Congressional Democrats Call on Chairman Hunter to Help Military Widows
May 5, 2004
Washington, D.C.-House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi and 168 House Democrats sent a letter today to Armed Services Committee Chairman Duncan Hunter calling on him to include the Widow's Tax relief, supported by 328 Members of the House of Representatives, in the 2005 National Defense Authorization bill.
The Members wrote: "This penalty overwhelmingly affects elderly women and has been referred to as the 'Widow's Tax.' This reduction in benefits is currently causing severe hardship for many of the surviving spouses whose benefits have already been reduced. Unless corrected, the number of surviving spouses who will lose income over the next decade will increase dramatically as more and more survivors reach age 62."
The full text of the letter follows:
May 5, 2004
Chairman Duncan Hunter
Armed Services Committee
2120 Rayburn House Office Building
Washington, DC 20515
Dear Chairman Hunter:
We are writing to request that you include as part of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2005, legislation such as that provided in H.R. 548 to phase out the reduction in Survivor Benefit Plan (SBP) benefits suffered by surviving spouses of military retirees who reach the age of 62. This policy has broad bipartisan support as evidenced by the 328 Members of the House of Representatives who have agreed to cosponsor the bill.
Despite such widespread support, H.R. 548 has not been brought to the floor of the House either as a stand-alone bill or as part of a Defense Authorization Act. We believe that it is time to do so.
Many servicemembers who agreed to pay premiums to provide their spouses with an adequate retirement income in the event of their death were informed that the SBP benefit payable to their survivors would be 55 percent of their retirement benefit. The documents they signed did not include any information to indicate that the benefits would be reduced to 35 percent when the spouses attained age 62.
This penalty overwhelmingly affects elderly women and has been referred to as the "Widow's Tax." This reduction in benefits is currently causing severe hardship for many of the surviving spouses whose benefits have already been reduced. Unless corrected, the number of surviving spouses who will lose income over the next decade will increase dramatically as more and more survivors reach age 62.
We have heard from surviving spouses who are struggling to meet basic living expenses and who must make painful choices concerning food, fuel and housing costs as the result of current law. These spouses were married to persons who gave 20 or more years of military service. In many cases, the survivors endured significant hardships, including months of separation from spouses who were serving around the world.
The reduction is unfair, unnecessary and unworthy of a Nation that can afford tax breaks for wealthy individuals and corporations. We urge you to include language in the 2005 defense authorization bill to eliminate immediately or at least phase out the reduction over the next five years.
William Lacy Clay
Shelia Jackson Lee
Eleanor Holmes Norton
Frank, Jr. Pallone
William, Jr. Pascrell
Nick, II Rahall
Chris Van Hollen