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This new page will feature monthly reports from the Lars and the GRC Committee.

  • 8 May 2022 4:22 PM | Nancy Menagh (Administrator)

    Your GSW Government Relations Committee met April 19th.  If you have any questions or concerns, be sure to contact your GRC Region Liaison.  Not sure who it is?  The names are listed at the bottom of this report.

    Lars Report:   The DIC increase is still our top priority, so our main objective is the passage of the Caring for Survivors Act of 2021  S. 976 and HR. 3402.   These bills are non-partisan and continuing to gain traction.   However, the toxic exposure issues, such as The Honor Our Pact Act, are still getting the most attention.  We will be in a good position to re-introduce these bills next session and can build on our momentum.

    TAPS has the lead on having a comprehensive Remarriage Bill.  We have been told to expect one around Memorial Day.   It will be presented to the TMC for review and support. 

    Lars continues to reach out to staffers on both the House and Senate side.  Some are meeting in person and some are still conducting business virtually.

    TAPS has sponsored The Gold Star Families Day Act, which would establish a Federal holiday on the last Monday of September.  While many organizations have signed on to the letter of support for the holiday, there are also many organizations which oppose the wording of the actual bill as they do not want the designation of “Gold Star Families” to be changed to include family members of service-connected deaths and active-duty deaths that are not combat.    While we are in support of the holiday, we may not want to take a position on the bill. 

    Juneteenth has just been passed as the newest Federal Holiday, so most likely Gold Star Families Day will not be passed.  It appears that a new Federal Holiday has a price tag of about $880 million over a 10 year period.  We would rather have money spent on the increase in DIC.

    GRC Report: If you discussed upcoming legislative goals for GSW at your Region Conferences, your GRC representative will bring those ideas to the GRC. 

    Memorial Day:  We are starting to get information filtering in, but most of the information is still pending.  Arlington Cemetery will be allowing anyone to place flowers at the Tomb on Saturday May 28th, the same as they did for Veterans Day.  We will be placing wreaths at The Vietnam Wall, Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, and at WIMSA.  The renovated Korean Memorial/Wall will have a dedication in July, and we will place a wreath at the dedication ceremony in July.   The renovations to WIMSA are expected to be completed by Memorial Day. 

    Donna Eldridge, Chair; Lars Anderson, DC Advocate.

    Members:  NW Nancy Menagh, NC Crystal Wenum, SW Jeanette Early, Misty Brammer and Claire Manning-Dick, SC Cyndie Gibson, SE Judy Woodall, NE Pam Connors, MW Madie Tillman, MA Deb Skeldon and Lupe McGuire.


  • 26 Feb 2022 3:06 PM | Nancy Menagh (Administrator)

    Your GSW Government Relations Committee met February 15th.  If you have any questions or concerns, be sure to contact your GRC Region Liaison.  Not sure who it is?  The names are listed at the bottom on this report.

    Lars Report:   The DIC increase is still our top priority, so our main objective is the passage of the Caring for Survivors Act of 2021  - S. 976 and HR. 3402.  Currently the Senate bill has 10 co-sponsors and the House has 45.  Both the Senate and House bills have bi-partisan support.  One of the hurdles for this bill is the price tag.  However, many bills have been passed without securing the funding first.  We think that this bill should be passed without having to first show how it will be funded.

    On February 8, 2022, GSW gave testimony at a hearing for the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs; Subcommittee on Disability Assistance and Memorial Affairs.  The subject was Honoring our Promise: Reviewing the Effectiveness of Services for Dependents and Survivors.  Only four organizations were chosen to testify regarding the services the Veterans Administration provides for survivors. 

    Our testimony received a lot of positive feedback.  The testimony can be found at the GSW website. 

    Currently Congress still has not completed the budget and might use an Omnibus which would wrap all the bills (excluding DOD bills) into one bill to pass it. 

    In February the HealthCare for Burn Pit Veterans Act was dropped.  It unanimously passed the (SVAC) Senate Veterans Affairs Committee.  This bill is not as comprehensive as the Honoring Our Pact Bill, but is a step forward. 

