Congressman Faleomavaega announced today that the House passed by a vote of 391-34 the Department of Defense Authorization (DOD) bill which provides overdue retirement benefits to military spouses, and nearly $450 billion to support our troops, including those serving from American Samoa.
“Members of Congress believe that our troops and their families should be taken care of when we send them into battle and that they should be given our respect when we bring them home,” Congressman Faleomavaega said. “We also recognize that the spouses of those we send into battle make sacrifices too. That’s why today’s bill provides long overdue retirement benefits for our men and women in uniform.”
“Under Democratic pressure, Republicans relented and included bipartisan provisions to end the Widow’s Tax. Under current law, the widow’s tax would penalize over 200,000 elderly Americans over the next 10 years, and hundreds of thousands in future years. Over one million military retirees anticipate that upon their death, their spouse will receive 55 percent of their retirement benefit. But when the spouse reaches 62, the benefit drops to 35 percent forcing these widows to give up a substantial portion of their benefits.”
“New provisions in today’s bill would begin to reduce the widow’s tax in the fall of 2005 and this means victory for our military spouses. I am proud to have been a cosponsor of H.R. 548 which was introduced last year to increase benefits for surviving spouses age 62 and older. I am also pleased that Democrats and Republicans reached an agreement to do right by surviving spouses.”
“Today’s bill also provides $829.6 million for production of armored Humvees and $358.2 million for Vehicle Add-On Armor Kits for the Army's truck fleet. According to a report commissioned by the DOD, roughly one-fourth of U.S. combat deaths might have been prevented if there had been sufficient supplies of body armor and armored vehicles. The DOD bill also provides $192 million for new fighting vehicles to transport troops to the battlefield and provide fire support, as well as $400 million for new body armor.”
“Finally, the DOD authorization bill includes a 3.5 percent across-the-board pay raise for members of the armed forces; an increase in the maximum amount of hardship duty pay from $300 to $750 per month; up to $3,000 per month in income replacement payments for reservists away from their civilian jobs; and $9.9 billion for troop and family housing, medical facilities, and schools for Department of Defense dependents.”
“Members of Congress will keep fighting to ensure that this nation keeps faith with our service men and women, their families and our veterans,” Congressman Faleomavaega said. “Our service members fight to protect our freedom and keep America safe. They shouldn’t have to fight the government to get the support they need when they are in the field or keep the benefits they earned through a lifetime of service. The DOD Authorization bill is a strong first step towards the resources and benefits they deserve and I commend my colleagues on both sides of the aisle for passing this important legislation.”
Photo: Congressman Faleomavaega and Brigadier General Robert Lee