Surviving Spouse Corner

Surviving Spouse Corner: There’s a Facebook Group for That!

Connect with others and learn about benefits, legislation, and issues affecting surviving spouses and families through this MOAA Facebook page.

By Nancy Mullen, second vice chair, Surviving Spouse Advisory Council

Are you wondering where to go to get information about issues affecting surviving spouses and families? Are you looking for a supportive, nonjudgmental group to assist you in learning and keeping up to date on benefits and legislation impacting our surviving families? Need a pick-me-up or to connect with others who share similar interests as you? Join the MOAA Surviving Spouses and Friends Facebook page!

Who can join? We have recently expanded our membership to include not only surviving spouses but also our families, military spouses, council and chapter surviving spouse liaisons, advocates, and others with an interest in issues that impact the survivor community, regardless of MOAA membership. Particularly in these times of COVID-19 restrictions, we all need a way to connect with others whom which we have common interests.

Is this a public or private group? This is a private group, and there are no fees or dues. You are required to answer a couple of brief questions and be approved by the administrators of the group to join. These questions are designed to ensure we provide a safe place to share information and connect with other like-minded people as well as protect the group from those who do not have a legitimate interest in our issues.

The group’s rules are simple, and members may be removed at the discretion of the administrators. Here are a few of the do’s and don’ts to remember: 

·         Do be kind and courteous; remember the Golden Rule and treat everyone with respect.

·         Don’t attack someone else just because you disagree with them. We can disagree with one another but keep it respectful. Hate speech and bullying will not be tolerated and such comments will be removed.

·         Do respect the privacy of the group. Comments made within this group are not to be shared outside of the group. Some of the discussions can be sensitive and private in nature, and it is important that we can trust each other. Files may also not be shared without the approval of the administrators. Posts within the page cannot be seen by the Facebook “friends” of others in the group, unless they are members of the group themselves.

·         Don’t post sensitive information, such as your phone number, address, social security number, or bank account information. If you need advice that requires you to share this type of information, please privately contact the administrators for assistance.

·         Do remember that “tone” is sometimes difficult to determine online. Stop and think before reacting negatively as you may have misinterpreted a comment or response. Remember that many of us are grieving, so please give a little grace.

·         Don’t post about politics or political events. This page is apolitical and will not be used to promote any candidate or political party.

·         Do feel free to contribute material to the site, provided it does not violate group rules. If you are unsure, please reach out to one of the Facebook group administrators.

·         Don’t sell products or advertise your business. This is also not a dating site.

If you are a member of the group, you might have noticed more activity recently and even posts that are not benefit or surviving family specific. We intend this page to be not only an efficient way to disseminate information on benefits, proposed legislation, advocacy efforts, etcetera, but also a way for all of us to connect and uplift one another. Feel free to share an encouraging or funny meme and pictures of your loved ones and pets and post comments supporting each other. Our group is expanding, and we would be happy to welcome more members. We would love to get to know each of you, and look forward to your comments on our page.

DFAS-Survivor-SBP-Newsletter-Dec2020

CALMOAA-newsletter-Dec-2020

Read past Surviving Spouse Corners.

Celebrating Axing the Widow’s Tax (Feb 7, 2020) – Congresswoman Nancy Polosi (Speaker of the House), Kathy Prout, and Surviving Spouses.

Surviving Spouse Report Jan. 18, 2020 Kathy Prout

Surviving Spouse Liaison for CAL-MOAA
Silver Strand Chapter of MOAA Surviving Spouse Liaison

SBP-DIC Offset Repeal

On Dec 19, 2019, President Trump signed the National Defense Authorization Act into law. Included was the repeal of the SBP-DIC Offset. The bills were HR 553 sponsored by Rep. Joe Wilson, SC and Rep John Yarmuth, KY with 373 cosponsors and S.622 sponsored by Sen Doug Jones, AL and Sen Susan Collings, ME with 77 cosponsors. These bills had the most cosponsors of any bill in Congress. Senator Jones offered a Motion to Instruct in the Senate which asked the Conferees to include his bill in the NDAA20. This passed with 94 yes votes out of 100. The 6 absentees were cosponsors of the bill so it would have been unanimous. This was passed with bipartisan support.

The Widow’s Tax has been axed after almost 20 years of legislation thanks to grass roots advocacy on the part of many military surviving spouses. Kathy Prout and Edith Smith of Virginia were the leaders of the surviving spouses. Several VSO’s were significantly helpful to include MOAA, TAPS, VFW and NMFA. WUSA9 in Washington DC also raised awareness with their series of television stories.

