To Collect Full Benefits, War Widows Must Remarry

Confusing rules result in weird set of complications
By Matt Cantor,  Newser Staff
Posted Feb 10, 2011 11:35 AM CST
To Collect Full Benefits, War Widows Must Remarry
Nichole Haycock, wearing both her and her late husband's wedding ring, shows a photograph of her late husband, Sgt. First Class Jeffrey Haycock, at her home in Lawton, Okla., Saturday, Feb. 5, 2011.   (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)

Thanks to a confusing system of federal regulations, tens of thousands of war widows can’t fully collect on insurance bought by their late husbands—unless they marry someone else. There’s more: that remarriage must occur when the widows are 57 or older to count, the AP reports. The complications stem from a rule known as the "widows' tax," which says spouses can’t get both the insurance’s annuity benefits and monthly survivor benefits. The latter is subtracted from the annuity payment.

The remarriage issue came about as Congress tried to help survivors: In legislation to fix the problem, lawmakers slipped in a measure that allowed women who remarried late to hang on to certain benefits. Relief stopped there, however, making that small group the only ones who get the full benefits. And even for the remarried, things are complicated. A group of 10 senators this week filed new legislation to work on the problem. But there’s no easy fix: Giving the widows both benefits would cost the government $6.7 billion over a decade.
(More military spouses stories.)

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