Shaheen Helps Secure Elimination of Military “Widow’s Tax” in Final National Defense Authorization Act

December 09, 2019

(Washington, DC) – U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), a senior member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, issued the following statement after Senate and House conferees released the final version of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for fiscal year (FY) 2020. The annual legislation authorizes national defense objectives for the fiscal year. Among the numerous New Hampshire and national defense priorities supported by Senator Shaheen is legislation she cosponsored to eliminate the unfair “Widow’s Tax” law that prevents as many as 65,000 surviving military spouses nationwide from receiving their full Department of Defense (DOD) and Veterans Affairs (VA) survivor benefits.  

“The last thing that military spouses should have to deal with after losing a loved one is an unjust reduction in income,” said Shaheen. “This bipartisan reform finally provides the surviving spouses of our servicemen and women with the full benefits and financial assistance to which they’re entitled. I’m glad we were able to work across the aisle to take this important step on behalf of military families.” 

Under current law, the surviving spouse of a retired member who dies of a service-connected cause, or a service member killed on active duty, is entitled to what is known as Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (DIC) from the VA. If the  military retiree was also enrolled in the Survivors Benefits Plan (SBP), the surviving spouse’s SBP benefits are reduced by the amount of DIC. This leaves many widows and widowers with far less per month than they had expected to receive to support their families after their loved one’s passing. Each case varies depending on rank and the year of service-related death, but the average DIC offset to SBP pay is $925 per month. The provision included in the defense bill repeals this required offset and authorizes payment of both SBP and DIC in the case of a service-connected death. In August, Senator Shaheen sent a letter with her colleagues to the chairs and ranking members of the Senate and House Armed Services Committees urging them to include this provision in the final NDAA.