Spouses of troops killed in the duty often face a grim penalty if they remarry: they lose their government-granted survivor benefits. Two veterans serving in Congress say that needs to change.
Under current law, "Gold Star" spouses lose their Survivor Benefit Plan benefits if they remarry before turning 55. They also lose their Dependency and Indemnity Compensation benefits if they remarry before turning 57.
But a new bill, the Captain James C. Edge Gold Star Spouse Equity Act, introduced Thursday by Reps. Michael Waltz, R-Fla., and Seth Moulton, D-Mass., would remove such age limits.
Waltz is a National Guard colonel and Green Beret who served multiple combat tours in Afghanistan, the Middle East and Africa. Moulton is a Marine veteran who led an infantry platoon during the invasion of Iraq in 2003, and served four tours there.
"These arbitrary age limits are completely nonsensical and only punishes those who forever mourn the loss of their spouse," Waltz said Friday in a news release.
Moulton said the nation owes a debt to Gold Star families that cannot be repaid, and the remarriage penalty must be eliminated.
"When Americans sign up to serve in the military, they should know the American people have their backs," Moulton said. "If they sacrifice their lives for our country, the least our country can do is take care of their families."
The Survivor Benefit Plan pays the surviving spouse of a service member who dies on active duty 55% of what the service member's retirement pay would have been, if he or she had retired at 100% disability at the time of death.
Surviving spouses of retirees could still lose SBP benefits if they remarry before age 55, as they are not covered under the legislation.
The Dependency and Indemnity Compensation benefit is a monthly payment of $1,357.56 that the Department of Veterans Affairs pays to eligible survivors of active-duty service members who died in the line of duty, and survivors of veterans whose deaths are deemed service-related.
The advocacy group Gold Star Wives of America supports the bill.
"Making it possible for these surviving spouses to be able to move forward without losing financial benefits honors the commitment that we have to those who have paid the ultimate sacrifice," Nancy Menagh, president of Gold Star Wives of America, said in the release.