Top Legislative Accomplishments

Your TAPS Policy Team is extremely busy advocating for our surviving families! We testify before Congress and submit statements for the record on important survivor issues. TAPS also advocates for our surviving families through the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Federal Advisory Committee on Veterans' Families, Caregivers, and Survivors and Chairs the Survivor Subcommittee. We continue to brief leadership at the White House, VA, Department of Defense (DoD), and all government agencies impacting survivors.

If you have questions about our work on legislation and policy for military survivors, contact us at policy@taps.org

 

Top Accomplishments in 2021

 

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Gold Star Children's Day

TAPS Policy Team worked with Members of Congress (both Senate and House) to create the first-ever Gold Star Children's Day, using a broad definition of defining Gold Star Children, to be held annually on August 1.


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Toxic Exposure Legislation

TAPS has been instrumental in building public awareness and support from Congress, testified, and worked in support of two landmark bills to ensure their passage during the 117th Congress whicn ends in 2022. The Comprehensive and Overdue Support for Troops (COST) of War Act of 2021, was introduced by Chairman Tester, Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs. The Honoring Our Promise to Address Comprehensive Toxics (PACT) Act of 2021, was introduced by Chairman Takano, House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs. If passed, these bills will ensure 3.5 million veterans exposed to toxins and airborne hazards get immediate, lifelong access to VA health care.

TAPS is the leading voice for the families of those who died as a result of illnesses connected to Toxic Exposure and a founding member and co-chair of the Toxic Exposure in the American Military (TEAM) Coalition.


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In-State Tuition for Chapter 35 Recipients

TAPS worked with Congressional Leadership to introduce and pass this important improvement to guarantee that all Chapter 35 recipients receive in-state tuition regardless of where they chose to attend school. It was signed into law in December 2021 and went into effect August 1, 2022.


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COVID GI Bill Extension

TAPS worked with fellow veterans and education organizations to pass this critical bill that extends COVID GI Bill Protections for students that are still online due to COVID. It was signed into law December 2021 and is effective from December 2021 to June 2022.


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90/10 Loophole Closure

TAPS worked with veterans and education partners to finally close the 90/10 Loophole. This removes the target off the backs of GI Bill recipients by ensuring all VA dollars are counted as federal funds in the 90/10 calculation. It was signed into law in March 2021 and will go into effect in 2024.


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Iraq and Afghanistan Service Grant

TAPS worked with Members of Congress to pass this important legislation to align eligibility for the Iraq and Afghanistan Service Grant with Fry eligibility and make the program permanent. It was signed into law in March 2021, effective January 2022.


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FAFSA Simplification

TAPS worked with fellow veteran and education organizations to advance and pass this important improvement to make the process of applying for Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) simpler as well as making sure survivor benefits do not throw off the calculations. It was signed into law in March 2021, effective January 2022.

 

Top Accomplishments in 2020

 

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Cheryl Lankford Memorial Act

TAPS spearheaded this initiative and worked with Congressional leadership to introduce and pass this critical legislation, benefiting thousands of current and future military surviving families. The Cheryl Lankford Memorial Act, named in memory of Cheryl Lankford, a surviving military spouse and TAPS Peer Mentor who died following a lengthy battle with cancer in May 2020, mandates that the Department of Defense provide a Casualty Assistance Officer in the case that a surviving spouse passes with dependent children. It is included in the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for Fiscal Year 2021.


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Colonel John M. McHugh Tuition Fairness for Survivors Act

The “Colonel John M. McHugh Tuition Fairness for Survivors Act” legislation provides mandatory in-sate tuition rates for all Chapter 35 recipients, creating parity for all other VA Education benefits. It goes into effect on August 1, 2022.


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Toxic Exposure at Karshi-Khanabad (K2) Air Base, Uzbekistan Study Signed into Law

TAPS and fellow TEAM members helped pass this critical legislation, which requires the Secretary of Defense to conduct a study on toxic exposure of service members stationed at K2 Air Base between 2001-2005. More than 15,000 veterans may have been exposed to toxicants at the base.


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The Commander John Scott Hannon veterans Mental Health Care Improvement Act Signed into Law

TAPS proudly support this groundbreaking bipartisan legislation, introduced by Senator Jon Tester (D-MT), which improves mental health care provided by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and include grants to groups outside of the VA that are focused on helping veterans. Nearly 18 veterans die by suicide every had of those 11 veterans are not receiving treatment or care from the VA.


