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Law Change Affects Reservists' "Forgotten Widows"

Special to American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Dec. 6, 1999 – The last of the reserve components' "forgotten widows" are now eligible for the two-year-old Annuities for Certain Military Surviving Spouses benefit.

The fiscal 2000 Defense Authorization Act removes an inequity written into Section 644 of the fiscal 1998 Defense Authorization Act, which created the benefit.

"Forgotten widows" describes widows and widowers previously ineligible for survivor annuities because their retirement- qualified military spouses died before having the chance to enroll in the active duty Survivor Benefit Plan, created in 1972, or the Reserve Component Survivor Benefit Plan, created in 1978.

The fiscal 1998 law said retirement-qualified reservists had to have died between Sept. 21, 1972, and Oct. 1, 1978, for their surviving spouses to be eligible. The fiscal 2000 change removes the 1972 date.

Eligibility criteria now for the Annuities for Certain Military Surviving Spouses benefit are that the deceased reserve member must have been eligible for reserve retired pay at age 60 by having completed at least 20 qualifying years of service, must have been married to the applicant on the date of death, and must have died before Oct. 1, 1978.

Benefit rules that affect surviving spouses of active duty retirees are unchanged. The applicable date of the member's death remains "before Mar. 21, 1974."

Benefits are not automatic. Eligible surviving spouses must apply and provide supporting documents. Those disapproved for benefits under the previous law who now qualify must reapply. Applicants approved under the new law are entitled to monthly annuities of $174.76 beginning Dec. 1, 1999, retroactive to Oct. 1, 1999.

For more information, applications and help, contact the retirement services office of the nearest military installation.

(From the U.S. Army Personnel Command, Alexandria, Va.)

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