Benefits they have earned

Dear Friend,

We owe our men and women in uniform, and their families who support them in their service, an incredible debt of gratitude. In return for their sacrifices in defense of our nation, they expect and deserve the benefits they have earned.

As a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, I play a leading role each year in authoring the national defense bill. The bill we passed into law at the end of last year included major funding and support for the national security missions at New Mexico's national labs and military installations. I wanted to let you know about two provisions I championed in the defense bill that will support military families.

I find it deeply disturbing that in New Mexico, and around the world, our men and women in uniform and their families have lived in substandard housing living conditions. Often, these service members and their families live in privatized, on-base housing that is managed by for-profit companies. That's why I fought hard to include major reforms to fix the military housing crisis in the defense bill. The new law establishes a uniform code of basic military housing standards and requires inspections to ensure compliance. This is a critical step in addressing the problems we've seen and ensuring our service members and their families live in the healthy dwellings they deserve.

I also joined the bipartisan effort to finally end the so-called "widow's tax," which for decades required that surviving spouses of deceased military members forfeit part or all of their Department of Defense Survivor Benefit Plan (SBP) annuity when they receive Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (DIC) from the Department of Veterans Affairs. More than 60,000 surviving Gold Star families are negatively impacted by the Widow's Tax, which reduced surviving spouses' benefits by an average of $924 per month, or $11,000 annually. Under the new law, widows and widowers of a deceased active-duty service member or retiree who died of a service-related cause will receive full annuity payments.

I am committed to assisting veterans and their families access their care and benefits. My office has helped hundreds of veterans all across New Mexico. Whether you or a family member is having trouble filing a claim, receiving benefits, accessing health benefits or military records, replacing medals, or with other veterans issues, my office is here to help. Please contact my office by calling (505) 346-6601 or visit the Veterans Resources Center on my website.

I will never stop fighting to do right for those who have served in our military and those who continue to serve our great nation.