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Three New Agent Orange Diseases Added to VA List of Presumptive Service-Connection

Congress passed the Fiscal Year 2021 National Defense Authorization Act, which became law on January 1, 2021. Roughly 34,000 Vietnam-era Veterans diagnosed with hypothyroidism, bladder cancer, or Parkinson’s-like symptoms will now have access to disability compensation and health care services. TAPS advocated for this long overdue improvement.


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COVID-19 Benefits for Active-Duty Service Members, the Reserve Components, and their Survivors Act

TAPS worked with the chairmen and ranking members of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee (SVAC) and House Veterans’ Affairs Committee (HVAC) to introduce and pass this critical legislation that ensures members of the National Guard and Reserve components, who die of COVID-19 receive survivor benefits and a service-connected death ruling.  

It is included in the Johnny Isakson & Phil Roe Veterans Benefits Improvement Act of 2020 with an effective date of March 2020, when the national emergency was declared.


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Survivor Education Benefits Under the Fry Scholarship Improvement Act Expansion

TAPS led the efforts working with Congress to expand the Post 9/11 GI Bill to surviving children and spouses of members of the National Guard and Reserve components who die in the line of duty, regardless of duty status at the moment of death, impacting over a thousand surviving spouses and children. 

It is included in the Johnny Isakson & Phil Roe Veterans Benefits Improvement Act of 2020 with an effective date of August 1, 2021, and primarily impacts survivors of illness and suicide loss.


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Protect The GI Bill Act

This act permanently restores GI Bill benefits in the case a permanent school closure and allows the VA to disapprove schools in trouble with DoEd. It requires schools to be eligible for GI Bill funds to receive GI Bill benefits. Law schools must be accredited by the American Bar Association (ABA) in order to receive GI Bill funds. This act also codifies the principals of excellence.

It is included in the Johnny Isakson & Phil Roe Veterans Benefits Improvement Act of 2020.


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GI Bill Related Issues

TAPS advocated for the authorization of Yellow Ribbon program for international schools, schools becoming responsible for GI Bill overpayments of tuition and fees, and the end of the 12-year delimiting date for Veteran Readiness and Employment (VR&E).

 

Top Accomplishments in 2019

 

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Repeal of the SBP-DIC Offset or "Widows' Tax"

TAPS led the fight to finally “Ax the Widow’s Tax” by developing a comprehensive strategy, working with both houses of Congress, fellow veterans and military service organizations, and impacted survivors. 

This critical and long overdue legislation was signed into law on December 20, 2019, with overwhelming bipartisan support from both Houses of Congress, as part of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for Fiscal Year 2020.

The law repealed the dollar-for-dollar offset of the Survivor Benefit Program (SBP) payments from the Department of Defense (DoD) by the amount of Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (DIC) paid by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). For over four decades, as many as 65,000 surviving military spouses were denied their service members’ earned benefits, an average loss of $925 monthly or $11,000 annually. 

The SBP-DIC offset repeal will be phased in over 3 years beginning on January 1, 2021, with full elimination of the offset on January 1, 2023. In 2023, surviving spouses will receive their full survivor benefits without offset and future generations of surviving spouses will receive their benefits in full, amounting to millions of dollars in benefit payments.


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Elimination of the "Kiddie Tax" On Surviving Military Families

Due to a change in tax law under the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, surviving military children who were formerly obligated to pay 12 to 15 percent in taxes on their unearned income were subjected to a 37 percent tax rate.  Surviving military families and families of first responders were unintentionally hit with thousands of dollars in tax debt. TAPS worked alongside Congress to repeal the “Kiddie Tax” on surviving children and to reinstate military survivor benefits to the previous tax rate. 


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Education Benefits for Survivors

TAPS worked with partner organizations to help ensure that students have access to GI Bill Benefits and that those benefits are only available at quality institutions of higher education.

TAPS also advocated to expand survivor education benefits under the Fry Scholarship.

 

Top Accomplishments in 2018

 

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Forever GI Bill

TAPS continued to champion the Forever GI Bill, working with the Department of Veterans Affairs on its implementation that TAPS helped pass in 2017.


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SITREP Act

TAPS worked with the House and Senate to introduce and pass the Situation Report (SITREP) Act which guarantees that students using GI Bill benefits will not be penalized due to the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) payment schedule.


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Survivor Protections During Government Shutdowns

TAPS worked with partner organizations to pass this legislation that ensures that new survivors will be paid benefits during a government shutdown.


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Student Right Protections

TAPS collaborated to advance and protect students' rights in higher education.