Sen. Bill Nelson (Fla.) has introduced a bill (S.1411) to extend the Special Survivor Indemnity Allowance (SSIA) benefit that expires in May 2018.

Sen. Bill Nelson (Fla.) has introduced a bill (S.1411) to extend the Special Survivor Indemnity Allowance (SSIA) benefit that expires in May 2018. The bill provides a five-year extension of the SSIA payments. Veteran’s organizations have long sought the elimination of the Survivor Benefit Plan (SBP) Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (DIC) offset for widows and widowers of service members (H.R.846/S.339).

This offset, also known as the "widow's tax," impacts approximately 63,000 widows and widowers of our armed forces. These widows and widowers should receive both SBP and DIC benefits without the current dollar-for-dollar offset. SBP provides a surviving spouse 55 percent of their deceased spouse's retirement pay. The retiree gains this coverage for their spouse by paying a premium equal to 6.5 percent of his/her retired pay. SBP and DIC payments are paid for different reasons. SBP is purchased by the retiree and is intended to provide a portion of retired pay to the survivor as stated above. DIC is a special indemnity compensation paid to the survivor when a member's service causes his or her death. In such cases, the VA indemnity compensation should be added to the SBP the retiree paid for, not substituted for it.

Currently this offset is more than $1,200 a month for many widows/widowers. It should be noted as a matter of equity that surviving spouses of federal civilian retirees who are disabled veterans and die of military-service-connected causes, can receive DIC without losing any of their federal civilian SBP benefits.

In 2008, Congress enacted the Special Survivor Indemnity Allowance (SSIA) which increased gradually and now pays approximately 25 percent ($310) of the offset. Unfortunately the SSIA sunsets in May 2018. Everyone is urged to ask their legislators to support the SBP/DIC offset legislation (H.R.846/S. 339) and to ask them to support extension (S.1411) as well as increase payments of SSIA. For more information, contact Sandra Van Zant at the Veterans Service Office at 602 Strong Ave. on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., or call 325-365-3612.