Legislation to repeal the "widow's tax" affecting Gold Star families is now in a House-Senate conference committee and could soon become law, said Sen. Doug Jones, D-Alabama.
"Everybody … recognizes that for 40 years we have neglected our duty and our obligation to the very people that served us and gave us their all," Jones told CNN on Wednesday. "I am hoping that, finally, Congress will wake up."
The legislation, co-sponsored by Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, would address how the federal government pays out two separate military survivor benefits.
One, the Dependency and Indemnity Compensation program (DIC), awards around $15,000 a year to survivors of veterans or troops who lose their lives to service-related causes. There is no enrollment cost.
Through the other program, the Survivor Benefit Plan (SBP), families of military retirees who enroll receive up to 55 percent of their loved ones' retirement pay after the veteran dies.
Those payouts are subsidized by Defense Department, but enrollees must put up part of their retirement benefits to be eligible.
Individuals who qualify for either program receive payouts from their respective programs, but those qualifying for both face an offset: For every dollar paid in DIC benefits, SBP payouts are cut by a dollar.
That costs those families up to $1,000 a month, CNN reports.
The issue affects as many as 63,000 Gold Star families, including Kristen Fenty, whose husband, Army Lt. Col. Joe Fenty, died in Afghanistan on May 5, 2006, and is buried at Arlington National Cemetery.
"Our spouses paid for this benefit with their lives, with their service, as well as deferred compensation contributions to ensure a retirement benefit to which our survivor benefit is attached," Kristen Fenty told CNN. "This is not gratuitous."
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