Congressman Joe Kennedy

Representing the 4th District of Massachusetts

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CONGRESSMAN KENNEDY INTRODUCES BILL TO INCREASE BENEFITS FOR SURVIVING SPOUSES AND CHILDREN OF VETERANS

May 22, 2015
Press Release

Newton, MA – On the eve of Memorial Day weekend, Congressman Joe Kennedy III today introduced the Surviving Spouses Benefits Improvement Act, legislation that would increase benefits to surviving family members of qualified veterans and end the persistent “widow’s tax” on survivors’ retirement accounts. 

 
“In our country it has never been just our men and women in uniform who serve, but the brave families who stand by their side,” said Congressman Kennedy. “Those husbands, wives, sons and daughters deserve this country’s highest level of devotion.  While we can never fully repay the tremendous sacrifices made by our veterans and military families, this bill will help ensure they have the support of their government and fellow citizens from the first day of service through the rest of their lives.”
 
Currently, the Department of Veterans Affairs administers Dependency and Indemnity Compensation payments (DIC) on a monthly basis to eligible survivors of qualified veterans and service-members. However, under current rules, the payments to survivors are only 41 to 43 percent of the disability payments made to a totally disabled veteran.  By comparison, dependent survivors of federal civilian employees who are killed while preforming their duties receive 50 to 55 percent of the rate of compensation.  The fix included in Kennedy’s legislation would raise the benefit for veterans’ survivors to a minimum of 55 percent, putting them on par with their federal civilian employees’ survivor counterparts.   
 
In addition, this legislation would end the current “widow’s tax” on survivors receiving both DIC and a Survivor’s Benefits Plan (SBP) annuity. SBP is a voluntary program offered as a retirement benefit for family members.  However, when DIC is awarded, SBP payments are reduced, dollar for dollar, by the corresponding DIC amount. Kennedy’s legislation would end this tax on survivors, allowing members of the military and their families to plan for a stable retirement. 

“The Gold Star Wives of America, Inc. greatly appreciates the perseverance and determination of Congressman Joe Kennedy's sponsorship of the Surviving Spouses Benefit Improvement Act of 2015,” said Harriet Boyden, President of the Gold Star Wives. “The increase to the Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (DIC) check will allow recipients to improve their standard of living and afford them security in areas of food, shelter and health. Gold Star Wives hope all members of the House will support and vote for the Surviving Spouses Benefit Improvement Act of 2015. Once again, a sincere "Thank You" to Congressman Joe Kennedy III for his sponsorship of this very important issue to Gold Star Wives of America, Inc.”

“The Military Coalition, a consortium of 32 uniformed services and veterans associations, is grateful to Representative Kennedy for introducing the Survivor Benefit Improvement Act of 2015 that would raise the amount of VA Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (DIC) to an amount equal to 55% of VA disability compensation for a 100% disabled veteran consistent with other federal survivor benefits.  This has been a long-standing Coalition goal,” said Mike Hayden, Co-Chair of the Military Coalition.
 
The bill has been endorsed by the following groups: Gold Star Wives of America, the Military Coalition, National Military and Veterans Alliance, American Logistics Association, American Military Retirees Association, Military Order of the Purple Heart, Military Order of Foreign Wars, National Association for Uniformed Services, National Defense Committee,  Society of Military Widows, The Retired Enlisted Association, Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors,  Uniformed Services Disabled Retirees, Vietnam Veterans of America.
 
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For Immediate Release:
May 22, 2015
 
Contact:
Emily Kaufman (617) 332-3333
Dan Black (202) 225-5931

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