A Gold Star Wife

Discussion in 'Off Topic' started by tug_boat, Mar 1, 2017.

  1. tug_boat

    tug_boat 5-Year Member

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    When my husband died, like the wife of most active duty soldiers I received $100K in death gratuity within 72 hours. It felt like someone handing me an umbrella when it was hailing bricks.

    In the horror of my husband’s death I also recognized that there would never be another paycheck and I accurately sensed that there would be many expenses in those first months. The $400K in SGLI came several months later. As his wife, I was also his selected beneficiary. Not every wife receives this money. Sometimes a service member will select another beneficiary. This $500K seems like a lot — and can be a bit like hitting the unlucky lottery — and everyone knows it. Sometimes people come out of the woodwork capitalizing on the grief and the money.

    The Survivor Benefit Plan (SBP) and the Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (DIC) are monthly payments. The first is from the Department of Defense (DoD) and the second is from the Veterans Administration. The SBP is 55% of the service member’s retirement pay would have been based on the 100% disabled, at the highest three years of rank. The DIC is a set amount about $1254.19 per month. It is a dollar for dollar reduction of DIC from the SBP. The Gold Star Wives are among the last group of people who have an offset from their DoD benefits by their VA benefits.

    Think of it in terms of the population of military veterans who exceed VA 50% disability who are eligible for military retirement pay. These veterans — who are not dead and can still work… get their full retirement plus their VA benefit. Widow’s benefits are based on the calculation of the 100 percent disabled. The group of Post 9-11 widows is asking for the full SBP plus the full VA benefit.

    For most Post 9-11 widows, the DIC outweighs the SBP, so that the DoD is off the hook completely for payment to that service member’s family. The surviving spouses of Service Members who die on active duty and 100 percent service connected disabled Service Members were left behind in 2003 when concurrent pay legislation was passed. The widows did not have the same strong voice as the other Veteran and Military organizations that primarily represent their own members.

    For people who know me and think I am typical, please know that in so many ways I am a poor representative of military widows. My husband was a colonel — making me older, more experienced, and more financially stable. When the boys were babies, I went back to school for a masters degree and left a few years later with a doctorate. While serving at an overseas posting, I was recruited off the tennis court to a job that became a life changing career opportunity with tremendous mentors. The boys were miraculously already becoming decent young men: Eagle Scouts, varsity athletes, honor students.

    The outcome being that when my husband died, while there was unbelievable pain and massive confusion, an inner-reserve of resilience built on this strong foundation meant that I could look those boys in the face and say, “This is horrible, we will miss him forever, but we are going to be fine.” I told them to focus on homework and sports and I focused on not looking as whacked out as I felt.

    With a strong network of family, friends and a lot of prayers, it seems that we have been carried through on a Sea of Grace. While I feel totally adrift and struggle to make a plan, I truly believe that the Lord has lit the path before me one step at a time. I had to manage an international move, I had to find a place to live in the US, I had to buy a car, I was unemployed and had to find a job, I had to help get those boys through high school and into college, and I have a pervasively broken heart. For as well-prepared as I was, I struggled and continue to struggle. I continue to worry that this well of resilience will evaporate. What then?

    Most of my widowed-sisters are not so well positioned. I look around at many widows who I meet–and it is not encouraging. They are so young. Most women are high school diploma holders with a young child or two and struggling to manage a broken heart. The new widow may not be prepared to go to work the next month or even for years…and may not earn enough to make it worth paying for the exorbitant cost of child care. Further, many go through years of unsettledness and many have children who fill the void with bad behaviors. The real risk is that a single tragedy may become an intergenerational calamity.

    Like me, many do not really have a place that they call home — they joined the military family when they married their soldier. I know that a large number of widows remain near military installations. It is a half life but at least you can use the commissary and take the boys to the barber on post.

    The last bit I will add is widows want the SBP, they want the full amount from the DoD that was earned by the widow and her beloved, as a team. They want the connection to the service. It is financial, of course, but also emotional. When your military spouse dies, you lose membership in your military community and are kicked out of your home. Whatever life you had is finished and you have to build a new life. It is gut wrenching. The SBP represents the commitment the DoD made to the soldier being continued to the family. Removing the DIC offset would add a life changing $1254.19 a month to these struggling households.

    I personally look with great anticipation to the forthcoming results of the DoD-funded, groundbreaking research being conducted by Dr. Steve Cozza of the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences. Dr. Cozza’s National Bereavement Study is poised to tell us more about the status of surviving families.

    Anecdotally I suspect the picture is not good as it is a population unified in suffering. I want to know the track to being fine and how the boys and I can have enduring resilience. For many families the DIC on top of the SBP would make a great deal of difference and help to lift and keep those widows out of poverty.

    Dr. Tracey Perez Koehlmoos serves as the Director of Health Services Administration Division and Associate Professor at the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences. She is the President of the Arlington chapter of Gold Star Wives of America. The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not reflect the opinions of the Gold Star Wives of America, the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences, the Department of Defense or any other agency.

    Push Hard, Press Forward
     
  2. Wishful

    Wishful "Land of the free, because of the brave..." 5-Year Member

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    Have any bills been sponsored that would recify this injustice. I would like to contact my MOC.
     
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  3. Capt MJ

    Capt MJ 10-Year Member

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    Read more about this issue here:
    http://www.themilitarycoalition.org/survivor-program-committee-goals.html

    The Military Coalition is made up of military and veteran service organization non-profits who advocate on issues of interest to military, veterans, spouses, widuws.
     
