13th District Illinois Congressman Rodney Davis was pleased with the passage of the National Defense Authorization Act this past week. President Donald Trump signed the bill Friday that authorizes a topline of $738 billion for fiscal year 2020 for the Department of Defense.
This year’s legislation includes a 3.1% pay increase for troops, the first-ever paid family leave for all federal workers and the creation of a Space Force — the first addition to the sister services in 72 years. Davis was pleased in the pay increase for service members, the repeal of the “widow’s tax”, and the inclusion of Davis’ own Fallen Heroes Family Travel Act. Davis introduced the act after the death of Petty Officer Logan S. Palmer of Harristown, Illinois about the U.S.S. McCain in 2017. The act pays for the travel of family members to meet the remains of their deceased family service member who have died in non-combat situations.
The bill provides $5.7 million to allow surviving families of military members who die on active duty or in retirement to receive the full benefits for which they are allowed – effectively ending the “widow’s tax.” Currently, survivors of deceased military service members must give up part or all of their purchased Survivor Benefit Plan (SBP) annuity when they receive the VA’s Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (DIC) benefits – the difference or loss between the SBP and DIC is known as the “widow’s tax.”
“This bill not only takes care of our service members through adequate funding and a pay raise, it also takes care of the families of our troops,” said Davis. “I am so glad we have repealed the ‘widow’s tax’ and codified into law the changes I led at the Pentagon so all families of our fallen service members are able to travel to meet their loved one’s remains if they are sent anywhere but home. Codifying this into law ensures the Pentagon’s new policy cannot be changed without an act of Congress.”
The bill authorizes 12 weeks of paid parental leave for all federal civilian workers and expands hiring authorities so that DOD can quickly hire civilian personnel into military depots. “I have always provided paid family leave for staff in my offices and I’m glad we could come together to ensure it’s available for other federal workers,” said Davis. “We are behind nearly every industrialized nation when it comes to paid family leave and I think it’s long overdue. Many private companies are beginning to offer this benefit as a retention tool, but we need to do more to help even more Americans have access to this benefit critical to so many families.”
The $738 billion for fiscal 2020 represents a $21 billion increase over what Congress enacted for fiscal 2019. The NDAA grants a base budget of $658.4 billion and an additional $71.5 billion for overseas contingency operations funding, a.k.a. the war budget as the U.S. continues to have ground forces in both Afghanistan, Iraq, and Syria.