Rep. Peters Votes to Give Troops Largest Pay Raise in a Decade, $5.7 Billion to Surviving Spouses in Defense Policy Bill
December 10, 2019
Today, Rep. Scott Peters (CA-52) voted to pass the conference report for the bipartisan National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for Fiscal Year 2020, which finalizes the annual defense policy bill that gives servicemembers the largest pay raise in over a decade and phases out the “widow’s tax” on surviving spouses, while setting defense spending levels for vital national security programs. In September, the Speaker of the House appointed Rep. Peters to represent the Budget Committee as a conferee in negotiations between the House and Senate to arrive at a consensus on the Fiscal Year 2020 NDAA.
“The brave men and women of our armed services put their lives on the line for our freedom every day. This pay increase is a long overdue recognition of our gratitude for their service and the service of their families,” said Rep. Peters.
Rep. Peters continued, “The widow’s tax fix will ensure surviving spouses can keep the full benefits they earned and not have to worry about financial hardship after suffering an unimaginable loss. This fix was possible thanks to the advocacy of people like Kathy Prout from Coronado—a Gold Star wife who was the first constituent to visit me in Washington, D.C.—as well as advocates across the nation, who have been spent over a decade working with Congress to get this done.”
“Overall, this NDAA delivers big, bipartisan wins to the 143,000 active military personnel in the San Diego region and their families. It increases our national security through investments in shipbuilding, special operators, and better technology for the warfighter, which will also boost our regional economy. As a conferee, I worked to ensure the bill supports our military families through reformed military housing and improved mental health services, in addition to the pay raise for our troops and fixing the widow’s tax.”
The bill incorporates Rep. Peters’ bipartisan, bicameral bill to establish a Network of Support program within the Department of Defense (DOD), which will provide friends and family of servicemembers a better understanding of the rigors, challenges, and needs associated with military service. This effort will boost servicemembers’ mental health and could prevent isolation and suicide.
This final version of the NDAA, which authorizes a total of $738 billion in defense spending, includes several priorities for the San Diego region:
- A 3.1 percent pay increase for our military members, which is the largest increase in a decade
- A fix to the Survivor Benefit Plan (SBP)-Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (DIC) offset policy, also known as the “widow’s tax,” that will phase-in a solution over the next three years. The provision will provide $5.7 billion to families who gave the ultimate sacrifice and have been living with an unfair cut to their benefits
- Implementation of 12 weeks paid parental leave for a birth, adoption, or fostering of a child, for all federal workers
- Rep. Peters’ bipartisan, bicameral bill to establish a Network of Support program for friends and family of servicemembers to better understand the challenges of military service
- Protections for DACA and Temporary Protected Status (TPS) residents who are enlisted in the military, which will allow them to pursue a safeguarded legal path to citizenship, responding directly to threats from the Trump Administration
- A mandate for gender integration of the U.S. Marine Corps training, of which Marine Corps Recruit Depot (MCRD) San Diego must comply fully within 8 years
- A mandate guiding the Department of Defense (DOD) to recognize and prepare for the impacts of climate change on military installations
- The creation of a program for the DOD, Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Energy to form a Research Development Test & Evaluation (RDT&E), and deployment project for direct air capture and blue carbon capture technology. These technologies extract polluting carbon from the air and water in order to use them for energy enhancement—like new fuels—and security, specifically for the U.S. Navy and U.S. Coast Guard. Carbon capture and sequestration technologies are vital to mitigating climate change and need congressional support for proper development and deployment
- Major military housing regulation reforms: Authorizes $140.8 million for new DOD personnel to administer oversight of military housing contractors; creates a Tenant Bill of Rights for those living in military housing– including greater transparency and a dispute resolution process; creates new quality control standards for evaluating health and safety; and establishes a new web portal to log housing complaints. All of these directly relate to problems military families have endured in the San Diego region and across the U.S.
- Includes $398.6 million for military construction in the San Diego region
This bill, which passed the House in July, now must pass the Senate before being sent to the president for final signature. Rep. Peters has supported every NDAA since becoming a member of Congress in 2013.