House votes for higher survivor benefit

By Rick Maze – Staff writer
Posted : Wednesday Apr 1, 2009 16:59:03 EDT
The House of Representatives voted Wednesday for a $45 monthly increase this fall in a special allowance for some survivors of people who die of service-related causes.

The current $50 monthly special survivor indemnity allowance for widows and widowers already was scheduled to jump to $60 on Oct. 1, but the allowance would rise to $95 a month under a provision of a federal retirement benefits bill passed by the House.

The bill, HR 1804, includes phased increases over the next seven years that would leave the payment at $345 a month in 2016.

Whether the increases will take effect is not clear. Changes in survivors payments are attached to a bill that revises the federal government’s Thrift Savings Plan, and the increases for survivors are far less than sought by military and veterans groups. But partial payments were endorsed by the Veterans’ Disability Benefits Commission, an independent group that made recommendations on overhauling benefits.

Congress created the special survivor indemnity allowance in response to complaints that survivors benefits paid by the Defense Department are reduced dollar-for-dollar by the amount received in dependency and indemnity compensation from the Veterans Affairs Department.

The first payment, a modest $50, began Oct. 1. Many survivors said they considered it an insult because they were losing more than $1,100 to the offset.


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