  4. DrMom

    DrMom 5-Year Member

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    As we reflect on the raw display of emotion by Mrs. Owens during the presidential address last night, let us take action by calling our congressman and senators and asking them to please co-sponsor the House bill HR 846 and the Senate bill S339. Otherwise, we risk that it was just a gratuitous viewing of someone else's deepest suffering.
     
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  5. Jcleppe

    Jcleppe 5-Year Member

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    Any indication on how the current administration leans on this issue?
     
  6. QA1517

    QA1517 5-Year Member

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    Does everybody think that she showed up not knowing that she and her husband was going to be recognized and the attention it would get.
    Pretty sure everybody recognized last night agreed to it.

    She was invited, not held there against her will. I'm sure she was told what would happen. I don't believe she is an innocent victim. Maybe she actually likes Trump and appreciates the fact the her and her husband are being recognized for his service and sacrifice. Maybe she wasn't suffering, maybe she was celebrating him.
     
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  7. tug_boat

    tug_boat 5-Year Member

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    Bingo!

    Finally......

    Push Hard, Press Forward
     
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  8. Jcleppe

    Jcleppe 5-Year Member

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    Did I miss something, I don't think anyone posted here that they thought what you alluded to. I have no doubt she was invited, it's silly to think she didn't know about the recognition the President gave. I think you may have taken DrMom's post a bit out of context, I'm going to assume you were somehow responding to other outlets. As far as suffering, you bet she is, it's been less then a month and it took a lot of courage to even be there, you could see the pain on her face, it was emotional to watch.
     
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  9. QA1517

    QA1517 5-Year Member

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    To be honest I read this with the thread honoring Mr. Owens and thought that was where I posted. My bad.
    But I also read "the gratuitous viewing" comment as if it was aimed towards the administration and was a publicity stunt. Maybe because I thought it was in the other thread.
    If that's not the way that comment was intended, sorry.
     
  10. DrMom

    DrMom 5-Year Member

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    No, the gratuitous viewing comment was aimed at the Nation. How could any of us look at her last night--and not want to help her and others who have walked in those shoes? The way to do that--that every single American can do to help--is to call or write to your congressman and senators and ask them to please co-sponsor the House bill HR 846 and the Senate bill S339 to remove the SBP/DIC offset. Her husband went to his grave thinking that the SBP would be there for his wife if something happened to him. It will not bring him back from the dead but it will enable the DoD to fulfill its promises.

    Gold Star Wives, we are crummy advocacy group--when our husband's die, our congressmen and senators are at the funeral, handing us flags, having pictures made with our children, and even reading statements on the floor of the House--but in the long run, we are unable to bring about change to improve the lives of military widows and children. The SBP/DIC is our one big issue--although most of us are either too busy dealing with a broken heart and messed up life or too busy trying to make it as single parents to spend a lot of time working on the issue. So, QA1517, this is your chance to help surviving families.
     
  11. QA1517

    QA1517 5-Year Member

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    I will do my research and act accordingly.

    My comments were not aimed at the Gold Star families or the situations they face, it was merely aimed at the one line in your comment that I did not read as you intended. And as stated getting crossed on the threads.

    I for one did not view her emotions gratuitously nor did my wife. Thought it took an unbelievable amount of courage for her to be there knowing the response she would receive. But she was there on her own accord. As were the spouse of the fallen law enforcement officers.

    Let me comment though, and again this is not intended to be degrading or to put anyone in a bad light.
    Although military spouses sacrifice a tremendous amount, and their losses are tragic, there are millions of others out there in the world that lose their spouses tragically in daily life and receive nothing and may not have any type of support system.
    I believe helping and praying for those is just as important.
     
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  12. Capt MJ

    Capt MJ 10-Year Member

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    More basic info on these programs:

    http://www.moaa.org/sbp/

    Noting what DrMom said, I need to catch up on current provisions, all programs, and pending legislation.

    I thought SBP was something only participated in by retired service members, after they left active duty, with premiums deducted from retired pay. My DH and I elected not to use it, him for me, me for him, so I have no hands-on knowledge. Since Senior Chief Owens was active duty, I didn't think SBP was applicable - but as I noted, I need to get current.
     
  13. DrMom

    DrMom 5-Year Member

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    Here is a summary of the issue by Kathy Prout:
    Are you familiar with the SBP-DIC Offset?

    I am working to get the law changed to eliminate this unjust offset which impacts the 63,000 military widows of our fallen heroes and disabled military retirees.

    SBP is the Survivor Benefit Plan, paid by the Department of Defense. SBP is an annuity that is purchased by the military retiree to ensure that his spouse will be provided with income should he pre-decease her.

    DIC is Dependency and Indemnity Compensation paid by the VA. This is an indemnity compensation for a service caused death that any veteran’s widow/widower may receive if the veteran dies as the result of a service connected illness or injury.

    SBP is an annuity earned by years of service and/or paid for as income protection for surviving family members. It is not standard practice for insurance programs to deny an insurance payment simply because a beneficiary receives income from another source.

    It is not a handout or welfare. It costs 6.5% of the percentage of retired pay purchased for a 55% benefit and is also awarded to all post 9/11 active duty death widows.

    DIC offsets SBP dollar for dollar up to the full amount of DIC causing a loss of $15,095 or more a year.

    These are two separate programs for two separate purposes.
    Eligible survivors should receive both SBP and DIC with no offset.

    Please help by supporting HR 846 in the House and S 339 in the Senate
     
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