    We are told a comprehensive Remarriage Bill will drop soon and we are hoping it will be dropped prior to this year’s March testimony. 

     GRC Report: The Gold Star Families Day Act would establish a federal holiday on the last Monday of September.  The Military Coalition has a letter of support.  Once the letter has been finalized, GSW will sign on the letter with our support.   

    GSW will present testimony on our GSW goals on March 8, 2022.  We will submit written and oral testimony.  The GRC will begin writing the testimony and members of the GRC will obtain personal stories to illustrate the need for our legislative goals to be met.

     Please reach out to your Region Liaison/representative with questions you may have; and let them know if you have met with your Senator or Representative.  

    Donna Eldridge, Chair; Lars Anderson, DC Advocate.

    Members:  NW Nancy Menagh, NC Crystal Wenum, SW Jeanette Early, Misty Brammer and Claire Manning-Dick,  SC Cyndie Gibson, SE Judy Woodall, NE Pam Connors, MW Madie Tillman, MA Deb Skeldon and Lupe McGuire.


  • 26 Feb 2022 2:54 PM | Nancy Menagh (Administrator)

    In Phase Two (2022) of the offset phased elimination, your SBP gross benefit is reduced by an amount that is equal to one-third of your DIC benefit. This does NOT affect your DIC payment, which is paid by the VA. The first payday for Phase Two is February 1, 2022 and the last payday for Phase Two is January 3, 2023.

    Monthly Payments During Phase Two: Example

    ¨ If DIC benefit (paid in full by the VA) equals = $1437.66 ¨ And SBP gross benefit (paid by DoD/DFAS) equals = $940

    ¨ Offset to SBP (DIC benefit amount divided by 3) equals = $479.22

    ¨ SBP net payment after offset (reduction) of $479.22 equals = $460.78 Monthly Payments Based on Above Example: Monthly payments beginning February 1, 2022 (first payday of Phase Two): $1437.66 DIC from VA + $460.78 Net SBP from DFAS + $346 *SSIA from DFAS

    ¨ DIC benefit (paid in full by the VA) = $1437.66 ¨ SBP net payment (paid by DoD/ DFAS) = $460.78 (before taxes) ¨ *SSIA payment (paid by DoD/ DFAS) = $346 (*SSIA paid ONLY when SBP gross is reduced due to offset; up to maximum of $346 in 2022)

    Please note: a small number of spouse annuitants (approximately 12%) will NOT see an increase in their SBP net payment in 2022. This is because one-third of their DIC benefit (the offset) is more than their SBP gross benefit. This group of spouse annuitants WILL receive their full SBP gross benefit beginning February 1, 2023 (see page 2).

    DIC = Dependency and Indemnity Compensation paid by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) SBP = Department of Defense (DoD) Survivor Benefit Plan SSIA = DoD Special Survivor Indemnity Allowance DFAS = Defense Finance and Accounting Service; the DoD agency that processes Survivor Benefit Plan and SSIA.

    In the third and final phase (2023), the SBP-DIC offset will be fully eliminated. That means you will begin to receive your full SBP gross benefit payments with no offset (reduction). The first payday for Phase Three is February 1, 2023. You will also continue to receive your full DIC payments from the VA. SSIA will no longer be paid.

    SBP-DIC Offset Phased Elimination News - use this link to download the reference sheet: www.dfas.mil/sbpdicnews

    SBP 2023 Optional Child Annuity reversion www.dfas.mil/sbp2023childoptrev

    DFAS Facebook www.facebook.com/DFASOfficial

     Manage your SBP annuity www.dfas.mil/managesbp

    School certifications www.dfas.mil/schoolcerts

     myPay https://mypay.dfas.mil

    Below is the direct link to the reference sheet -  Just  copy and paste.


  • 2 Feb 2022 3:26 PM | Nancy Menagh (Administrator)

    Your GSW Government Relations Committee met January 18th.  We did not meet in December due to holidays.  If you have any questions or concerns, be sure to contact your GRC Region Liaison.  Not sure who it is?  Check the tab on the website that lists the GRC Committee, and underneath there is a tab that reads “Legislation”.

