this immediate recoupment (and possibly overdraft fees) and instead gradually repay the amount over the next 12 months. They also would have an opportunity to request debt forgiveness through DoD.
“Too many surviving spouses are financially caught off guard when their servicemember passes,” said Lt. Gen. Dana T. Atkins, USAF (Ret), president and CEO of MOAA. “DFAS recoupment of the last paycheck can empty a banking account for a grieving survivor. MOAA strongly supports Senators Portman and Warren’s introduction of the Military Survivor Comfort Act that will ease the financial burden with a gradual repayment and option to appeal for debt forgiveness.”
Portman said overdraft fees should be “the last thing families of veterans and retired servicemembers need to worry about after the death of their loved ones,” adding that the bill “would end DoD’s practice of taking back benefits without account holders’ knowledge and avoid any unnecessary financial hardships for grieving military families during an already difficult time.”
Warren said the bill “stops the Defense Department from inflicting unnecessary financial hardships on our military families during a loss,” and that the service of her three brothers helped make her aware “that the sacrifices of veterans and their families should never be diminished by the insensitive practice of reclaiming retirement benefits.”
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Some surviving spouses are caught off guard by all the notifications and transactions required when their servicemember passes. Forgetting to notify DFAS can result in large fund recoupment that could easily empty a banking account for a new survivor. The gradual repayment and option to appeal for debt forgiveness has support across military and veterans service organizations.
Many of those groups are part of The Military Coalition (TMC), which represents a combined 5.5 million members of the uniformed services community. You can read the TMC’s letters to House and Senate members in support of this act.
Add your voice to this effort by contacting your lawmakers today.