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Source: United States House of Representatives – Representative Jahana Hayes (CT-05)

This week, Congresswoman Jahana Hayes (CT-05) introduced the Surviving Families Benefit Expansion Act, legislation to better support veteran families in Connecticut and across the country. This bill would expand monthly Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (DIC) benefits from the Veterans Administration (VA) to more surviving spouses and family members.

Rep. Hayes was joined by Reps. T.J. Cox (D-CA), Rodney Davis (R-IL), Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA), Derek Kilmer (D-WA), John Larson (D-CT), and Susan Wild (D-PA) as original cosponsors. The Senate companion to this bill, S. 4594, was introduced by Senator Jon Tester, Ranking Member of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee.

“The death of a service member should never lead a family to financial hardship,” said Congresswoman Jahana Hayes. “This legislation will expand VA Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (DIC) benefits to more surviving spouses and family members by updating policies and broadening eligibility for benefits. Surviving families in Connecticut rely on Department of Veterans Affairs benefits. We owe it to the brave men and women in uniform who put their lives on the line for our country to take care of their families and ensure the benefits they have earned adequately support their families. This legislation will reinforce that need by improving and expanding these benefits.”

The Surviving Families Benefit Expansion Act is cosponsored by American Legion, AMVETS, DAV, Gold Star Wives of America, Military Officers Association of America Paralyzed Veterans of America, Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors, Veterans of Foreign Wars, and Wounded Warrior Project.

“The Surviving Families Benefit Expansion Act would help fulfill this country’s responsibility to care for the survivors of many totally disabled veterans,” said Heather Ansley, Associate Executive Director for Government Relations at Paralyzed Veterans of America.

“The rate of compensation paid to survivors is outdated and unfairly penalizes spouses who remarry,” said AMVETS National Commander Jan Brown. “Our nation’s policies should not stand in their way for a second chance at love and building a family. The Surviving Families Benefit Expansion Act, introduced by Representative Hayes, is a step in the right direction for those families who have paid the ultimate price.”

“The Military Officers Association of America supports this important incremental step to improve survivor’s benefits by reducing the remarriage penalty from age 57 to 55, and easing the 10 year rule to 5 years for DIC eligibility for severely disabled veterans,” said MOAA Director Mark Belinsky. “MOAA looks forward to continued progress on DIC improvement and remains committed to support our survivor community”.

“The Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors (TAPS) thanks Congresswoman Jahana Hayes for introducing the “Surviving Families Benefit Expansion Act,” which enables eligible surviving spouses to retain Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (DIC) upon remarriage at age 55, instead of the current age of 57. TAPS has consistently called on Congress to eliminate remarriage penalties on surviving spouses and we look forward to the passage of this important bill,” said Bonnie Carroll, TAPS President and Founder.   

“The VFW supports this important legislation, which would permit surviving spouses to retain Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (DIC) upon remarriage at 55, and would make survivors eligible for DIC after a veteran has consistently held a total disability rating for five years,” said Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) Deputy Director Matthew Doyle. “The VFW thanks Representative Hayes for her efforts to expand DIC benefits for survivors who remarry at a younger age and whose spouses were ill for a shorter period of time.” 

“Representative Hayes has long been a champion for the Gold Star Wives,” said Nancy Menagh, President of the Gold Star Wives of America, Inc. “At the beginning of the 116th Congress, Congresswoman Hayes introduced legislation that would increase benefits for surviving spouses; and with the introduction of this legislation, she is ensuring that the benefits that were earned through the sacrifices of our loved ones are realized by the families left behind. Today’s legislation will continue this strong tradition of supporting Gold Star families.  We are proud to support this legislative effort.”

“The American Legion is proud to support legislation that will secure the well-earned benefits for surviving family members of veterans who lost their lives as a result of their service,” said National Commander for The American Legion James W. “Bill” Oxford. “The significant sacrifices that have been made by surviving family members should not be curtailed as a result of arbitrary limitations. The American Legion will continue to work on behalf of survivors and families and ensure proper care and benefits are extended.”

“When disabled veterans sadly pass away, their surviving spouses depend on DIC payments to meet their basic needs.” said Jose Ramos, WWP Vice President for Government and Community Relations. “Wounded Warrior Project is proud to support this legislation which makes significant improvements to the DIC program, and we thank Representative Hayes for her commitment to the well-being of veterans’ survivors.”

“One of the most important ways we honor our fallen service members is by providing appropriate support for their survivors,” said DAV National Commander Stephen “Butch” Whitehead. “We are pleased to support this legislation that would help their loved ones gain and retain the benefits their veteran earned in service. We thank Rep. Hayes for her dedication to honoring America’s veterans, and to caring for their families.”

The Surviving Families Benefit Expansion Act would expand the distribution of DIC benefits to military surviving families through the following provisions:

  • Enabling eligible surviving spouses to retain DIC upon remarriage at age 55, instead of the current age of 57; and
  • Reducing the time frame a veteran needs to be rated totally disabled from 10 to 5 years, allowing more survivors to become eligible for DIC benefits.

This legislation builds upon Rep. Hayes’ H.R. 3221, the Dependency and Indemnity Compensation Improvement Act, which would increase the benefit DIC recipients receive from 43% to 55% of a single 100% disabled veteran’s compensation. This increase would amount to an approximate monthly increase of $300 per recipient.

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Rep. Jahana Hayes has been a public school teacher in Connecticut for more than 15 years and was recognized in 2016 as the National Teacher of the Year.

Currently serving her first term in the U.S. House of Representatives, Rep. Hayes sits on the Committees on Education & Labor and Agriculture and proudly represents Connecticut’s 5th District.

MIL OSI USA News