    Lars Report:   Congress needs to get the budget completed and they may use an Omnibus which would wrap all the bills (excluding DOD bills) into one bill to pass it.  We may end up with a “CR”, which means Continuing Resolution.  This means that the current funding levels continue.

    Earlier this month, Congress looked at the Voter Protection Act, which did not pass.  However, everyone will be on record as to how they voted on it.  Next up is the Build Back Better bill, which includes Covid relief, welfare, social services, infrastructure, and ways to reduce the effects of climate change.  That is still a priority of the Biden Administration but not sure when this bill will move in the Senate.

    We are told a comprehensive Remarriage Bill will drop soon.

    Of course, our main objective is the passage of the Caring for Survivors Act of 2021  - S. 976 and HR. 3402, which will give us a long overdue increase in the DIC.  The Senate bill has 11 co-sponsors and the House has 40.  Both have bi-partisan support.     We had a productive meetings with Republican and Democratic staff of the House Veterans Committee to discuss our priorities.

    It is SO important that we all continue to reach to our Senators and Representatives.  There is a new FaceBook page that is dedicated to getting support for the DIC Increase.  It is called DIC Surviving Spouses/DIC Increase Advocacy.  You will need to request permission to join from those administrators.

    Once August comes, many of the offices will be concentrating on re-election, so we really need to work hard to get this done before that.  Otherwise we will have to re-introduce next session.

    There is a hearing February 8th to discuss the Surviving Spouse Experience.  And there will be a hearing in March, where we hope to present our GSW goals. 

    Some of you may have seen in the MOAA newsletter or on some of the Facebook pages that TMC -The Military Coalition has published an approved DIC fact sheet.  This was in error as the sheet does not have final approval yet.  The official version should be available soon.

    MOAA also is pushing hard to get more States onboard to reduce the tax liability on SBP payments. 

    GRC Report: Members shared what they do when scheduling a meeting with Congress.  Suggested verbiage:  We want to meet with you to confirm a yes vote and you support for ____________.  We want to come as a group to present the facts and explain how this will help your vulnerable constituents.  Also suggested that you put members of Congress in touch with each other.  So and so is working on this – please get in touch. 

     Contacting YOUR Senator and Representative and letting them know you are a constituent is so important.  Please tell them about your spouse, and why this increase is so important to you.

    Please reach out to your Region Liaison/representative with questions you may have; and let them know if you have met with your Senator or Representative.


  • 2 Feb 2022 3:09 PM | Nancy Menagh (Administrator)

    What is Aid & Attendance?  It is an additional stipend which is added to your DIC.  If you are eligible for either DIC or SBP, you are eligible to apply for Aid & Attendance and House Bound.

    What is the difference between the two stipends and how much is the amount you receive a month?  2022 the current amount of Aid & Attendance is $356.16/month.  The amount for House Bound is $166.85.  Aid & Attendance is for those who need assistance with basic skills needed for living.  House  Bound is for those who are unable to leave their home.   For example, you are able to eat, get dressed, and can take your medications on your own, but you are unable to get out of the house due to issues with your legs, breathing, etc.

    How do you apply?  Use form 21-2680.   https://www.vba.va.gov/pubs/forms/vba-21-2680-are.pdf

    May you apply if you are in a nursing home?  If you are in a nursing home and applying, use 21-0779:  https://www.va.gov/find-forms/about-form-21-0779/

    Who fills out the form?  You must have your health provider fill out the questions and sign off on the form.  The questions have to do with your difficulty in eating, hygiene, medication management, do you need nursing home care, or are you blind?

    How long does it take to be approved?  The usual time is 6-8 weeks.

    Once approved, the assumption is that you will be aging and probably not regain any of the functions that made you eligible.  Therefore, you will not have to keep showing the need.  However, the stipends can be awarded for a temporary situation as opposed to long term. 

    What would be an example of temporary? A knee replacement.  It would then be up to you to advise the VA you no longer need Aid & Attendance.

    What can the money be used for?  It is not designated how you spend it.  You could spend it on outside help, on ramps, on making your home easier to navigate.  How you spend it is up to you.

