Cornyn, Colleagues Introduce Bill to Stop Overdrafting of Veterans’ Bank Accounts Following Death
WASHINGTON – U.S. Senators John Cornyn (R-TX) and Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and Representatives John Garamendi (CA-08) and Mark Amodei (NV-02) today introduced the Respect for Grieving Military Families Act, which would stop the Department of Defense from clawing back deceased veterans’ retirement benefits while their families are still in mourning:
“The last thing military families who are grieving should have to worry about is getting hit with a surprise bill because the Department of Defense bureaucracy miscalculated pay at the end of a retiree’s life.” said Sen. Cornyn. “This legislation would safeguard veterans’ families from this unfair practice and allow them to rectify any overpaid retirement funds at a more appropriate time.”
“As the sister of three veterans, I know that the sacrifices of military families should never be diminished by the shameful practice of reclaiming retirement benefits from those who have lost a loved one,” said Sen. Warren. “I’m glad to partner with Senator Cornyn to stop the Department of Defense from inflicting unnecessary financial hardships on our veterans and their families during an already difficult time.”
“Military families suffering the loss of their loved one should not be penalized for an accounting oversight. The Department of Defense’s current practice of clawing back retirement benefits deposited in joint checking accounts when a veteran dies is both callous and needless,” said Rep. Garamendi. “Our Respect for Grieving Military Families Act would finally fix this to ensure that our military families have one less worry following the loss of their loved one.”
“When a retired service member passes, their final month’s retirement benefit can be taken back if the family fails to notify the Department of Defense of their loved one’s passing,” said Rep. Amodei. “Too often, this results in bank accounts being drained of funds and other financial hardships. Our military families deserve better, which is why I was proud to support the Respect for Grieving Military Families Act. This commonsense legislation will correct this misguided policy and ensure these families have one less thing to worry about during a difficult time.”
Under the Department of Defense’s current policy, the Defense Finance and Accounting Service (DFAS) regains the final month of retirement benefits for any retired servicemember who passes away. This can put surviving family members in a stressful financial position, and many don’t know that DFAS can recoup these benefits without the accountholder’s consent. This legislation would prevent immediate recoupment and overdraft fees and would give family members the opportunity to repay any overpayment of benefits over a 12-month period. It would also allow the Secretary of Defense to forgive the repayment.
The legislation is endorsed by the Military Officers Association of America (MOAA) and the Fleet Reserve Association (FRA).