Veteranclaims’s Blog

September 3, 2009

Federal Circuit Affirms Widows Exemption from SBP-DIC

Filed under: Uncategorized — veteranclaims @ 8:53 pm

Three widows argued successfully before the U.S. Court of Federal Claims, and now before a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, that the plain meaning of the Veterans Benefits Act of 2003 exempted them and any other widow who remarries after age 57 from the SBP-DIC offset.

DIC, a tax-exempt payment, is payable when a military member dies on active duty or dies in retirement from a service-connected condition. But a surviving spouse who draws DIC sees her SBP reduced by an equal amount.

Full Article:WIDOWS’ SBP WIN UPHELD

— A federal appeals court has upheld a lower court’s ruling that the Defense Department unlawfully withheld from three military widows — and probably 400 others — full survivor benefit payments owed to them since Dec. 16, 2003.

On that date, the Veterans Benefits Act of 2003 (Public Law 108-183) became law and restored eligibility for VA Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (DIC) to military surviving spouses who remarry after age 57.

But three widows argued successfully before the U.S. Court of Federal Claims, and now before a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, that the 2003 law did something more:

It exempted this same small group of widows from the onerous dollar-for-dollar reduction in military Survivor Benefit Plan (SBP) payments that occurs when a survivor spouse chooses to receive DIC.

DIC, a tax-exempt payment, is payable when a military member dies on active duty or dies in retirement from a service-connected condition. But a surviving spouse who draws DIC sees her SBP reduced by an equal amount.

Patricia A. Sharp, Margaret M. Haverkamp and Iva Dean Rogers argued that the plain meaning of the 2003 statute exempted them and any other widow who remarries after age 57 from the SBP-DIC offset.

The appeals court agreed, calling the government’s arguments to the contrary “unconvincing,” including its contention that Congress would not have targeted so small a group of widows for SBP offset relief.

“Perhaps Congress intended to encourage marriage for older surviving spouses,” said the appeals courts in its 11-page decision. “Perhaps section 1311(e) simply represents a first step in an effort to eventually enact full repeal. After all, the service member paid for both benefits: SBP with premiums, DIC with his life.”

“Halleluiah,” said Sharp when told of the decision Aug. 26. The remarried widow of an Army brigadier general said she is owed about $96,000 in forfeited SBP. “I have reinstated confidence in the government of the United States of America for making laws and abiding by them.”

Michael R. Franzinger, a lawyer for the widows, said up to 400 surviving spouses could see more than $35 million in SBP restored over 10 years if the government decides not to appeal either to all 12 judges on the Federal Circuit appeals court or to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Government attorneys had indicated in the lower court that if the ruling was upheld on appeal, Defense officials would work to find and pay all impacted widows rather than require them to apply for benefits owed.”

Advertisements

1 Comment »

  1. I am glad that the widows won so far, but i feel that not just the remarried widows should get this, I feel that all of us widows should benefit from this lawsuit, after all the ones that didn’t remarry should have the same rights as those that did.

    Comment by wanda — September 8, 2009 @ 2:01 pm


RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URI

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Powered by WordPress.com.