Opening Statement of Hon. Gus M. Bilirakis, a Representative in Congress from the State of Florida
I want to thank Chairman Hall and Ranking Member Lamborn for including my legislation, H.R. 704, on today’s hearing agenda. H.R. 704 provides that the remarriage of the surviving spouse of a veteran after age 55 shall not result in termination of Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (DIC).
As my colleagues know, Dependency and Indemnity Compensation is the benefit accorded to the surviving dependents of those members of the Armed Forces who died while on active duty or of a service-connected cause. Until recently, DIC was the only federal annuity program that did not allow a widow who is receiving compensation to remarry at an older age and retain her annuity.
My father, former Representative Mike Bilirakis, began work on this issue in 1987 when he introduced DIC remarriage legislation in the 100th Congress. He worked on this issue for some time before achieving success in 2003 when a slightly modified version of his bill was enacted into law.
Due to funding constraints, Congress enacted legislation that allowed spouses who remarried after age 57 to retain their DIC benefits. Surviving spouses who remarried after attaining age 57 prior to enactment of the compromise agreement were given one year to apply for reinstatement of their DIC.
My father continued his efforts to restore DIC benefits to those widows who remarry after age 55 until he retired from Congress in 2006. I am pleased to be continuing his efforts on this important issue in the 110th Congress.
I think it is a wonderful thing if an older person finds companionship, falls in love and decides to marry. I don’t think we should be discouraging such marriages by making them financially burdensome. For those remarrying after the age of 55, it is often the case that both partners are living on fixed incomes. The prospect of one partner losing financial benefits as a result of the marriage is a real disincentive.
My bill, H.R. 704, makes a simple change that could mean a great deal to those who find themselves in this predicament. The bill would allow a widow to remarry at age 55 and retain her Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (DIC) benefits. It prohibits retroactive benefits, but like the previously enacted DIC remarriage law, the intent of my legislation is to give widows who remarried after reaching age 55 before the bill was enacted an opportunity to apply for the reinstatement of their DIC benefits.
In closing Mr. Chairman, I want to thank you once again for including my bill in today’s hearing. I hope that you and our other colleagues on the Subcommittee will join me in supporting this change. I look forward to hearing the testimony from today’s witnesses.