Tester Introduces Bill to Support Gold Star Families

Legislation Would Increase Survivor Benefits to Honor Those Who Died in Service to Nation

(U.S. Senate) – As debate continues over the treatment of Gold Star families, U.S. Senator Jon Tester is introducing legislation to support spouses and children who’ve lost a loved one in service to the nation.

The VA’s Death and Indemnity Compensation Benefit supports surviving family members of service members who died in the line of duty, Gold Star families, and survivors of disabled veterans who died from a service-connected condition. Tester’s Dependency and Indemnity Compensation Improvement Act will increase this benefit by about $300 per month and make it fairer by bringing benefits for surviving military families more in line with federal employee and Department of Defense survivor benefits.

“Families who are grieving the loss of their father or mother should never face financial uncertainty,” said Tester, Ranking Member of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee. “These brave men and women have paid the ultimate sacrifice and it’s our duty to give their loved ones more economic security.”

Tester’s bill also extends the Death and Indemnity Compensation Benefit to survivors of veterans who are 100 percent disabled as a result of their service and pass away less than 10 years after receiving their disability rating. Currently, survivors are denied any benefit if a veteran passes away before the arbitrary 10-year threshold.

Tester’s bill is endorsed by the Gold Star Wives of America, the Western Montana Military Officers Association, Disabled American Veterans and AMVETS.

Our family members gave the ultimate sacrifice, and this bill represents the equal treatment we have sought for many years,” said Crystal Wenum, National President of the Gold Star Wives of America, Inc. “We think this is an issue that spans partisan politics and brings parity with other federal programs. It is the right thing to do.”

“I’m pleased to see congress take up this issue again as it has been a key element of our engagement with Congress,” said Mike Schauf, President of the Western Montana Military Officers Association. “The adjustments improve the program and bring it more in line with other federal employee programs. I’d like to thank Senator Tester for his efforts for fair treatment for survivors of servicemembers who gave their lives for America.”

“DAV strongly supports the Dependency and Indemnity Compensation Improvement Act, which would provide greater support to deserving survivors of disabled veterans,” said DAV National Commander Delphine Metcalf-Foster. “We applaud Senator Tester for championing legislation that recognizes the fact that service-connected disabilities don’t just impact veterans, but their families as well. A veteran’s lifelong disability or service-related death can result in undue economic hardship on their spouse and children; this legislation increase financial support for them after the passing of their loved one.”

“AMVETS is pleased to support the Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (DIC) Improvement Act, and appreciates Senator Tester’s work to ensure that the amount of DIC will be raised to be on par with the rate of survivors of federal civilian employees, that surviving spouses may remarry at age 55 and retain their DIC benefit, and that the arbitrary 10-year eligibility restriction will be addressed,” said Joe Chenelly, AMVETS Executive Director. “We wholeheartedly advocate for those who serve this country, and that includes the spouses and families of our veterans, as they have also served and sacrificed.”

There are approximately 1,400 Death and Indemnity Compensation beneficiaries receiving survivor benefits in Montana.