We have No Action Items today.
And with this pre-Thanksgiving update, we will probably not have an Update on Friday 27 November
Summary of Issues
At Issue 1. we see RETIREMENT REFORM AND YOU. Major changes coming to military retirement, Do you have all the financial information you need to make the right decision? (See Issue 1 below for the details. GF)
At Issue 2. we see HOUSE MEMBERS HOST SURVIVOR ROUNDTABLE . MOAA advances survivor agenda, MOAA met with lawmakers to untangle the complicated world of survivors’ benefits. (See Issue 2 below for the details. GF)
At Issue 3. we see WHAT’S THERE TO BE THANKFUL FOR? As we approach this Thanksgiving Day holiday, there is much to be thankful for, even in this time of war and great fiscal challenges. (See Issue 3 below for the details. GF)
Collectively We Can and Are Making a Difference
FOR ALL, Please feel free to pass these Weekly Legislative Updates on to your group of Veteran Friends –
don’t be concerned with possible duplications – if your friends are as concerned as we are with Veteran issues, they probably won’t mind getting this from two or more friendly sources
Issue 1. RETIREMENT REFORM AND YOU
November 25, 2015
Military retirement is going to look a lot different in 2018.
In order to provide up to a five percent government match to servicemembers’ federal Thrift Savings Plan (TSP) accounts, military retirement will be cut by 20 percent for new service entrants starting that year, as will their future disability retirement calculation.
The new blended retirement system comes with lots of unpredictable variables, including fund choice, return rates, member contributions, inflation, cost-of-living increases, the economy, etc.
Servicemembers will be taking on much more responsibility for managing their own retirement and need to be informed about their financial options.
If you entered the service in 2006 or later, you’ll have a choice between keeping the current retirement plan or electing the new one.
In that case, you’ll want to know all of the considerations involved, and discuss them with your peers and family.
To help servicemembers thinking about these issues, MOAA is offering a webinar on the ins and outs of the new system. We invite you, your spouse, and your fellow servicemembers to sit in on the webinar on Dec. 16 at 2 p.m. EST.
Registration is free and open to the public. Don’t miss this opportunity to start getting smart on the choices and their pros and cons. (Click on RETIREMENT REFORM AND YOU here or above. Then click on Registration at the beginning of the last sentence on the page to register for the seminar. GF )
November 25, 2015
House Veterans Affairs Committee ranking members Corinne Brown (D-Fla.), Tim Waltz (D-Minn.), and Raul Ruiz (D-Calif.) hosted a November 17 roundtable discussion of survivor benefits. Both DoD and VA representatives were present as well as MOAA, Gold Star Wives, The Retired Enlisted Association, the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors (TAPS) and others. After the two-hour meeting, Rep. Brown said she wants to continue meeting with beneficiary groups on a regular basis.
Discussion focused on the evolution of survivor benefits, consolidating VA educational assistance programs for survivors, improving VA Dependency Indemnity Compensation (DIC), and extending the DoD Special Survivor Indemnity Allowance (SSIA) for SBP-DIC survivors, which is presently set to expire in October 2017. SSIA was authorized by Congress as the first step toward eliminating the current deduction of DIC from Survivor Benefit Plan (SBP) annuities.
It was recognized that various survivor benefits evolved over a historical course, extending as far back to the pre-Civil War era, for different reasons. DIC was conceived to replace family income and partially as a reparation for the death of a veteran (1862). The precursor of the Survivor Benefit Plan was enacted in 1953 for retiring military members to ensure their surviving widows were not left penniless after a retiree’s death.
SBP as we know it today was enacted in 1972. However, SBP annuities were subject to offsets by both Social Security and VA DIC, thus reducing overall government costs.
“We all appear to be in agreement that the evolution of these benefits addressed different needs in different social eras, but that the needs of today’s survivors are often not adequately addressed by the existing and sometimes conflicting programs. The income provided is simply inadequate and often leaves survivors in poverty,” stated Col Phil Odom, Deputy Director of MOAA Government Relations.
There was consensus amongst the non-government participants that DIC should mirror what other Federal agencies pay, 55% of the veteran sponsor’s disability compensation; that the age at which eligible widows can retain DIC even if they remarry (currently 57) should be reduced to 55 (the same as all other federal survivor annuities), and that it’s critical to extend authority for the Special Survivor Indemnity Allowance (SSIA) in the coming legislative year to protect eligible widows from losing the $310 monthly rate of SSIA as of Oct 1, 2017.
Representative Brown agreed the SSIA should be extended, with the ultimate goal of repealing the unfair SBP/DIC offset. The cost of full repeal would exceed $6 billion.
The group strongly recommended that the Veterans Affairs Committee consider consolidating survivor educational benefits to simplify the program and reduce VA administrative overhead.
Presently there are huge disparities between the three existing survivor educational benefit: Dependents Educational Assistance (DEA), which provides no housing or book allowance; the Montgomery GI Bill, which pays almost $1,800 more per month than DEA but offers no housing allowance; and the Post-9/11 Gunnery Sergeant Fry Scholarships that pay tuition, housing and book allowances. MOAA’s goal is to make all survivors eligible for the Fry Scholarship program.
Issue 3. WHAT’S THERE TO BE THANKFUL FOR?
November 25, 2015
As we approach this Thanksgiving Day holiday, there is much to be thankful for, even in this time of war and great fiscal challenges.
First and foremost, we should be thankful we live in a nation where we enjoy freedoms other countries can only dream of.
We are thankful for our men and women in uniform – both past and present. For the past 239 years, the freedoms we enjoy as Americans have been preserved by our uniformed servicemembers. Today, they continue to defend our freedoms all over the world separated from family and friends and sometimes in harm’s way – without grumbling or complaints.
Also, we should be thankful for our self-correcting American democracy. While the politicians we elect and the policies we pursue as a nation don’t always end up being right, our electorate inevitably ends up tossing out the politicians and policies when they’ve drifted too far from the national will in either direction.
We’re thankful for the legislative champions – senators, representatives, and their staff members – who continue to do their best to support the military and veterans community.
Finally, we’re thankful for our loyal members like each of you and your family – who continue to support our vital mission through your leadership and personal involvement.
MOAA wishes you and yours a very happy – and safe – Thanksgiving holiday. –
That’s it for today- Thanks for your help!