To simplify what will happen and what impacted surviving spouses should do:
Year 2020:
Nothing changes. The COLA is 1.6% for SBP, DIC, SSIA and Social Security as well as military retired pay and disability compensation.

DFAS needs to figure out what is owed to over 65,000 surviving spouses. When DFAS has it figured out, and provides instructions, we will let you know what to do. Most will probably happen automatically. In the meantime, do nothing.

DFAS pays SBP. It is different for everyone. The VA pays DIC. SSIA is a partial SBP payment. Since nothing happens until 2021, nothing is urgent.

In 2021 the phase in starts. All offsets to military retirement compensation have been eliminated with a 3 year phase in. When the SBP owed is reached, the offset is eliminated, whether it is in 2021, 2022 or 2033. SSIA will start to phase out as the offset is eliminated for some surviving spouses whose spouses purchased a low amount of SBP.

Feb of 2021, 1/3 of owed SBP plus SSIA ($323 in 2020) plus DIC (paid by VA).

Feb 2022
2/3 of owed SBP plus SSIA up to the amount owed plus DIC

Feb 2023
3/3 of owed SBP plus DIC. SSIA stops (it is a partial SBP payment). Nobody will receive more SBP than the amount earned or purchased.

Child option surviving spouses:

Those surviving spouses who transferred SBP to their child will get child SBP switched back to their name. They will receive what their child already receives but back in their own name. It remains the surviving spouse’s lifelong survivor benefit. Child option surviving spouses whose kids have already aged out post 9/11 are also included starting in 2023. Otherwise SBP ended or would end when the child aged out and the parent was left with only DIC.

SBP is taxable income and will continue to be taxable income. DIC is not taxed.

Do make sure your information is accurate in DEERS and you may set up a MyPay account with DFAS or if you have one, make sure your information is accurate. Child Option Surviving Spouses can wait until 2022 or until DFAS issues instructions.

Celebration Event:

There is going to be a celebration on February 5th in Washington, DC. Congress will be invited as well as the members of my Facebook groups, Military Widows: SBP-DIC Offset, Surviving Spouses of MOAA Facebook group, and others who helped get this bill passed into law. It will be sponsored by MOAA, TAPS, NMFA, GSW and VFW.

Kiddie Tax Legislation Fix

The Gold Star children who were subject to a large income tax rate of 37% on Survivor Benefits will see tax relief in 2020. Congress changed the tax code so that these children will now pay at the parent’s income tax rate for tax year 2019 and may amend their 2018 taxes to get a refund on the taxes that were overpaid. The law also impacts survivor annuities for other surviving children as well.

New Goals for The Military Coalition for Survivors include:
1. Eliminating the “holding oneself out to be married” clause for DIC. 2. Increasing DIC to equal 55% of disability compensation.

FACT-SHEET-ON-SURVIVOR-BENEFIT-PLAN

Surviving Spouse Report Jan. 15, 2020

Kathy Prout, Surviving Spouse Liaison for CAL-MOAA and Survivor Advocate

SBP-DIC Offset Repeal

On Dec 19, 2019, President Trump signed the National Defense Authorization Act into law. Included was the repeal of the SBP-DIC Offset. The bills were HR 553 sponsored by Rep. Joe Wilson, SC and Rep John Yarmuth, KY with 373 cosponsors and S.622 sponsored by Sen Doug Jones, AL and Sen Susan Collings, ME with 77 cosponsors. These bills had the most cosponsors of any bill in Congress. Senator Jones offered a Motion to Instruct in the Senate which asked the Conferees to include his bill in the NDAA20. This passed with 94 yes votes out of 100. The 6 absentees were cosponsors of the bill so it would have been unanimous.

The Widow’s Tax has been axed after almost 20 years of legislation thanks to grass roots advocacy on the part of many military surviving spouses. Kathy Prout and Edith Smith of Virginia were the leaders of the surviving spouses. Several VSO’s were significantly helpful to include MOAA, TAPS, VFW and NMFA.

To simplify what will happen and what to do:


Year 2020: 
Nothing changes! The COLA is 1.6% for SBP, DIC, SSIA and Social Security as well as military retired pay and disability compensation. 

DFAS needs to figure out what is owed to over 65,000 surviving spouses. When DFAS has it figured out, and provides instructions, we will let you know what to do. Most will probably happen automatically. In the meantime, do nothing. 

DFAS pays SBP. SBP is what you are not receiving. It is different for everyone. The VA pays DIC. SSIA is a partial SBP payment. Since nothing happens until 2021, nothing is urgent. We will let you know what to do when we hear. In the meantime, know you offset surviving spouses will receive more than you get now.

