"Forgotten Widows"

I have been a strong supporter of the Survivor Benefit Plan (SBP) since its inception in 1972. As you well know, the SBP is a program designed to ensure that surviving dependents of military personnel who die after retirement continue to receive a reasonable level of income in compensation for their spouse's service to our country. Unfortunately, many widows have been left financially unprotected because their spouses passed away before SBP was enacted. The same problem recurred in 1978 when military reservists and their spouses were covered in an additional SBP program. Again, there are "forgotten widows" who are not now covered because their spouses had died before enactment.

The U.S. Senate added legislative language in their version of the FY 97 Defense Authorization bill which would guarantee that a minimum annuity of $165 per month is granted to all "forgotten widows" of veterans who died before March 21, 1974 (and who were also entitled to retired or retainer pay on the date of their death) and for those widows of Reservists who died between September 21, 1972 and ending on October 1, 1978.

I think this is an entirely fair contribution owed to spouses who, along with their deceased husbands or wives, sacrificed for our nation. America should not forget about their service. I was fully supportive of the Senate language. Unfortunately, during negotiations to resolve differences in the defense bills, the "forgotten widows" provision was dropped due to a concern that it would be too costly. I disagree with that assessment. I was very unhappy with the final defense authorization bill for numerous reasons, including the absence of a provision for "forgotten widows." Therefore, I voted against the FY 97 Defense Authorization bill, which nevertheless passed the House on August 1, 1996.

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