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Congressman Peter DeFazio

Representing the 4th District of OREGON

Rep. DeFazio Introduces Legislation to Protect Benefits for Families of Deceased Veterans and Social Security Beneficiaries

Mar 15, 2018
Press Release

Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-OR) today introduced two bills that would ensure family members get the full survivors’ benefits they are entitled to after the death of a veteran or Social Security beneficiary.

“Right now, red tape is keeping grieving families from the benefits they are entitled to,” said Rep. DeFazio. “Oftentimes families rely on these payments to cover mortgages, medical expenses and funeral costs, yet government agencies are adding additional strain at an already emotional time by overly-complicating the benefits process. My legislation will cut through the bureaucracy to streamline the process and ensure that survivors receive the benefits they are due.”

Currently, most veterans’ surviving spouses are entitled to keep the month of death benefits or disability payment after their spouse passes away. In many cases, however, the Veterans Administration (VA) electronically withdraws the last payment made to a beneficiary after their death—without proper notice. The VA then requires surviving spouses to apply for the final payment, regardless of whether or not they are automatically eligible for it. Rep. DeFazio’s bill, the bipartisan Veterans Survivor Comfort Act, H.R. 5301, would prohibit the VA from retroactively withdrawing the benefit or disability payment from eligible surviving spouses after it has been sent out.

The Benefit Adjustment of Social Security Income Compensation (BASIC) Act, H.R. 5302, would offer similar protections to surviving spouses of Social Security beneficiaries. Currently, Social Security benefits are not paid during the month a beneficiary dies, and in many cases family members receive the final Social Security check only to be told the check must be returned. This policy adversely affects individuals who are already distressed by the death of a family member. The BASIC Act would require the SSA to pay a prorated amount of benefits to the surviving spouse, based upon the date of the beneficiary’s death. In addition, the legislation would increase the current $255 lump-sum ‘death-payment’ made after a beneficiary’s death.

The BASIC Act has been endorsed by both the Senior Citizen’s League and Social Security Works.

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