Change is coming to military families in the new year as several bills were recently passed through our national government system. These changes may affect current, former, and retired military service members and their families, and may significantly alter the landscape for military families. Read below about some of the biggest changes coming to military families in 2020.
6 Big Changes for Military Families in 2020
Active Duty Military Service Members to Expect Biggest Pay Raise in 10 Years
Starting in January, active duty and reservist military service members will see the biggest increase in their pay since 2010. The 3.1% increase was announced by the Department of Defense on December 12th. The increase will be reflected in January 15th paychecks for service members and reservists of the Marine Corps, Army, Navy, Air Force, and Coast Guard.
The last biggest increase occurred in 2010 with an increase of 3.4%. Last year’s pay increase was 2.6%, and the largest ever pay increase for military service members was 14.9% in 1969.
“Widow’s Tax” To Be Eliminated
The Survivor’s Benefit Plan is an optional entitlement offered to service members at the time of retirement. With this plan, retired service members and reservists pay an annual premium in order to ensure that at the time of their death that their surviving spouse and family, if applicable, receive continuous lifetime annuity. However, a VA benefit called the Dependency and Indemnity Compensation takes a portion of that annuity, dollar for dollar. Until now.
For the past 20 years, advocates against what has been dubbed the “widow’s tax” have been working to get it repealed. And even though this is a huge success, it will take time. No changes will be seen for the Fiscal Year 2020, but in 2021, one-third of the SBP will be restored. In 2022, two-thirds will be restored. On January 1, 2023, the SBP will be completely restored and surviving spouses will receive their SBP and DIC payments in full.
Military Spouse Professional Licensure Reimbursement Increased to $1,000
It is no secret that military spouse employment is an issue within the military community. The new defense bill, which is waiting to be signed into law by President Trump, allocates up to $1,000 of licensure reimbursement and recertification costs for military spouses who have to renew their licenses in new states due to PCS orders. This is an increase from the original $500 reimbursement protocol which was put into place by the different branches earlier this year.
The program for reimbursement is authorized for two additional years, until December 31, 2024. This is important to note because the first set of reimbursement programs was authorized in 2017 but it took the branches of the armed forces almost 2 years to implement them. The current plan also authorizes spouses to retroactively apply for reimbursement where orders were received on or after December 12, 2017. It appears as the new provision will hold the same retroactive status once each branch implements its program (i.e., spouses can retroactively apply for the $1000 licensure reimbursement if they received orders after December 2019 even if the programs aren’t fully active for their service member’s branch until a few years later).
The defense bill also allocates funds and resources expedited licensure programs or license reciprocity. Advocates for these changes are also looking to help those military spouses who will need to move their businesses with each PCS. They are working on changing the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act to allow military spouses to claim their spouse’s state of residence for their business so that they are not required to pay business fees or reinstate their business every time they move.
If you would like to learn more about how to apply for license renewal for your service member’s branch, visit Military OneSource for detailed information and applications.
RECP Program to Be Suspended Indefinitely
The FY 2020 Defense Bill states that, in addition to other measures taken to protect servicemembers and their families within privatized housing organizations, that the Resident Energy Management Program, or RECP, will be suspended until the Secretary of Defense can ensure that all houses are being properly metered.
The official suspension of this program comes on the heels of all the branches of the armed forces, except for the Marine Corps and the Coast Guard, suspending this program on their own accord due to the complaints from servicemembers and their families that the energy programs established were not balanced or fair. Reports of neighbors having extremely different energy bills each month despite having the same size houses with similar energy use have surfaced for years, and advocates for getting RECP suspended have been collecting data and conducting surveys since the program went into place in 2012.
RECP will be suspended indefinitely but it is not yet clear when the suspension will take place and how long it will take for military families to see the suspension of energy bills because of the suspension of the program. President Trump still needs to sign the FY 2020 Defense Bill so it cannot take effect, at least, until that is signed.
Military Service Members Now Able to Take Action for Medical Malpractice
In 1950, the United States Congress passed a law in which military service members or their families were denied the ability to sue military medical doctors or the Federal Government for malpractice or mistreatment. The Feres Doctrine was first put into effect to protect the Federal Government from lawsuits of service members who handled radioactive weapons in World War II.
Since then, stories of general malpractice that have ended in misdiagnosis or even death have surfaced. Sgt. 1st Class Richard Stayskal and his fellow advocates have worked tirelessly to get this doctrine repealed. In June of this year, a lawsuit presented to the Supreme Court was denied. But together with Representatives Jackie Speier (D-C.A.) and Richard Hudson (R-Concord), Stayskal was able to add the repeal of the Feres Doctrine as a bill in the National Defense Authorization Act which was signed into legislation on December 17th, 2019.
This is a huge win for military service members and their families and will help to hold military medical doctors and providers accountable for their treatment of service members.
Local JROTC Programs are Now Required to Admit Homeschooled Students
Although there was no previous law against homeschool students being allowed to join JROTC programs through local public or private schools in their area, a new bill that is waiting to be signed into legislation by President Trump eliminates this ambiguity. It is a uniform policy that will now allow homeschooled students to join their local JROTC programs within the district via a public or private school without recourse or denial.
There are some big changes coming for military families in 2020, and many of those changes will benefit military families in one way or another all over the world. Service members and their families will see some of these changes immediately while others will take some time to be put into place. Keep checking back here at Daily Mom Military as we will continue to update our military spouse readers and their families with these important issues.
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