Birmingham, Alabama Office
P.O. Box 361986
Birmingham, AL 35236
Washington DC Office
200 N. Glebe Road Rm 425
Arlington, VA 22203-3755
|Gold Star Wives Legislative Priorities and Goals|
GSW Legislative Goals
2014 – 2015
Our primary focus is to improve and protect existing survivor benefits and to eliminate benefit inequities. The Government Relations Committee proposes the following legislative priorities for the coming year:
DIC Increase: DIC is currently paid to widows at 41% of the VA Disability Compensation received by the veteran with a 100% service-connected disability. We note that Social Security provides 100% of the primary beneficiary’s payment for surviving spouses. Other Federal survivor programs provide a survivor annuity of 50-55% of retirement pay to the surviving spouse. Survivor statistics reported to Congress by the Office of Survivor Assistance indicate that 44% of surviving spouses reported income below $20,000. We plan to have a sponsor drop a bill and then support this bill.
Education: Substantial increases in Chapter 35 are needed to be on par with post 9/11 benefits. Currently maximum benefit is $ 1003 monthly ($9027 yearly based on 9 month full time status), and is not enough to meet tuition requirements. Currently ALL surviving spouses are receiving chapter 35, as well as pre- 9/11 surviving sons and daughters, and family members of the 100 percent disabled. Comparatively Post 9/11 received up to $19,198 yearly for tuition and maximum of $3369 mo (E5 dependent BAH Rate based on locality-San Fran, average is approximately $1500 mo.) additionally for housing, in addition to other cost such as book allowances up to a maximum of $1000 per year. Under post 9/11 there may be relocation charges paid. Survivors have to receive substantial student loans to make their educational goals happen. Under the post 9/11 program certification tests are also paid, while chapter 35 recipients must use their general benefit. Surviving Spouses would benefit from the removal of the Chapter 35 delimiting date would benefit those who raise children and care for wounded warriors. All survivors should receive 20 years to use their benefits.
Networking: We propose to continue working with The Military Coalition (TMC) and National Military and Veterans Alliance (NMVA) as well as representatives of the Department of Defense and the Department of Veterans Affairs. Congressional representatives, their staff and the committee staff continue to be important in our efforts. These relationships enable us to better represent Gold Star Wives of America in efforts to serve our membership effectively.
In addition as issues and opportunities arise during the year regarding survivor benefits the Government Relations Committee proposes to respond with actions befitting the situation. This will include education, commissary privileges, health care benefits, dignified burial, staffing of the Office of Survivors Assistance.