(AL.com) –– After 18 years of attempts, the Senate on Tuesday approved a provision in a defense policy bill championed by Sen. Doug Jones that would end the so-called “military widow’s tax,” which has prevented military spouses from getting the full benefits they are entitled to.
The tax affects some 67,000 military spouses, including more than 2,000 in Alabama. Military widows paid out under one benefit plan have had those payments offset by another plan, but the provision in the defense policy bill passed Friday would do away with the offset.
Jones, a Democrat, partnered with Republican Susan Collins of Maine on the Widow’s Tax Elimination Act of 2019, which ultimately became a provision of the National Defense Authorization Act. The bill will head to President Trump’s desk to be signed into law.
“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,” Jones said of he and Collins. “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.”
The elimination of the “tax” was hailed by Cathy Milford, a military spouse from Mobile, who said the offset has prevented her from receiving full benefits after her husband died 26 years ago.
“Though I will be 76 when my husband’s benefits are fully reinstated, I am happy to know that those who sadly become military widows and widowers in the future will no longer have to fight this battle year after year,” Milford said in a statement. “My own senator from Alabama, Sen. Doug Jones, has championed our cause with passion and persistence and led with bipartisanship to see this bill finally passed! In Alabama terms, he carried the ball into the end zone.”
Vestavia Hills resident Anne Hartline, chairwoman of the Surviving Spouse Advisory Committee to the Military Officers Association of America, applauded Jones for advocating for military spouses.
“On behalf of the 67,000 widows across the United States, I want to say thank you to Senator Jones for his stellar leadership in the elimination of the Widow’s Tax,” she said. “We in Alabama are so proud of our Sen. Doug Jones, who has been the catalyst to coordinate the bipartisan support for this legislation. Many people have worked tirelessly for almost 20 years, and finally with the leadership of Senator Jones, this is happening. What a gift and we want to thank him.”
(Howard Koplowitz, AL.com)