As NDAA Process Continues, So Does the Public Fight for Widows Tax Repeal

As NDAA Process Continues, So Does the Public Fight for Widows Tax Repeal
(The Washington Post / Contributor/Getty Images)

By MOAA Staff

The wife of an Army officer who died in Afghanistan joined a senator who has pushed for the repeal of the “widows tax” for a cable news interview Oct. 30, continuing to garner public attention for an end to the unfair offset.

“It’s earned, and it’s purchased and it’s being offset purely because our spouses died as the result of service,” said Kristen Fenty, whose husband, Lt. Col. Joseph Fenty, USA, died in a May 5, 2006, helicopter crash east of Abad, Afghanistan, during an episode of CNN’s The Lead with Jake Tapper. “…  It’s an insult that we are being asked then to forfeit a portion of our survivor benefit – we’re not asked, we’re told that we will.”

Tapper, who has lent his media platform to the issue in the past, also was joined by Sen. Doug Jones (D-Ala.), who has joined MOAA, other advocacy groups, and an overwhelming majority of lawmakers in supporting the inclusion of widows tax repeal in the FY 2020 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which is now being negotiated by a House-Senate conference committee.

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“I am hoping that finally Congress will wake up,” said Jones, a member of the conference committee. “You know, for years, Congress sits around and then … we go to Memorial Day celebrations, we go to Veterans Day celebrations, and we talk about our devotion to service men and women, but yet this is happening for 40 years. It’s time, I think, that Congress puts its money where its mouth is.”  

At issue: Language in the NDAA that would end the requirement that widows must forfeit part or all of their purchased Survivor Benefit Plan (SBP) annuity when awarded the VA’s Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (DIC). This offset, dubbed “the widows tax,” affects more than 65,000 military survivors, costing them tens of thousands of dollars in earned benefits over a lifetime.

MOAA has led the legislative fight for the repeal, from supporting standalone legislation designed to end the offset to pushing for the inclusion of repeal in the NDAA. The House version of the bill includes such language, but it’s not in either the Senate version or the so-called “Skinny NDAA” proposed by Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.) on Oct. 29.

The Senate voted 94-0 to recommend the repeal in the final NDAA. Jones, who pushed for the vote, said the tally was “sending a clear message that this needs to get done this year. Now is the time to make this happen.”


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