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Guard/Reservists to Get Equal Death Benefit

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By Debbie Gregory.

A change to the Survivor Benefit Plan (SBP) for the families of Guard members and Reservists killed during inactive training will mean an increase in benefits. National Guard and Reserve members would receive the same death benefits as their active-duty counterparts under a bill expected to pass Congress.

Up until now, family members of Guardsmen and Reservists killed during inactive training receive a much smaller monthly payment than those of active-duty members. For example, a survivor receives $1,036 a month if the spouse was killed on inactive training status, yet another receives $3,381 if the spouse was killed on active duty, according to a fact sheet from the Defense Department.

For those on active duty, the amount is based on a simple percentage of what the troop’s retirement payment would be. For those in the Guard or Reserve, the amount is based on a more complicated three-step formula that factors in Reserve points and years of service, among other items.

In addition, survivors of active-duty members qualify for an additional payment designed to get around a rule that blocks them from receiving full death benefit payouts from both the Defense Department and the Veterans Affairs Department. But the allowance doesn’t extend to those of Guardsmen and reservists killed on in-active training.

The legislation includes language championed by Rep. Marc Veasey, a Texas Democrat, to fix this inequity.

“A discrepancy between survivor benefits for fallen service members of differing active duty statuses was finally remedied,” Veasey said in a statement. “This long overdue change will now make available equal survivor benefits for all who made the ultimate sacrifice in defense of our country and will hopefully alleviate some of the financial stress experienced by our military families.”

Military Connection salutes and proudly serves veterans and service members in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, Guard and Reserve,  and their families.

 

Financial Relief for Surviving Spouses May Be Coming

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By Debbie Gregory.

Surviving spouses of military retirees are eligible to receive a portion of their service members retired pay upon the service member’s death if they are enrolled in DoD’s Survivor Benefit Plan (SBP).  Additionally, the survivors of disabled service members who die from service-connected causes are also eligible for the VA’s Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (DIC).

For some 60,000 military widows and widowers who lost their spouses to service-connected illnesses or injuries, a House subcommittee is investigating how Congress might allow a further easing the “SBP-DIC offset” to provide them with an improved benefit packages. Under current law, recipients of both SBP and DIC are subject to a dollar for dollar offset.

Rep. Joe Heck (R-Nev.), chairman of the House armed services subcommittee on military personnel, and his colleagues have vowed to look at ways to either end or dull the offset’s effect on the surviving spouses’ financial health.

Partial offset relief through a Special Survivor Indemnity Allowance (SSIA) is set to expire in late 2017.  Unless Congress acts to end the offset, surviving spouses will once again feel the full brunt of the SBP-DIC offset.

Under the SBP offset law, which has existed for four decades, surviving spouses cannot receive both DIC and full SBP.  With basic DIC now set at $1254.19 a month, it usually will wipe out or vastly reduce any SBP annuity.

While the surviving spouses do get a refund of premiums their late spouses paid for the annuity coverage, the government adds no interest to the refunds, regardless of how long ago it received the premium payments.

Most members of Congress agree that surviving spouses should be allowed concurrent receipt of SBP and DIC, but still the offset remains.  Ending the offset would add $7 billion to U.S. annuity obligations over the first decade, the Congressional Budget Office estimates.

SSIA is set to end Oct. 1, 2017.

At MilitaryConnection.com, we have had the honor and privilege to meet and work with a number of outstanding widows who advocate and give voices to others in the same position. We are proud to call Vivianne Wersel (Gold Star Wives of America) and Bonnie Carroll (T.A.P.S) our friends.

We salute and proudly serve veterans and service members in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, Guard and Reserve,  and their families.