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Budget Committee Republicans Vote to Protect Millionaires Over Gold Star Families and Surviving Military Spouses

VIDEO LINK: https://youtu.be/I7KU7eJeBS0

WASHINGTON – Today, 18 Republicans on the House Budget Committee voted in opposition to an amendment from Congressman John Yarmuth (KY-03) that would have fixed an egregious penalty that prevents approximately 64,000 surviving military spouses from receiving full death benefits. The fix would have been funded by repealing less than one percentage of the GOP’s tax cuts for millionaires and big corporations. The amendment failed by a vote of 14-18, with three Republicans and all Democrats present voting for it.

Yarmuth was alerted to the penalty by a constituent, Ellen, whose husband died during military training in 2002. Her benefits have been significantly reduced because of this offset. Current law requires survivors of deceased military members to forfeit part or all of their Department of Defense Survivor Benefit Plan (SBP) annuity when they receive Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (DIC) from the Department of Veterans Affairs. There are an estimated 64,000 people impacted by the SBP-DIC offset, which reduces surviving spouses’ benefits by an average of $1,250 per month, or $15,000 annually.

“The brave men and women of our armed forces who are killed in action or die as a result of their service to our nation should be able to count on us to take care of their loved ones after they’re gone,” said Yarmuth. “Eighteen of my Republican colleagues were unwilling to honor that commitment and defeated my amendment. The fact that they could not bring themselves to set aside less than 1 percent of the trillions of dollars in tax cuts they just gave to millionaires and big corporations to protect survivors of military servicemembers is a disgrace.”

The Yarmuth amendment is based on bipartisan legislation, H.R. 846, the Military Surviving Spouses Equity Act, that is cosponsored by 266 House members. Nine Republican members of the Budget Committee who are cosponsors of this legislation voted against the Yarmuth amendment. They include Chairman Steve Womack (AR-03) and Reps. Diane Black (TN-06), Tom Cole (OK-04), Tom McClintock (CA-04), Dave Brat (VA-07), Bruce Westerman (AR-04), Jason Smith (MO-08), Lloyd Smucker (PA-18), and Drew Ferguson (GA-03).

Republican Committee members Lt. Gen. Jack Bergman (MI-01), Rep. Matt Gaetz (FL-01), and Rep. Bill Johnson (OH-06) are cosponsors of the legislation and voted for the Yarmuth amendment.

Text of Yarmuth’s amendment can be found here.

Text of Ellen’s email to Rep. Yarmuth can be found below:

I am writing requesting Mr. Yarmuth’s support for an issue affecting 1000s of surviving military spouses (most of which are women).  The issue is covered in H.R. 846, which has over 200 bipartisan co-sponsors of which Mr. Yarmuth is one.  While Mr. Yarmuth is a cosponsor, given his position as the ranking member on the Committee on the Budget, I need to ask further help from Mr. Yarmuth to find funding to end this unfair offset.  Given Mr. Yarmuth’s position on the Committee on the Budget, given this issue has bipartisan support, and given the funding required is minimal when compared to the overall budget, I am hoping Mr. Yarmuth can help find a solution to end this inequity. 

On March 9 Mr. Yarmuth, as the ranking member of the Committee on the Budget, received a copy of a letter from the chairman of the Committee of Armed Services where Mr. Thornberry lined out his committee’s priorities for the NDAA FY19.  Page 10 of the letter is where the issue affecting me and 1000s of other surviving military spouses is described. 

I’ll be honest; I’m not sure how all these committees are connected.  What I do know is that surviving military spouses are impacted unfairly by an offset that only affects surviving military spouses whose spouses die from a service-connected condition/incident.  Additionally, the offset has been recognized as unfair because a partial replacement was established called SSIA.  That is what makes the situation so frustrating.  The fact that it’s not fair has been acknowledged.  The problem is finding someone in Congress to make it a priority to fund and to legislate and that is what I’m requesting Mr. Yarmuth work to do. 

I’m going to spare you additional details because the details can be found in HR846.  Please don’t hesitate to reach out to me for further details.  There is an entire Facebook group of over 1500 members dedicated to finding a solution to this unfair offset.

Thank you for your time and thank you to Mr. Yarmuth for his continued service.

Sincerely,

Ellen

Louisville, KY

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