We now have bills in the U.S. Senate and the U.S. House of Representatives that address DIC and a few other issues (as outlined below). Senate Bill 1990 introduced by Senator Tester from Montana and House Bill 4106 introduced by Congresswoman Shea-Porter from New Hampshire. We encourage you to contact your Members of Congress and encourage him to support these pieces of legislation.
DEPENDENCY AND INDEMNITY COMPENSATION IMPROVEMENT ACT
Senate Bill 1990 (S. 1990) and House Bill 4106 (HR 4106) make changes to the dependency and indemnity compensation for surviving dependents of deceased military members and veterans through three provisions that make the program fairer to survivors.
Provision #1: Increasing the DIC rate so it is equivalent to the rate for survivors of federal civilian employees
• For widows and widowers whose spouses die while on active military duty or as the result of a service connected injury or illness, this bill increases DIC by twelve percent so that the base rate of DIC is equal to 55 percent of the rate of compensation paid to a totally disabled veteran.
• This increase would provide approximately $300 more per month for survivors and would be equivalent to that paid to survivors of federal civilian employees who are killed while performing their duties.
Provision #2: Providing a graduated scale of benefits and addressing an arbitrary eligibility restriction
• If a veteran's death was not caused by their service-connected condition, survivors can also be paid DIC if their veteran spouse was rated totally disabled for a period of 10 years prior to death. Many veterans in this disability category, because of age and general ill health, often die of causes not directly attributable to their service-connected condition before their total disability rating has been in effect for 10 years. Survivors are denied any portion of DIC benefits if the arbitrary 10-year threshold is not met, often leaving the family in dire economic circumstances.
• This bill provides a graduated scale of benefits, starting at the five-year threshold, to ensure that more survivors have access to this benefit. Thus, if a veteran is rated as totally disabled for five years and dies as a result of a non-service-connected cause, a survivor would be entitled to 50 percent of total DIC benefits. This scale continues until the 10-year threshold and the maximum amount of DIC benefits is awarded.
Provision #3: Allowing surviving spouses who remarry after age 55 to retain DIC benefits
• In 2003, Congress approved legislation to allow surviving spouses who remarried after the age of 57 to retain their DIC benefits.
• Other federal programs, including the DoD Survivor Benefit Plan and the Federal Employees survivor benefit plan, allow surviving spouses to remarry at age 55 and retain their benefits. This bill would allow surviving spouses to remarry at age 55 and retain their DIC benefit, as consistent with other Federal survivor programs.
Washington D.C. Advocate