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In Major Breakthrough, House Passes Defense Bill that Includes Yarmuth Amendment to End the "Widow's Tax"

Egregious offset has cut benefits for military surviving spouses for more than 40 years

WASHINGTON– Today, the U.S. House of Representatives passed H.R. 2500, the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for Fiscal Year 2020, legislation to fund our nation’s military which includes a critical amendment by Congressman John Yarmuth (KY-3) to end the Survivor Benefit Plan-Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (SBP-DIC) offset that negatively impacts the families of fallen service members—commonly referred to as the “Widow’s Tax.”

“After decades of Congressional inaction, I’m relieved that the House finally voted to end the ‘Widow’s Tax,’ which further penalized Americans who have already sacrificed so much for our country," Yarmuth said. "Our nation made promises to the surviving spouses of fallen service members, and it is among our highest moral responsibilities to see those promises honored. For far too long, Congress has failed to do what's right and keep our word to our heroes and their families. Today, the House finally sent a clear message to those families: we value your sacrifice; we value the heroism of your loved ones. It's about time."

Yarmuth’s amendment corrects a provision in current law that unfairly requires surviving spouses 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 surviving families negatively impacted by the SBP-DIC offset, which reduces surviving spouses’ benefits by an average of $1,250 per month, or $15,000 annually.

The NDAA now heads to conference committee, where the House and Senate will work out differences in each chamber’s measure and finalize text. Yarmuth remains hopeful his amendment will remain in the final bill.

“Nothing is ever a sure thing until it is, but I am confident it will be included in the final conference report and we can end this unfair offset once and for all,” added Yarmuth.

Yarmuth has served as the lead Democratic cosponsor of standalone legislation that would also eliminate the offset, H.R. 553, the Military Surviving Spouses Equity Act, introduced and long championed by Rep. Joe Wilson (R-SC).

In addition to including Yarmuth’s amendment, the House-passed NDAA legislation also:

  • Authorizes funding for a 3.1 percent pay raise for our service men and women, the same as requested by the President.
  • Includes numerous provisions to take care of military families by improving military housing and cleaning up contaminated drinking water at military bases.
  • Prohibits any funding in the bill to be used for the construction of a wall, barrier, or fence along the southern land border.
  • Protects children at the border by prohibiting Department of Defense funds to house unaccompanied alien children forcibly separated from their parent or legal guardian by Customs and Border Protection within 100 miles of the border of the United States.
  • Includes a number of provisions to promote diversity in the military.
  • Requires Department of Defense briefings to Congress on Russian election interference, and requires that the Department issue a strategy to counter Russian election interference in the 2020 elections.
  • Requires Department of Defense to take steps to both address climate change and fund mitigation activities.
  • Takes steps to accelerate the closure of the Guantanamo Bay detention facility.
  • Prohibits funding for the deployment of new, low-yield nuclear missile warheads.

Video of Rep. Yarmuth’s floor speech in support of his amendment can be found here.

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