Military Survivor Benefits Bill Introduced Again

A bill that would allow retired military service members to name special needs trusts as beneficiaries of their Survivor Benefit Plans has been reintroduced in Congress. After failing to get his bill out of committee last year, Virginia congressman Jim Moran (along with Sen. Kay Hagan, who introduced companion legislation in the Senate) has again introduced the Disabled Military Child Protection Act (HR 2249) in Congress.

Although pressure has increased in recent years, Congress has not changed a long-standing law that forces retired members of the military to name their spouses or children as beneficiaries of their Survivor Benefit Plans. These plans are designed to pay 55 percent of the retiree's pension to his surviving family members, so in some cases the monthly income award can be quite high. Unfortunately, since many benefit programs for people with special needs are needs-based, receipt of additional income could destroy access to critical benefits like Medicaid. As currently structured, the law governing Survivor Benefit Plans forces retired service members who are parents of children with disabilities to either allow the income to pass through to their children or skip the children entirely.

As described in our article about last year's version of this bill, the Disabled Military Child Protection Act would allow parents to divert Survivor Benefits into special needs trusts for children with disabilities, thus preserving access to benefits. Rep. Moran, who is the father of a child with special needs, explained that the Act "will give peace of mind to middle class military parents of more than 1,000 dependents that their children will receive good care after they are no longer able."

Although the bill has a slim chance of passing the Senate on its own, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) added the Act's language into the much larger Defense Authorization Act (S 1034), which is much more likely to pass the Senate. From there, the House of Representatives would have to approve the change.

To read a press release from Rep. Moran's office, click here.

To read the House and Senate versions of the bill, click here (for the House) and here (for the Senate).

Article Last Modified: 06/30/2013


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