2021: Phase in starts. All offsets to military retirement compensation have been eliminated with a 3 year phase in. When the SBP you are owed is reached, your offset is eliminated, whether it is in 2021, 2022 or 2033. SSIA will start to phase out in 2022 for some surviving spouses. 

Feb of 2021 you will receive 1/3 of OWED SBP plus SSIA ($323 in 2020) plus DIC (paid by VA). 

Feb 2022
2/3 of owed SBP plus SSIA up to the amount owed plus DIC

Feb 2023
3/3 of owed SBP plus DIC. SSIA stops (it is a partial SBP payment). Nobody will receive more SBP than the amount earned or purchased. 

Child option surviving spouses 
who transferred SBP to their child get child SBP switched back to their name. They will receive what their child already receives but back in their own name. It remains the surviving spouse’s lifelong survivor benefit. Child option surviving spouses whose kids have already aged out post 9/11 are also included starting in 2023. Otherwise SBP ended or would end when the child aged out and the parent was left with only DIC. 

SBP is taxable income and will continue to be taxable income.  DIC is not taxed.

Do nothing now.  Wait for DFAS to issue instructions. DFAS will not know how much SBP you will receive if you call. 

Do make sure your address is updated in DEERS and you may set up a MyPay account with DFAS or if you have one, make sure your information is accurate.  

There is going to be a celebration in February in Washington, DC. Congress will be invited as well as the members of my Facebook group, Military Widows: SBP-DIC Offset and others who helped get this bill passed into law. It will be sponsored by MOAA, TAPS, NMFA and VFW. 

Kiddie Tax Legislation Fix

The Gold Star children who were subject to a large income tax rate of 37% on Survivor Benefits will see tax relief in 2020. Congress changed the tax code so that these children will now pay at the parent’s income tax rate in 2020 and may amend their 2019 taxes to get a refund on the taxes that were overpaid. The law also impacts survivor annuities for other surviving children as well. 

New Goals for The Military Coalition for Survivors include:

1. Eliminating the “holding oneself out to be married” clause for DIC.

2. Increasing DIC to equal 55% of disability compensation. 

.

Submitting an article by Dan Merry, written December 11, 2019 in the National MOAA Newsletter, Surviving Spouse Corner Section. (Edited for inclusion).

5 Things You Need to Know about the “Widows Tax” Repeal included in the NDAA.
The finish line in the fight to repeal the “widows tax” is within sight and while there are still critical hurdles to

clear, the final product of this extensive effort on behalf of military survivors is taking shape.

Concerning the FY 2020 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) to end the Survivor Benefit Plan- Dependency and Indemnity Compensation offset, visit MOAA.org or follow MOAA’s social media platforms for updates. 

1. The logistics. The phased-in approach to repeal is really a 3-year rollout with a delayed startNo changes will be made to the benefit in calendar year 2020, but the offset will be reduced partially over 2021 and 2022, with full elimination starting on Jan. 1, 2023.
2. The limitations. The benefit will not be extended retroactively. The bill states specifically that “no benefits may be paid to any person for any period before the effective date provided…by reasons made of the amendments made” by the NDAA.

3. The “pay for.” We confirmed with staff leadership on House Armed Services Committee that “no benefits have been or will be reduced to pay for this repeal.
4. The fine print. The NDAA section addressing the repeal 
also removes the option for an eligible surviving military spouse to establish an annuity in the name of a dependent child instead of their own. This change would take effect Jan. 1, 2023. Spouses who’ve elected to transfer their annuity payment to a child (or children) will have their eligibility for the benefit restored on Dec. 31, 2022, “whether or not payment to such child subsequently was terminated due to loss of dependent status or death,” per the legislation. Previously, survivors were coerced to transfer their survivor benefits to their children in order to receive both benefits. Those benefits expired whenever dependent reached the age of majority. But a change in 2017 tax bill dramatically increased the rate those benefits were taxedBy repealing the child option, survivors both avoid what’s been termed the “kiddie tax” and receive the full benefits they deserve. However, the current dilemma of this egregious tax remains a challenge, and MOAA is actively pursuing a resolution.

5. What’s next. MOAA stands ready to ensure the government rights this wrong. As full details of the repeal take shape, our legislative and benefits experts will continue to ensure all who’ve waited far too long to receive this benefit will get what’s been promised. MOAA members with concerns about the legislation or further questions on the repeal process can email legis@moaa.org.

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