    Can a minor child receive Aid & Attendance.  No, this is only for spouses.

    Is the stipend income related?  No, this is not Medicaid and not related to your income.   While Veterans may have an income threshold for these benefits, surviving spouses do not.

    The only benefit for spouses that IS income related is the “survivors pension”.  Anyone who receives DIC and/or SBP does NOT qualify for the survivors pension.  This pension is for widowed who do NOT qualify for DIC and/or SBP, but their Veteran served in the military.  This benefit is income related – it is a safety net to be sure no widow of a Veteran is in total poverty.  None of us who receive DIC also qualify for the basic “survivors pension”.

    Where should you mail the forms? If the applicant lives in AL, AR, IL, IN, KY, LA, MI, MO, MS, OH, TN, or WI:

    Mail to: Department of Veterans Affairs
    Claims Intake Center
    Attention: Milwaukee Pension Center
    PO Box 5192
    Janesville, WI 53547-5192

    AK, AZ, CA, CO, HI, IA, ID, KS, MN, MT, ND, NE, NM, NV, OK, OR, SD, TX, UT, WA, WY

    Mail to: Department of Veterans Affairs
    Claims Intake Center
    Attention: St. Paul Pension Center
    PO Box 5365                                                                                                           Janesville, WI  53547-5365

    CT, DE, FL, GA, ME, MD, MA, NH, NJ, NC, NY, PA, PR, RI, SC, VT, VA, WV

    Mail to:  Department of Veterans Affairs
    Claims Intake Center
    PO Box 5365
    Janesville, WI 53547-5365



  • 8 Dec 2021 7:04 PM | Nancy Menagh (Administrator)

    For the first time ever, a GSW member has been selected to be one of the Grand Marshalls of the Wreaths Across America caravan from Maine to Washington, DC.  The caravan has 57 vehicles this year participating in what is known as the longest Veterans Parade in the Nation.   The honor has gone to President Emeritus, Nancy Menagh, who will be accompanied by our GSW Wreaths Across America liaison, Deborah Skeldon.  

    The caravan will be stopping at communities all along the way distributing wreaths and telling the story of Wreaths Across America. Nancy and Deb will have the opportunity to share the story of GSW as they speak with community volunteers and reporters at the many stops along the way.

    On December 18, they will arrive at Arlington Cemetery to place wreaths, just like so many of our GSW members will be doing at their local National Cemeteries that day.

    REMEMBER  HONOR TEACH

     

  • 8 Dec 2021 6:59 PM | Nancy Menagh (Administrator)

    Your GSW Government Relations Committee met November 16th.  If you have any questions or concerns, be sure to contact your GRC Region Liaison.  Not sure who it is?  Check the tab on the website that lists the GRC Committee, and underneath there is a tab that reads “Legislation”.

    Lars Report:   While the current emphasis has been on the Infrastructure Bill, the Toxic Exposure Omnibus Bills in the U.S. Senate and the U.S. House of Representatives are still being discussed.  The “CBO” Congressional Budget Office score (cost) for The Cost of War and the Honoring our Pact Act of 2021 are over $400 Billion. 

    We are still waiting for a comprehensive Remarriage Bill to drop.  While there are a couple of bills out there right now, they are not inclusive of everyone.   Once there is a bill we can support, we will let you know.

    Of course, our main objective is the passage of the Caring for Survivors Act of 2021  - S. 976 and HR. 3402, which will give us a long overdue increase in the DIC.  We submitted written testimony at the House Legislative Subcommittee on Disability Assistance and Memorial Affairs hearing on October 20th.  The good news is that there is a lot of support for this bill.  MOAA -Military Officer Association of America has announced that the Caring For Survivors Act of 2021 is their main goal this year.  As we know, DAV is also very supportive of the bills.  The estimated score/cost for this bill is $14 Billion.  

    GRC Report: The GRC created a packet of letters asking for support which you may mail or email, the Fact Sheet for the bill, and a suggested message you may use by telephone.  Your Region Liaison and Region President will work to get this out to you, plus we have sent out information in a recent eblast.   Contacting YOUR Senator and Representative and letting them know you are a constituent is so important.  Please tell them about your spouse, and why this increase is so important to you.

