Shea-Porter Introduces Bill to Increase Benefits for Surviving Spouses of Disabled Veterans and Servicemembers Killed in Line of Duty
WASHINGTON, DC – Congresswoman Carol Shea-Porter (NH-01) today introduced legislation that would improve the formula for benefits paid to Gold Star Families and survivors and dependents of certain service-connected disabled veterans. Senator Jon Tester (D-MT), the Ranking Member on the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, has introduced companion legislation in the Senate.
“The bereaved spouses of disabled veterans and of servicemembers killed in the line of duty shouldn’t have to worry about financial insecurity,” said Shea-Porter. “The least we can do for these brave servicemembers is to ensure their loved ones will always have access to reliable benefits.”
In early August, Bonnie Styles Saucier of Raymond, NH, the surviving spouse of a 100% disabled Vietnam combat veteran, approached Shea-Porter about the need for legislation.
“When my husband died and most VA benefits stopped, I found myself struggling to pay the mortgage and even to buy groceries because the current surviving spouse benefits are not enough to make ends meet for people like me,” said Saucier. “I thank Congresswoman Shea-Porter for introducing legislation to create a new Dependents and Survivors Income Security Benefit to ensure that surviving spouses receive at least 55% of the benefits the VA paid while our spouses were still alive.”
Almost 1,600 beneficiaries in New Hampshire receive the current VA Dependency and Indemnity Compensation Benefit, which is paid to Gold Star Families, surviving spouses and family members of veterans who pass away as a result of their service-connected disability, and survivors of veterans who were 100% service-connected disabled for at least 10 years before their death. The benefit is often much less than VA disability compensation paid prior to the veteran’s death. Therefore, many spouses currently lose a considerable portion of their income upon the death of their loved one.
Shea-Porter’s bill would create a new Dependents and Survivors Income Security (DSIS) Benefit equal to 55% of the rate of compensation for a veteran with a 100% service-connected disability. Currently, the benefit is based on a flat rate with additional allowances based on the veteran’s disability rating and number of dependents. For the surviving spouse of a 100% disabled veteran, the benefit can be less than 40% of the disability compensation paid before the veteran’s death. For surviving spouses of veterans receiving Special Monthly Compensation, it can be as low as 18% of that amount. For survivors of servicemembers killed in the line of duty, the replacement rate depends on the servicemember’s pay and rank and can be as low as 19%.
“Our family members gave the ultimate sacrifice, and this bill represents the equal treatment we have sought for many years,” said Crystal Wenum, National President of the Gold Star Wives of America, Inc. “We think this is an issue that spans partisan politics and brings parity with other federal programs. It is the right thing to do, and we thank Congresswoman Shea-Porter for introducing this legislation.”