AP NEWS

Surviving military spouses not receiving full benefits due to offset

May 12, 2019

My name is Kathryn Fellure, and I am the military widow of Lt. Col. Michael Fellure, who served for 22 years in the U.S. Army and died three months ago on active duty here in San Antonio.

A week after Michael’s funeral, I learned I was eligible for benefits from the Department of Defense via Defense Finance and Accounting Service, or SFAS, and Veterans Affairs. However, due to a federal law, I could not receive both in full because I was eligible for both in full.

I know that sounds very confusing — because it is. Federal law requires a $1 reduction in Survivor Benefit Plan, or SBP, for each $1 received in Dependency and Indemnity Compensation, or DIC. This is called the SBP-DIC offset.

SBP is an insurance annuity earned by years in service and/or paid for as income protection for surviving family members. It is not standard practice for insurance programs to deny payment because a beneficiary receives income from another source. The average offset of DIC to SBP is $925 a month. DIC is a fixed amount, regardless of the service member’s grade or service.

The Military Widows Tax Elimination Act of 2019 (S 622) and Military Surviving Spouses Equity Act (HR 553) are companion bills that would eliminate the SBP-DIC offset. This bipartisan legislation would repeal the SBP-DIC offset and give surviving spouses their full entitled benefits.

The number of surviving spouses in Texas affected by the SBP-DIC offset as of December is 7,825, according to the Department of Defense Office of the Actuary.

Currently, U.S. Sens. John Cornyn and Ted Cruz of Texas are not co-sponsoring S 622. But, as of May 3, 61 senators are co-sponsoring the legislation.

In the House, there were 256 co-sponsors as of May 3. There are 17 Texas representatives who are not co-sponsoring.

In the San Antonio area, Democratic Rep. Joaquin Castro of District 20, GOP Rep. Chip Roy of District 21 and Democratic Rep. Lloyd Doggett of District 35 have not co-sponsored HR 553.

Bexar and Comal counties are home to a significant amount of surviving spouses affected by the SBP-DIC offset. As of December, District 20 had 487 offset spouses, District 21 had 638 and District 35 had 363.

I am asking other members of the San Antonio area to call Reps. Castro, Roy and Doggett, and Sens. Cornyn and Cruz on behalf of these widows, widowers and children.

End the SBP-DIC offset and give these surviving spouses their full entitled benefits. These representatives say they support military families and love to tout “Military City, USA,” but they need to show it.

Kathryn Fellure is the surviving spouse of Lt. Col. Michael Fellure and resides in Fort Sam Houston.