FRA NewsBytes – 5-03-13

fra_logo_tr-c6-opt1In this week’s edition:
Repeal of Military Widows Tax Bill Introduced in Senate
Benefit Transfer Changes for Post 9/11 G I Bill
VA Launches Hotline for Women Veterans

Repeal of Military Widows Tax Bill Introduced in Senate
Sen. Bill Nelson (Fla.) has introduced legislation (S. 734) that would eliminate the SBP/DIC offset for widows and widowers of service members. Currently, the Department of Defense’s (DoD) Survivor Benefit Plan (SBP) is offset, dollar-for-dollar, by the amount of Department of Veterans Affairs’ (VA) Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (DIC). This bill would eliminate this so-called “widow’s tax” for approximately 60,000 widows and widowers of our U.S. service members.
In January, Rep. Joe Wilson (S.C.), chairman of the House Armed Services Subcommittee on Military Personnel, introduced a similar measure (H.R. 32) in the House.

Members are urged to use the FRA Action Center to ask their senators and representative to support these legislative proposals.

Click here to support the Senate measure:
http://www.capwiz.com/fra/issues/alert/?alertid=62635581

Click here to support the House measure:
http://www.capwiz.com/fra/issues/alert/?alertid=62322551

Benefit Transfer Changes for Post-9/11 GI Bill
The Post-9/11 GI Bill offers substantial post-service education benefits for those who served in uniform during the nation’s War on Terror. The program also provides eligible service members the opportunity to share their education benefits with immediate family members.

Effective August 1, 2013, active duty personnel who choose to transfer their Post-9/11 GI Bill educational benefits to eligible family members will be required to serve an additional four years, without regard to their time in service. Currently only service members not eligible for retirement are required to serve four more years as a requirement for transferability.

For additional information about transferring benefits to family members, visit
http://www.gibill.va.gov/benefits/post_911_gibill/transfer_of_benefits.html

VA Launches Hotline for Women Veterans
The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) recently launched a new hotline to receive and respond to questions about the many VA resources available to female veterans. Veterans, their families and caregivers are encouraged to call1-855-VA-WOMEN, where  knowledgeable VA employees who can provide information about benefits including health care services for women, claims and education, as well as information about VA cemeteries and memorial benefits.  Staff can answer urgent questions and provide referrals for mental health services and resources for homeless women veterans.

Nearly 15 percent of today’s active duty military personnel are women and females comprise 18 percent of National Guard and Reserve forces.  The population of women veterans using VA health care has more than doubled, rising from 160,000 in 2000 to more than 354,000 in 2012.

FRA strongly supports VA efforts to create an appropriate model of care for women veterans. Further, the VA should enhance its sexual trauma and other gender-specific programs and continue to improve services tailored to women veterans in all VA facilities.