Pelosi Demands End to Survivor Benefit Penalty
Washington, D.C.-House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, Congressman Chet Edwards of Texas and Congressman Bob Filner of California held a news conference this afternoon with military and veterans organizations to announce a discharge petition that would force action on legislation to end the unfair survivor benefit penalty, which penalizes hundreds of thousands of spouses of deceased military retirees and veterans. Below are Pelosi's remarks:
"This year, the American people have been inspired by the courage, professionalism and patriotism of our men and women in uniform in Iraq and Afghanistan.
"Congress has honored our service men and women with several resolutions praising their service. Unfortunately, the actions of the Republican majority have not matched their words.
"Two weeks ago, on the same day that we passed a resolution on the House floor to honor the troops, in another room in the Capitol, the Republicans dishonored veterans by passing a budget in the Budget Committee that increased costs for veterans' health care.
"As Americans, we make a simple yet sacred promise to our courageous servicemen and women: 'You have taken care of us, so we will take care of you.' The survivor benefit penalty breaks that promise.
"Our nation's military retirees expect that their survivors will receive a fair portion of the retirement benefit they earned from serving our country. But when the spouse turns 62, that benefit declines to a mere 35 percent of its original value.
"This penalty overwhelmingly hurts military widows - it is sometimes called the "Widow's Tax." It is unfair, it is unnecessary, and it is not worthy of our great nation.
"While Republican leaders refuse to end the survivor benefit penalty, Democrats are launching a discharge petition to force the Republican Leadership to bring up for a vote the bipartisan bill that would end the survivor benefit penalty and protect the retirement benefits earned by military retirees.
"This bill is vital for the 1.2 million military retirees enrolled in the survivor benefit plan and to the 225,000 survivors who have tragically lost their spouses for our country and who have unconscionably lost a portion of their benefits.
"Last year, Democrats forced Republicans to begin addressing the unfair Disabled Veterans' Tax, though Republicans failed to repeal it entirely. That fight continues. This year, Democrats will force Republicans to end the injustice of the survivor benefit penalty.
"Democrats are sending a powerful message that America will always care for those who serve.
"On the battlefields of war, our troops pledge to leave no soldier behind. As a nation, it must be our pledge that, after our soldiers come home, we will leave no veterans or their families behind."