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Pay and Benefits Watch - Family Matters

Pay and Benefits Watch - Family Matters

Alyssa Rosenberg | Government Executive

November 19, 2009

President Obama’s executive order expanding job opportunities for veterans in federal agencies made headlines last week. He also marked Veterans Day by signing into law a bill that makes it easier for the families of service members to navigate the complicated landscape of rules governing their benefits during reassignments.

The 2009 Military Spouses Residency Relief Act (S. 475) allows the husbands and wives of service members to retain residency in their home state when the military requires them to relocate.

Currently, only active-duty service members can retain residency in a single state when they move, meaning that they can keep their driver’s license and vehicle and voter registration in the same state regardless of how often the military relocates them. They also do not have to file tax returns in multiple states for years when they move. In addition, maintaining residency in one state makes it easier for service members and their spouses to keep their names on property titles without worrying about additional tax implications.

Until S. 475, soldiers’ spouses did not have the same benefit. Advocates for military families hope the new rules will make frequent moves less arduous.

“Military families are often asked to move, and it is only fair that we give the same residency benefits to spouses as we give to active-duty personnel,” said Sen. Richard Burr, R-N.C., who sponsored the legislation. “This bill represents one small way we can help ease the burden of military families, who make sacrifices every day to support our men and women in uniform.”

The families of service members who die still face a complicated system of survivors’ benefits, according to a new report from the Government Accountability Office.

The Dependency and Indemnity Compensation payments program, run by the Veterans Affairs Department, provides standardized rates of compensation to the families of military members who die during active service or as a result of a disability incurred while serving. Surviving spouses receive $1,154 per month, and an additional $286 per dependent child under the age of 18, regardless of the decedent’s rank or length of service. Surviving children without a living parent receive $488 per month. And in the absence of a surviving spouse or child, the parents of service members who die under those circumstances receive $569 each month.

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