The families of America’s men and women in uniform are the backbone of the United States military. They provide the support that our servicemen and women rely upon as they serve in the finest armed forces in the world, and many of them have faced grave difficulties as their loved ones suffer from physical and emotional wounds of military service.
One of my main goals in the Senate is to provide the family members of our Active, Reserve, and National Guard and the family members of our veterans with the benefits and support they have not only earned, but deserve, for their service and sacrifice to this nation.
By meeting with military families and learning more about their unique situations, I strive to accurately target assistance and identify and provide the kind of support they need and deserve. To this effort, I, along with Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA) and 18 colleagues, formed the Senate Military Family Caucus in 2010. This bipartisan group is solely focused on issues facing the families of active and veteran service men and women and ways in which we can ease their burden. The Senate Military Family caucus signifies that we, as a group of Senators, recognize a need to support military families and provides an avenue to push for legislation that will benefit these families.
Economic & Job Security
On May 22, 2012, I introduced the Veterans’ Small Business Opportunity Act, a bill which updates the Veterans Benefits Code within the Department of Veteran Affairs to further assist spouses of deceased veterans who received benefits under the VA’s service disabled veteran owned small business (SDVOSB) program.
Current law allows for a transfer of the SDVOSB designation to a spouse only if the veteran’s death was caused by a disability attributable to the veteran's active duty service. When a veteran small business owner dies from causes deemed unrelated to service, the spouse immediately loses those benefits. As a result, he or she is unable to pass off the business to another veteran or reestablish a business model. This legislation would provide a three year transfer period for surviving spouses not covered under current law, giving the surviving spouse of a deceased disabled veteran sufficient time to plan for the future of their family-owned business.
On May 10, 2010, I introduced the Children of Fallen Warriors AMT Relief Act to relieve the tax burden for families of fallen service members by protecting children from paying disproportionate taxes on the benefits they receive after the death of a parent who has served in the military. Our nation’s servicemembers and their families have sacrificed enough on our behalf without then being subjected to the alternative minimum tax on their survivor’s benefits.
On April 20, 2010, I introduced the Military Spouse Employment Act, which would encourage employment of military spouses through a tax credit for their employers. Military spouses are often forced to seek new employment when their military husband or wife is relocated, and these frequent moves can threaten or even derail the spouse's career path.
Their willingness to move when their spouse is relocated provides members of our military the support they need to do their jobs. We should seek to lessen the consequences of the sacrifices they are already making to serve our country, and I believe that this bill is a step in the right direction.
On February 17, 2011, I introduced a bill that will allow military servicemembers to participate in the federal Flexible Spending Account (FSA) program. Currently, active duty personnel are excluded from enrollment, and there is no reason military personnel shouldn't have access to the same benefits as their civilian counterparts. Flexible spending accounts would be an important tool in empowering our service members and their families to stretch their health care dollars even further and better meet their individual health care needs.
On April 4, 2010, the Senate unanimously approved the Caregiver and Veterans Omnibus Health Services Act of 2010, which the President later signed into law. This bill included provisions I introduced to strengthen support for family caregivers of seriously disabled veterans and establish a program of basic dental insurance coverage for veterans. Family caregivers play an important and unique role in helping to meet veterans' personal care needs, both physically and emotionally. Far too often, however, family members who serve as primary caregivers face significant challenges in caring for their loved ones. This legislation will alleviate the burdens family caregivers face in caring for veterans in North Carolina and across our nation.
On March 26, 2010, the Senate passed legislation that I cosponsored to correct serious technical errors in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act that put veterans, widows and widowers, and certain dependents at risk. I was proud to cosponsor this legislation to protect the health care that these individuals have earned through their service to our nation.
In February 2010, I sent a letter to the Secretary of Defense immediately after I learned that the Department of Defense (DoD) had abruptly cancelled any new applications to the Military Spouse Career Advancement Accounts (MyCAA), a program that provides educational benefits to military spouses.
A month after I sent the letter, DoD announced that the program would be reinstated for spouses who had submitted applications, but had not yet been enrolled. At the time of its interruption, MyCAA was providing educational assistance to over 50,000 military spouses.
On April 25, 2008, I, along with Senators Graham and McCain, introduced a bill to enhance the Montgomery G.I. Bill by improving education benefits for servicemembers, veterans, and members of the Guard and Reserve. The legislation will help more military personnel attend college debt-free, and allow them to transfer their education benefits to their spouse or children. This measure is a simple and fair way to help active duty, veterans, Guard, and Reserves attain their educational goals and to encourage military careers.
I was pleased that when Congress passed a bill to significantly expand GI Bill benefits for our servicemen and women, the new law included a provision I co-authored with Senator McCain allows career servicemembers to transfer their unused education benefits to their spouse or children.