Saturday, August 19, 2006

Supporting the Troops

This falls into the "Republican Hypocrisy" category.

From today's NY Times:

As many as 61,000 military widows whose husbands died of causes relating to their military service lose out on thousands of dollars a year in survivor benefits because of a law that dates from the 1970’s.

...A 1972 law created the Survivor Benefits Plan, a Department of Defense retirement income fund similar to a life insurance policy. The plan, in turn, pays benefits calculated according to a dead service member’s rank and length of service.

In addition, widows of veterans who died of service-related causes receive monthly cash stipends from the Department of Veterans Affairs. Known as the Dependency and Indemnity Compensation stipend, it is currently $1,033 plus $257 for each child.

But under the law, which placed restrictions on the plan that it created, the payment to widows enrolled in the Survivor Benefits Plan is reduced, dollar for dollar, by the amount of the Dependency and Indemnity Compensation stipend.

For example, a widow who would be entitled to $1,000 from the Survivor Benefits Plan and the $1,033 Dependency and Indemnity stipend receives $1,033, not $2,033.

Widows whose husband paid into the plan are reimbursed their premiums, without interest, but the amount is taxed and does not make up the losses from the plan.

The Department of Defense opposes changing the law to allow both payments, arguing that survivors should not receive two separate benefits for a single death.

But widows and their supporters say that the Pentagon’s opposition to a change in the law really stems from its cost, especially at a time of rising expenses for the war in Iraq.

They also argue that because service members paid into the Survivors Benefits Plan, its benefits should not be reduced.

... Senator Bill Nelson, Democrat of Florida, who has pushed for five years to change the law, said he had allies in the chairman of the Armed Services Committee, Senator John W. Warner, Republican of Virginia, and the committee’s ranking Democrat, Senator Carl Levin of Michigan. The $9 billion price tag needed to insure a full payout under both plans sounds expensive, Mr. Nelson said, but is less than the price of a single aircraft carrier.

“Widows and orphans are made as a result of war,” he said. “They are victims of war. They are giving the ultimate sacrifice, and the nation has an obligation to care for them.”
[Emphasis added]

How crummy is that?

The Senate has passed a bill correcting this outrageous state of affairs, but somehow it never makes it through the House. Once again the correction has failed to make it into a Defense Appropriations bill in the House, but apparently a bipartisan group is pushing to have it added. How odd that the House could easily find the money to build a fence along the Mexican border, but can't find a roughly equal amount of money to help the widows and children of service members who died as a result of that service avoid poverty.



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