    Please reach out to your Region Liaison/representative with questions you may have; and let them know if you have met with your Senator or Representative.

    Veterans Day:  Donna gave a report of the events in DC.  We had GSW members at the Amphitheatre at Arlington Cemetery, where National President, Tamra Sipes, and Capital View Chapter President, Raina Taylor, placed the wreath.  Board Chair, Crystal Wenum, placed the wreath at the Korean Memorial, and  at the Wall, all the GSW members placed the wreath together.  This was followed by a wreath laying at WIMSA--Women in Military Service of America Memorial at Arlington, by Tamra and Deb Skeldon.  It was a very full and long day for everyone.  As you know, Veterans Day was the 100th Anniversary of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.  What an honor to be part of this Centennial.  

    Judy Woodall gave us a report of Veterans Day in Birmingham, AL.  Although our Vice President was unable to attend due to COVID concerns, we had a three GSW members plus guests in attendance this year.  Next year will be the 75th Anniversary for Veterans Day.  The first celebration using the term “Veterans Day” occurred in Birmingham, Alabama, in 1947. Raymond Weeks, a World War II Veteran, organized "National Veterans Day," which included a parade and other festivities, to honor all Veterans.  Each year, we join members of the Weeks family at a special remembrance of Raymond Weeks. Please consider coming to Birmingham next year for the 75th Anniversary. 

    If you have any questions or comments, please let us know.  We do not have a scheduled GRC meeting in December so that our members may spend more time with family and friends as we enjoy the holiday season.  May everyone enjoy a wonderful Holiday Season.


  • 8 Dec 2021 5:37 PM | Nancy Menagh (Administrator)

    Your GSW Government Relations Committee met October 19th.  If you have any questions or concerns, be sure to contact your GRC Region Liaison.  Not sure who it is?  Check the tab on the website that lists the GRC Committee, underneath the tab that reads “Legislation”.

    Lars Report:   Things are starting to happen on the Hill, and there is much going on.  The Toxic Exposure Omnibus Bills in the U.S. Senate and the U.S. House of Representatives combine the many bills regarding toxic exposure into one.  As you know GSW has been working with the Toxic Exposure in the American Military (TEAM) Coalition of over 30 organizations to get passage of this important legislation.  The Omnibus Bills are now awaiting the Congressional Budget Office “score” which is the cost of the bills. Once the scores are developed, the legislation will then be up for further discussions among lawmakers. There is still great interest in getting these bills passed this session of Congress.

    Of course, our main objective is the passage of the Caring for Survivors Act of 2021  - S. 976 and HR. 3402, which will give us a long overdue increase in the DIC.  The bill will be discussed at the House Legislative Subcommittee on Disability Assistance and Memorial Affairs hearing on October 20th. We were able to submit written testimony; and appreciate the input we received from members telling “what an increase will mean to you”.  Telling your personal story is an important part of getting this bill passed.  Of course, we still need your help to reach out to your Senators and Representatives to gain more co-sponsors.   Please meet with YOUR Senator and Representative and tell YOUR story.  

    We have sample letters and a GSW fact sheet in the legislative area.  The link to your Senators and Representatives is handy for you on the front page of our website.

    There are a number of other bills which are being discussed at this House subcommittee on October 20, including two different bills that would allow “some” surviving spouses who have remarried to retain part or all of their benefits.  Neither bill is inclusive of all surviving spouses, but we expect a more comprehensive bill to come soon.

    GRC Report:  We discussed how each of the Region GRC Liaison/representatives can better work with their Region President to get the information out to both Chapter members and Members at Large.  Please reach out to your Liaison/representative with questions you may have; and let them know if you have met with your Senator or Representative.

    Veterans Day:  If you will be in the DC area on Veterans Day, please let Donna donnaleldridge@gmail.com know ASAP.  There are a number of events for which we have tickets for GSW members.   The Veterans Day Event sponsor this year is the Jewish War Veterans of the USA.

