Wednesday, May 6, 2009
Reps. Buyer, Walz Introduce Bipartisan Bill for Surviving Spouses
Yesterday afternoon, Congressmen Steve Buyer (R-Ind.) and Tim Walz (D-Minn.) introduced their bipartisan bill to increase VA survivor's benefits for spouses of those killed in the line of duty, the Surviving Spouses' Benefit Improvement Act of 2009 (H.R. 2243).
AMVETS Legislative Director Ray Kelley and Deputy Legislative Director Christina Roof were on hand to show their support for the bill.
If enacted, the landmark bill would eliminate the inequity in survivors' benefits payments between military widows and the widows of civilian federal employees. Today, surviving military spouses only receive 43 percent of their deceased veteran's disability payment, compared to 55 percent for deceased federal employees.
"This new legislation will ensure that survivors receive that due compensation," said Walz during the press conference. "We cannot bring their loved ones back, but at least we can live up to the words of Abraham Lincoln that serve as the motto for the VA, 'To care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan.'"
The bill would also eliminate the current offset between Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (DIC) and the Suvivor Benefit Plan (SBP). Walz and Buyer clarified that DIC is intended as compensation for service-connected death, while SBP is a pay-in life insurance policy. However, beneficiaries today cannot receive the benefits concurrently, which Buyer and Walz see as a gross misinterpretation of the benefits' intent.
The Gold Star Wives of America were also on hand to voice their support for the bill, with America's oldest Gold Star Wife speaking her mind on the inequities of the current benefits.
Buyer is the ranking member of the House Committee on Veterans Affairs and a colonel in the U.S. Army Reserve who served in Operation Desert Storm. Walz is a retired Command Sergeant Major in the Army National Guard who deployed to Italy in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.
The official release regarding yesterday's press conference can be viewed by clicking here.
(Photo: America's oldest Gold Star Wife speaks in support of the Surviving Spouses' Benefits Improvement Act of 2009 during yesterday's press conference on Capitol Hill. Photo by Christina Roof.)