Pertinent Issues for Surviving Spouses

Feb 2016

1. Tricare for Life

As a general rule, it is very important to use doctors and other Tricare authorized facilities that accept Medicare in order to limit a person's out-of pocket costs for doctors or hospital visits, except for copayments for medications that are obtained from non-military pharmacies.

A survey of users indicates that they are satisfied with the overall quality of care that they receive through their military health coverage.

NOTE:  moaaspouse@moaa.org contains a wealth of information on a variety of current subjects of interest.

2.  DC Military Magazine

This is a publication for military personnel, veterans, and their families living in the DC metro region. One article which may interest military spouses (and even surviving spouses) is entitled, "Five Smart Transition Tips Military Spouses Should Know."  This magazine also includes other articles of interest on, for example, the work of the Spouse Advisory Council and the resume tips given by military spouse resume experts.  (See the February 2016 issue, #7 or you can visit the website at: DCMilitary.com/dc_military_mag/.)

3.  SBP Eligibility Change

The 2016 National Defense Authorization Act prevents military retirees from losing Survivor Benefits Plan (SBP) benefits when an ex-spouse dies before they do.  The benefit can now, once again, be transferred to a current or future spouse.  Request for transfer must be made to Defense Finance and Accounting Service (DFAS) within a year of the November 25, 2015 enactment date or date of a new marriage.  Check out the details before you take any action.

4. H.R. 1594 (Military Surviving Spouses Equity Act) is under consideration in the House.  It would repeal the requirement for reduction of survivor annuities under the Survivor Benefit Plan to offset the receipt of veteran's dependency and indemnity compensation (DIC).

It has 173 sponsors.  Also, H.R. 979 (with only 14 sponsors) would eliminate the dollar for dollar offset of SBP from VA DIC.  These two proposals are in the House Armed Services Committee.

5. On the Senate side, the Military Spouse Job Continuity Act, S. 210, was referred to the Senate Finance Committee.  It would allow a credit against income tax for amounts paid by a spouse of a member of the Armed Forces for a new State license or certification required because of a permanent change in the duty station of the service member to another State.  It also has only a small number of sponsors (i.e., 14) as of February.

6. Grassroots Advocacy

Participate in grassroots advocacy efforts and let your congressional legislators know how you feel about health care reform/fee increases; the Survivor Benefit Plan/Dependency and Indemnity Compensation offset and repeal; military pay comparability, COLA increases; concurrent receipt; compensation/commissary benefits; and other issues which are important to you.

To participate in grassroots advocacy efforts, surviving spouses should:

   a.  Call or visit their congressional legislators' district offices.

   b.  Call their congressional legislators' Washington, DC, offices. The MOAA toll-free number is (866) 272-6622.  Ask to speak with your representative or senator, or their legislative assistant or military legislative assistant.

   c.  Send a letter or email on important legislative issues to your legislators' district office or Washington, DC office.  Sign, date, and mail all grassroots advocacy postcards and "tear-out" letters found periodically in Military Officer magazine.

   d.  Ask other surviving spouses or active duty or retired servicemembers and their spouses who don't live in your area or who live in another state, to contact their representatives and senators on legislative issues, too.

For any additional guidance, please email the Surviving Spouse Advisory Committee at auxcomm@moaa.org .

7. REMINDER!  As you compute your Maryland State Income Taxes for Calendar Year 2015, due in April, don't forget that your spouse's retired pay or your SBP dollars received are now adjusted differently.  The first $10,000 is subtracted from your adjusted income if you are over 65 years of age; the amount remains a $5,000 subtraction for those under 65.  If you use a tax consultant, remind that specialist that the rules have again changed for CY 2015 taxes.

Naomi M. Kaplan
Spouse/Surviving Spouse Liaison
MOAA Maryland Council of Chapters