    Veterans Day Events as we know as of October 19 (subject to change):

    November 7th WIMSA is sponsoring an afternoon tea where you will learn the history of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.  This tea will include a private tour of the Tomb.  The cost for this tea is $125 and you will need to go to the https://womensmemorial.org/ site to register.

    November 9th -10th, the general public is invited to place a flower at the Tomb of the Unknown to celebrate the Centennial of the Tomb of the Unknown.  You MUST have a government ID, and you MUST pre-register at www.arlingtoncemetery.mil 

    November 11th  

    10:00 AM WWII Memorial Wreath Laying Ceremony.

    11:00 AM Ceremony at Amphitheater and laying of wreath at the Tomb.  40 different VSO’s will place a wreath.  We will be represented by the GSW President, Tamra Sipes.   We have a limited number of tickets.

    1:00 PM Ceremony at The Wall.  GSW members will be at the Wall to place our wreath. 

    3:00 PM Wreath laying at the Korean Memorial.  We will be represented by the GSW Board Chair, Crystal Wenum. 

    3:00 PM Wreath laying at the Women in Military Service of America (WIMSA) Memorial.  

    If you have questions or comments, please let us know.


  • 14 Oct 2021 3:07 PM | Nancy Menagh (Administrator)

    Your GSW Government Relations Committee met September 21st.  If you have any questions or concerns, be sure to contact your GRC Region Liaison.  Not sure who it is?  Check the tab on the website that lists the GRC Committee, underneath the tab that reads “Legislation”.

    At Convention we voted to accept our GRC goals, which can be found on the tab that reads “Legislation”.  Of course, our biggest goal is the increase in DIC.  You will be able to find the fact sheet and sample letters on the website by clicking on the tab that reads “Fact Sheets and White Pages”.

    On the front page of our website, you may click on how to contact your Senators and Representatives to find out where to send your letter or email.  You will want to use the template and add a little about you and your story.  Make it personal!  

    Your DC Advocate, Lars Anderson, is continuing to work with Senator Testor’s staff regarding Bill S. 976 the Caring for Survivors Act of 2021 and with Representative Hayes regarding the companion Bill HR .   3402.  While the offices are still closed to the public, Lars continues to reach out by phone and email to staffers to encourage more co-sponsors.

    Currently in the Senate the co-sponsors are Senators Boozman, AR, Collins, ME, Coons, DE, Bloomenthal, CT, Peters, MI, and Bennet, CO. Currently in the House, the co-sponsors are Representatives Frankel, FL, Grijalva, AZ, Carson, IN, Norton, DC, Maloney, NY, Cohen, TN, Lowenthal, CA, Lawson, FL, Newman, IL, and Jackson Lee, TX.

    If you don’t see your Senator or Representative on this list, please take the time to reach out today.

    As you may know, GSW, is a long standing member of (TMC) The Military Coalition.  Donna Eldridge  has recently been elected to serve as Co-Chair of the Membership Committee, which is an honor for GSW to be recognized as part of the leadership of TMC.   

    Lars reports:   While things are still slow to return to normal on the Hill, there is still much going on.  Currently, the big push is for the Infrastructure Bill, and there is now a Toxic Exposure Omnibus Bills in the U.S. Senate and the U.S. House of Representatives.  These Omnibus Bills combine the many bills regarding toxic exposure into one.  These bills need to pass the House and Senate; then they will work out compromises for the bills which may differ in the House and Senate versions.  GSW has been working with the Toxic Exposure in the American Military (TEAM) Coalition of over 30 organizations to get passage of this important legislation. 

    Of course, our main objective is the passage of the Caring for Survivors Act of 2021, which will give us a long overdue increase in the DIC.  We need your help to reach out to your Senators and Representatives to gain more co-sponsors.  Currently this is a bi-partisan bill in the Senate, but in the House, it has only been Democrats who have signed on.  One of our members, Sharri Briley, met with Senator Boozman’s staff and provided her personal story and testimony, which was used in the introduction of the bill.  Please meet with YOUR Senator and Representative and tell YOUR story.  

    We are also looking at bills aimed at allowing surviving spouses who have remarried to retain part or all of their benefits.  More to come on that!

    If you have questions or comments, please let us know.


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