Over 50,000 war widows whose late spouses paid for insurance to help support their families in the case they lost their life now find themselves unable to receive the entire benefit of the insurance — that is unless they remarry… but not until after they turn 57.
In a world that makes sense, these widows should be receiving annuity payments from the insurance policy, which their spouse had paid for out of pocket, and the monthly survivor benefit, which their spouse paid for with their life.
But, as the AP explains…
At the heart of the issue is a government policy known as the “widows’ tax.” It says a military spouse whose loved one dies from a service-related cause can’t collect both survivor’s benefits and the full annuity benefits from insurance the couple bought from the Defense Department at retirement. Instead, the amount of the annuity payment is reduced by the amount of the monthly survivor benefit.
That deduction comes out to around $1,000 a month for most of the widows.
The only way to receive both the full annuity payment and the survivor benefit if for the widow to remarry after the age of 57.
This bizarre condition is apparently the unintended result of legislation that had been meant to help survivors retain benefits even if they remarried late in life. But because Congress has not been able to budget enough money to pay both benefits to all widows, relief has been limited to that older, remarried group.
Another measure that was intended to help the widows has just ended up causing consternation. The government had given back the insurance premiums paid by their spouse to some widows when it realized it wouldn’t be able to pay the benefits. But then, when the older widows would later remarry — and thus become eligible for full benefits — the government then sent them an invoice for the premiums that had been returned.
“It doesn’t make any sense to me,” said one widow, who received a bill for $41,000 after she remarried in her seventies. “Why did they send the premiums that he paid and now they want it back?”
Attempts to eliminate the “widows’ tax” have passed through the Senate in recent years, only to be dropped later. Now, a group of senators have introduced another round of legislation aimed at eliminating the tax.
“This has always been an issue of the military doing the right thing and living up to its promises,” Senator Bill Nelson of Florida, who is one of 11 senators behind the new bill. “These policies were bought by servicemen and women to make sure their loved ones would be taken care of following their deaths. Not only is it a promise the government hasn’t kept, but now it’s sending bills to survivors. That’s just outrageous.”