SGT. SHAFT: Veteran to get full retired pay if divorced spouse precedes him in death

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Dear Sgt. Shaft:

My first wife was awarded 37.5 percent of my military retired pay at the time of our divorce. My question is: Will I receive my full retired pay if she precedes me in death?

Thank you for your assistance.

Walter L.
Via the Internet

Dear Walter:

The answer to your question is yes. The only reason you are splitting your retired pay is due a court order to a designated person. If the designated person dies first, your retired pay is restored to you.

Shaft notes

• On July 17, nearly 100 surviving spouses, including members of Military Officers Association of America’s (MOAA) Auxiliary Member Advisory Committee (AMAC); MOAA staff, joined by members of the Gold Star Wives, American Legion, Society of Military Widows; and various surviving spouse support groups attended a “Storming the Hill” event, sponsored by MOAA.

The purpose was to educate the 113th Congress and their legislative and military assistants on the Survivor Benefit Plan/Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (SBP/DIC) offset issue.

The day began at the Rayburn Building at a congressional breakfast with Rep. Joe Wilson, South Carolina Republican, addressing the group. Two surviving spouses, Traci Voelke and Suzanne Gerstner, each spoke about their husband’s deaths and gave very different but compelling testimonials of the struggles each of their families face as a result of the offset.

MOAA’s government relations team presented a quick brief to the congressional assistants in the group focusing on the SBP/DIC offset issue.

“In order to fully understand the importance of complete elimination of the SBP/DIC offset, it is vital they understand the issue and its impact on surviving spouses and families,” said Vice Adm. Norbert R. Ryan Jr., USN (Ret), president of MOAA. “The ultimate goal is complete elimination of the SBP/DIC offset, and I am proud of this group of surviving spouses for their advocacy and determination.”

Under current law, the surviving spouse of an active-duty or retired member, who dies of a service-connected cause, must forfeit $1 of military SBP annuity for each $1 received in DIC. DIC is presently set at $1,215 monthly and is paid only to survivors of veterans whose death is determined to have been caused by service. This dollar for dollar offset wipes out most of the SBP payment for the vast majority of survivors.

Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) and Rep. Wilson have introduced S. 734 and H.R. 32, respectively, which would repeal the offset of DIC payments from SBP annuities, in the belief that when military service causes the death, the VA indemnity payment should be added to the normal SBP annuity, not subtracted from it.

After a congressional breakfast, the “stormers” met with their legislators and staffs to discuss the issues, provide fact sheets and brochures, and ask them to end the SBP/DIC offset.

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