Editor's note: Traci J. Voelke is the surviving spouse of U.S. Army Maj. Paul C. Voelke, who was killed in Mazar-i-Sharif, Afghanistan in 2012 during his fifth deployment overseas. A mother of two, she is currently an attorney for the Office of the Staff Judge Advocate at Fort Belvoir, Virginia, where she serves as legal counsel for service members and their families, veterans, retirees, and Gold Star families.
I will never forget that day.
It was June 22, 2012, and I was getting ready to take my two boys, then ages 6 and 8, to a baseball game with my brother-in-law. The doorbell rang, then rang again a few more times, and I began to get a bit agitated as I thought my boys were taunting me to hurry up. We never made it to that game.
When I opened the door, two men in full military uniform stood in my doorway — a vision that will be etched in my memory for eternity. My husband, my high school sweetheart, my Paul, would not be returning from his fifth deployment overseas in Afghanistan.
With overwhelming support in Congress, two senators hope this is the year a dollar-for-dollar offset in compensation to surviving military spouses of military personnel and retirees — known colloquially as the "widow's tax" — is eliminated.
Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, and Sen. Doug Jones, D-Alabama, took to the Senate floor Monday urging for a vote on their proposed amendment to the national defense policy bill to overturn the offset.
STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. -- Congress fell short ahead of Memorial Day weekend, failing to pass legislation that would provide tax relief for the families of military personnel killed during their service.
Senators unanimously approved a version of the bipartisan Gold Star Family Tax Relief Act Tuesday sending it back to the House of Representatives, where it was tied to a retirement savings bill as an amendment, and passed Thursday.
When it got back to the Senate, the larger piece of legislation failed to pass and make its way to the President Trump's desk.
A child carries roses through Section 60 of Arlington National Cemetery on Memorial Day, May 25, 2015. (U.S. Army/Rachel Larue)
For some, tax season brings a small boon in the form of a refund. For others it can be a source of stress.
But Theresa Jones sees it as an annual reminder of her husband, Navy Lt. Cmdr. Landon Jones, who was killed in a helicopter crash on Sept. 22, 2013.
Since then, Jones and her two sons, ages 5 and 11, have received monthly compensation in the form of survivor benefits — one allotment through the Department of Defense is taxable, and another through the Department of Veterans Affairs, which is not taxed.
For the past several years she's had to pay roughly $1,150 in taxes on her sons' benefits. This year, it was $5,400.
"My kids are owing the government back money, that the government gave them, because their dad died, and my kids have to pay it back," Jones told Task & Purpose. "And every year this comes around and it's just this reminder of this tragedy, and it's literally like throwing salt in the wound."
Since its introduction to Congress in January 2013, the Military Surviving Spouses Equity Act has gained momentum among lawmakers. This important bill currently has 237 co-sponsors in the House and 38 in the Senate.