Desire to End Military Remarriage Penalty for Surviving Spouses

Posted on Saturday, April 24, 2021
by AMAC, D.J. Wilson

A spouse of someone in the military is eligible to receive a variety of benefits designed to protect themselves and their family. For example, if a person serving in the military dies, some monetary benefits kick in that allow their spouse and family to go on living without facing extreme financial hardships. Though the surviving spouse is eligible to receive these much-needed military death benefits, those benefits would stop should the surviving spouse remarry before age 55. 

Military Times shares the story of Nancy Menagh, president of Gold Star Wives of America. Her husband, Capt. Philip Menagh was killed during a military training exercise in 1984. The death not only left his wife and five young children grieving but also made them eligible for financial benefits so they could continue to live comfortably. Though Menagh never remarried, she has become one of the primary advocates for amending the rules so that the surviving spouse can marry again without losing payouts. It is her belief that current Federal rules harm the surviving spouse’s ability to rediscover love and move forward. 

This month, some lawmakers reintroduced legislation to eliminate rules that would strip the surviving spouse of access to Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (DIC) checks, home loans, educational benefits, and more if they remarry before age 55. Under the current law, if a spouse remarries after that age, they may retain benefit eligibility. Rep. Mike Walz, R-Fla., a former Army Green Beret, explains, “These rules were put in place at a different time, and are now just arbitrary and don’t make any sense.”

Previously, lawmakers lowered the military remarriage penalty age from 57 to 55; however, many surviving spouses such as Menagh believe that is not enough. Military Times asserts that the measure could affect as many as 31,000 spouses currently receiving DIC benefits and under the age of 55. However, the idea of ending the penalty has gained low political momentum to date, mainly attributed to its high price tag. The new bill is estimated to cost about $180 million over the next decade. Still, Menagh has vowed to continue lobbying for change.