With the sunset of the “Widow’s Tax” earlier this year, Gold Star families are seeking to end another vestige of military family life: a remarriage penalty.
The Love Lives On Act of 2023, introduced in the House of Representatives this week by congressional representatives Dean Phillips, D-Minn., and Richard Hudson, R-N.C., would allow Gold Star spouses to retain their survivors benefits after remarrying.
According to the Department of Veterans Affairs, surviving spouses only remarry in 5% of cases, citing financial concerns about losing benefits.
A surviving spouse must wait until the age of 55 to remarry and still retain survivor benefits like TRICARE or the Fry Scholarship.
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Advocates of the Love Lives on Act claim that the current statute is stunting both the personal and professional goals of Gold Star spouses, many of whom rely on benefits to support their children after the loss of their service member.
A House of Representatives cosponsor, Congressman Dean Phillips, D-Minn., is a Gold Star son whose mother remarried after his father, U.S. Army Capt. Artie Pfefer, died in the Vietnam War.
“Spouses of those who die in service to our nation make unimaginable sacrifices and deserve unending respect and support in return,” Phillips said. “The Love Lives on Act is part of my mission to ensure military families have access to every single benefit they are owed.”
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The bill was also cosponsored in the House this week by the Republican Congressman from North Carolina who represents Fort Bragg, Richard Hudson.
“We must support surviving spouses who choose to remarry and remove the fear of losing the benefits paid for by their late spouses’ sacrifice,” Hudson said.
In the Senate, the bill was cosponsored by senators Jerry Moran, R-Kan., and Raphael Warnock, D-Ga.
“I have heard from surviving spouses in my state who desire to remarry and provide their children with a father or mother figure but feel they must put off marriage because the financial risk of losing their benefits is too great,” Moran, the lead senator on the Veterans Affairs Committee, told Fox News Digital.
Warnock, who also cosponsored the bill in April, noted the timing of the bill’s introduction.
“As our nation comes together to commemorate Memorial Day, it’s important for all of us to remember that it’s not just service members who show up,” Warnock said. “Their families make tremendous sacrifices for our country as well.”
“As our nation comes together to commemorate Memorial Day, it’s important for all of us to remember that it’s not just service members who show up. Their families make tremendous sacrifices for our country as well.”
Current VA law declares that a Gold Star spouse is no longer the responsibility of the military once he or she remarries, which includes health care. A spokesperson for the Department of Defense confirmed in an email with Fox News Digital that “TRICARE benefits for [a] surviving spouse end when they remarry.”
Amy Dozier is a surviving spouse of SFC Jonathan Dozier, and the Love Lives On Act would benefit her if signed into law.
“To remarry would mean to lose the benefits I paid into and earned as Jonathan’s wife and now widow,” Dozier said.
“The downstream effect, especially in this economy, would be detrimental not only to our financial stability, but, more importantly, to the growth [my daughter and I] continue to have on this journey.”
“Choosing to remarry should not impact a surviving spouse’s ability to pay bills. They should not have to choose between another chance at love and financial security,” TAPS, or Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors, added in an email to Fox News Digital.
The Love Lives On Act of 2023 awaits a vote in both the House of Representatives and the Senate ahead of Memorial Day Weekend and the annual congressional recess.