Widows Tax Repeal, 3.1% Pay Raise, and More Move Forward as House Passes Defense Bill

Widows Tax Repeal, 3.1% Pay Raise, and More Move Forward as House Passes Defense Bill
(U.S. Army photo by Spc. Justin W. Stafford)

By MOAA Staff

The House of Representatives passed its version of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) on Friday afternoon, sending the measure – which includes many MOAA-supported initiatives — into negotiations with the Senate that will produce a final bill.

MOAA and other veterans groups pushed for the passage of the House bill so that a number of key issues for the military community would reach the conference stage – now it will be up to the conferees to resolve differences. Here are some issues the House addressed that were not included in Senate legislation they passed in late June:

  • The elimination of the “widows tax,” an unfair offset that costs more than 65,000 military survivors and their families about $12,000 a year in much-deserved benefits. In the days leading up to Friday's vote, MOAA aggressively advocated on behalf of military widows, and many of our members and supporters sent letters to their members of Congress. We'll continue to fight for a full repeal as the Senate and House begin the next stage of discussions. 
  • Language that would force the Defense Department to fully explain and study the effects of plans that would eliminate 18,000 – about 1 in 5 – military medical billets. This language is a critical path to congressional oversight on a process that could reduce the quality and availability of medical care for military retirees and military families throughout the nation. Learn more about the cuts here.
  • The end of the so-called “Feres Doctrine,” meaning servicemembers would be allowed to sue in the event of alleged malpractice by military medical personnel. Learn more about MOAA’s support for the measure here.


Like the Senate version, the bill also includes a MOAA-supported 3.1% pay raise for servicemembers, making this the largest raise since 2010.

“We are grateful the House of Representatives passed HR 2500, the National Defense Authorization Act, setting up a conference with the Senate where the two houses will resolve differences and produce a defense bill for the President’s signature,” said MOAA President and CEO Lt. Gen. Dana T. Atkins, USAF (Ret). “We acknowledge there are differences between the two bills requiring earnest discussions and compromise. MOAA asserts the priority of this legislation must remain focused on our nation’s commitment to those men and women who serve in uniform, those who have already served their careers, and their families and survivors. We look forward in the weeks ahead to share our position on the many matters impacting these selfless individuals."

“To the Conferees yet to be named, we welcome the opportunity in the coming weeks to serve as a resource should you have any questions about any level of detail regarding matters being resolved between the two bills.”

The House bill passed 220-197, mostly along party lines. Eight Democrats joined every Republican in the chamber in voting against the measure. The Senate bill, which includes $750 billion in defense funding compared with $733 billion in the House version, passed 86-8. President Donald Trump has threatened to veto the NDAA if it clears both chambers without the top-line funding he requested, and as acted upon by the Senate.

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