Portman, Warren, Introduce Military Retiree Survivor Comfort Act to Support Military Families

May 19, 2021 | Press Releases

WASHINGTON, DC – U.S. Senators Rob Portman (R-OH) and Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) introduced the Military Retiree Survivor Comfort Act to amend Title 10 of the U.S. Code to prohibit the Defense Finance and Accounting Services (DFAS) from clawing back any Department of Defense (DoD) retirement benefit overpayments received in the month when the veteran was alive for at least 24 hours. Senators Bob Menendez (D-NJ), Kevin Cramer (R-ND), and John Boozman (R-AR) are cosponsors of the bill. Congressmen John Garamendi (D-CA) and Michael Turner (R-OH) have introduced a companion bill in the U.S. House of Representatives.

DoD retirement benefits are deposited electronically into the bank accounts of military retirees at the beginning of the month. When a veteran / DoD retirement beneficiary dies, DFAS can immediately take back retirement benefit overpayments. Survivors who jointly own bank accounts with the veteran are often unaware of this insensitive practice, which results in financial hardship and overdraft fees while they are still mourning the veteran’s death.

“The last thing families of veterans and retired servicemembers need to worry about after the death of their loved ones is overdraft fees,” said Senator Portman. “This bipartisan bill would end DoD’s practice of taking back benefits without account holders’ knowledge and avoid any unnecessary financial hardships for grieving military families during an already difficult time.”

“All three of my brothers served in the military, and so I know that the sacrifices of veterans and their families should never be diminished by the insensitive practice of reclaiming retirement benefits,” said Senator Warren. “This bill stops the Defense Department from inflicting unnecessary financial hardships on our military families during a loss.”

This bill is supported by several military and veteran service organizations and other stakeholders, including: American Legion, Army Aviation Association of America (AAAA), Air Force Sergeants Association (AFSA), Association of Military Surgeons of the United States (AMSUS), Association of the United States Army (AUSA), Association of the United States Navy, Blind Veterans of America (BVA), Commissioned Officers Association of the U.S. Public Health Service, Inc. (COA), Enlisted Association of the National Guard of the United States (EANGUS), Fleet Reserve Association (FRA),Gold Star Wives of America (GSW), Iraq Afghanistan Veterans Association (IAVA), Jewish War Veterans of the United States of America (JWV), Marine Corps League (MCL), Marine Corps Reserve Association (MCRA), Military Chaplains Association of the United States of America (MCA), Military Officers Association of America (MOAA),Military Order of the Purple Heart (MOPH), National Military Family Association (NMFA), Non-Commissioned Officers Association (NCOA), Reserve Organization of America (ROA), Service Women’s Action Network (SWAN),Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors (TAPS), The Military Coalition (TMC), The Retired Enlisted Association (TREA), United States Army Warrant Officers Association (USAWOA), USCG Chief Petty Officers Association (CPOA), Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW), VetsFirst, and United Spinal Program.

“When a veteran passes the last thing their family should have to worry about is ensuring they receive their loved ones final retirement benefit. However, under current DoD policy a veterans final month’s retirement benefit can be clawed back if the family doesn’t immediately notify the DoD of the veteran’s death. The result is often unplanned for overdraft fees and financial hardship,” said Chanin Nuntavong, Executive Director of The American Legion. “As such, The American Legion is pleased to support the Military Retiree Survivor Comfort Act which will amend federal law and prohibit the Defense Finance and Accounting Services from continuing this distasteful and dishonorable practice.”

“The Enlisted Association of the National Guard of the United States would like to express our gratitude to Sen. Portman and Sen. Warren for their continued efforts to assist military families,” said Command Sergeant Major (Retired) Karen Craig, President of the Enlisted Association of the National Guard of the United States. “The loss of a family member is always extremely difficult as family members are coping with the emotional loss as well as the financial strain associated with it. Collecting overpayments during this time adds even more stress and is not acceptable. This bill ensures that survivors don't have to endure financial hardship and can focus on their families.”

“Too many surviving spouses are financially caught off guard when their servicemember passes,” said Lt. Gen. Dana T. Atkins, president and CEO of MOAA. “DFAS recoupment of the last pay check can empty a banking account for a grieving survivor. MOAA strongly supports Senators Portman and Warren’s introduction of the Military Survivor Comfort Act that will ease the financial burden with a gradual repayment and option to appeal for debt forgiveness.”