Saturday, November 18, 2023

State Sen. Pugh files bill to protect military surviving spouse benefits

Pugh files bill to protect military surviving spouse benefits

OKLAHOMA CITY (Nov. 9th) – As Oklahomans prepare to celebrate Veteran’s Day, Sen. Adam Pugh, R-Edmond, filed legislation Thursday to honor veterans killed in action by protecting the benefits of their surviving spouses. He pointed out that surviving spouses only get benefits as long as they do not remarry before the age of 55 – an unfair and disrespectful federal law that Pugh hopes to raise awareness of with Senate Bill 1201, while also providing assistance for those loved ones left behind in Oklahoma.  

“There is no greater or more honorable sacrifice an American can make than to lay his or her life down for our country, and no greater loss or pain than to lose a loved one in service. As a veteran myself, I’ve grieved for friends and colleagues laid to rest far too soon and have seen their families’ pain and anguish. There’s no way to properly honor or recognize such a sacrifice, but we can ensure their loved ones are taken care of, which is why we have these benefits,” Pugh said. “Sadly, the federal government’s sympathy and support only lasts as long as those surviving spouses don’t get remarried. I’m working at both the federal and state level to change this unjust practice of punishing surviving spouses for trying to rebuild their lives, and I hope Oklahomans will join me in fighting to right this unconscionable wrong.”

The Oklahoma Service Lives On Act of 2024 would create an Oklahoma pension specifically for those surviving spouses who have had their federal surviving spouse pension terminated by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), solely because they remarry.

“The fact that the federal government puts an age limit on when surviving spouses can remarry without losing their benefits is ludicrous,” Pugh said. “We have to remember the majority of service members killed in action are in their twenties, so to expect surviving spouses to stay single until their fifties is ridiculous. Their loved ones wouldn’t want them to be alone all those years and the government shouldn’t punish them for living their lives, but sadly it’s estimated that around 95% of surviving spouses forego marriage to avoid being financially penalized. We need to uphold our promise to those veterans who make the ultimate sacrifice for our country and take care of their loved ones.”

According to the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors (TAPS), there are an estimated 11,000 surviving spouses in Oklahoma, the vast majority of which are Vietnam-era widows/widowers, and around 775 are under the age of 55.

Pugh will also be authoring a resolution urging Congress to pass the federal Love Lives On Act of 2023, which would ensure surviving spouses are able to retain their benefits from both the VA and the DoD upon remarriage at any age.


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