Military widows still punished for remarrying
May 31, 2023

Military widows and widowers are fighting to change existing federal rules that strip away benefits if they remarry before the age of 55. Rebecca Morrison Mullaney, a military widow, is one of many who find themselves caught in this cruel twist of circumstances, where falling in love again can cost them approximately $42,000 annually.

Rebecca’s poignant story sheds light on the challenges faced by military widows and widowers who want to find love and rebuild their lives while preserving the support their families rightfully deserve. “I love being married… It’s a beautiful and special thing,” Rebecca expressed, emphasizing that the current rules punish individuals like her for finding new partners.

Recognizing the need to support the family members left behind, veteran advocates have launched an initiative to change these rules, aptly named the Love Lives On Act. This bipartisan, bicameral legislation has already gained significant support, with the potential to impact up to 65,000 military families across the United States. If passed, the act would enable surviving spouses of fallen service members to retain their benefits, including Dependency and Indemnity Compensation, education benefits, military health care coverage, and commissary access, even if they choose to remarry before the age of 55.

Senators Jerry Moran (R-Kansas) and Raphael Warnock (D-Ga.) have sponsored the bill, emphasizing that these individuals should not have to choose between love and financial security. They contend that surviving spouses have earned these benefits through their sacrifice and service to the nation.

Mullaney, who lost her husband, Ian, an Apache helicopter pilot, to suicide, has been advocating for this change alongside organizations like the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors (TAPS). Together, they have worked tirelessly to share their stories on Capitol Hill and raise awareness about the financial penalties faced by military widows and widowers who wish to remarry.

While the Love Lives On Act has yet to face any significant opposition, concerns about costs have hindered its passage in the past. However, supporters argue that the expenses associated with ending the remarriage rules are merely an accounting matter, as the funds in question are already owed to these deserving families. Overcoming these hurdles remains a challenge, especially with a crowded congressional schedule.

Mullaney, while financially stable herself, continues to advocate for change to alleviate pressure and anxiety for future military widows and widowers. She has visited lawmakers’ offices, accompanied by her son, Harrison Samuel, to emphasize the importance of these changes and remind legislators that these issues affect real families, not just statistics.

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