Tester, Jones, Collins Bill Repealing Military Widow’s Tax Heads to President’s Desk

Ending 18-year battle, Senate approves bipartisan bill to support Montana’s military spouses as part of annual defense legislation

Ending an 18-year battle, a bipartisan bill from U.S. Senators Jon Tester (D-Mont.), Doug Jones (D-Ala.), and Susan Collins (R-Maine) to repeal the Military Widow’s Tax passed the U.S. Senate yesterday as a part of the fiscal year 2020 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). The bill now heads to the President’s desk to be signed into law, delivering critical support to Montana’s military spouses.

“This is an exciting day for more than 67,000 military widows and widowers who have been waiting years for the survivor benefits they are owed,” said Tester, Ranking Member of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee. “When brave men and women pay the ultimate sacrifice serving our nation, it’s our duty to provide economic security for their loved ones. The Widow’s Tax Elimination Act follows through on this important obligation, and ensures that military families who have sacrificed the unimaginable are provided more financial certainty.”

“When we introduced this legislation, we knew we were fighting an uphill battle on behalf of these surviving spouses. But together, we were undeterred by the task and committed to them that this was the year it would finally get done. There is no more noble cause than to do the right thing for military families who have lost their loved one in service to our country. We took up this fight for those surviving spouses and their families, and I’m honored to be standing with them as we finally put this injustice behind us,” said Jones, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee.

“This provision we secured in the NDAA is a major victory for surviving military and retiree spouses to whom we are deeply indebted. The Military Widow’s Tax was an unfair offset that prevented as many as 67,000 surviving spouses—including more than 260 from Maine—from receiving the full benefits they deserve,” said Collins. “This problem goes back decades, but this year we finally solved it once and for all. I appreciate the overwhelming support we received from our colleagues as well as veterans advocates who helped make this possible.”

As a result of the widow’s tax, 67,000 surviving spouses are prevented from collecting their full insurance benefits due to a system where survivor benefits from the Department of Veterans Affairs are deducted from annuities provided by the Survivor Benefit Plan funded by the Defense Department. The Senators’ provision would undo this unfair offset over the course of three years, providing tens of thousands of military spouses their full survivor benefits.

Legislation to repeal the Military Widow’s Tax, which was enacted in 1972, has been repeatedly introduced in the Senate for nearly two decades. Earlier this year, Tester joined his colleagues in a bipartisan press conference to highlight the urgent need to pass long-overdue legislation to roll back the tax.