FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
April 29, 2021
Arkansan Submits Testimony in Support of Legislation
WASHINGTON –U.S. Senator John Boozman (R-AR) is calling on the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee to pass legislation that would strengthen benefits to military survivors and families.
Click here to watch Boozman’s questions.
Boozman and Chairman Jon Tester (D-MT) introduced the Caring for Survivors Act of 2021 last month. The legislation aims to bring payments to Dependence and Indemnity Compensation (DIC) recipients in line with payments to surviving spouses of other federal employees. The rate of compensation paid to survivors of servicemembers who die in the line of duty or veterans who die from service-related injuries or diseases has been minimally adjusted since its establishment in 1993. DIC payments currently lag behind other programs’ payments by nearly 12 percent.
“We must better care for the loved ones of troops who have made the ultimate sacrifice. Increasing DIC benefits for military survivors to match benefits provided by other federal survivor programs will help us continue to honor the promise we made to servicemembers and their families. This legislation will deliver critical economic support, ” said Boozman, a senior member of the VA Committee.
In written testimony submitted to the VA Committee in support of the Caring for Survivors Act of 2021, Arkansan Sharri Briley expressed her approval for the legislation.
“DIC is not enough to support the household expenses. If the DIC were increased as purposed, the survivor would be relieved of the worry of trying to make ends meet. My husband and I had planned to raise our daughter with me as a stay-home mom. The loss of my husband should not be the loss of that dream for my daughter and me,” she wrote in her testimony.
Sharri’s husband, Chief Warrant Officer Donovan Briley, was part of an elite military unit known as Night Stalkers that used black hawk helicopters to transport special operations forces into combat.
Deployed to Somalia with the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment, Briley was killed on October 3, 1993 while serving with Task Force Ranger in Mogadishu.
Sharri and daughter Jordan, who was five at the time of her father’s death, relied on DIC benefits for financial support. Sharri continues to receive DIC payments, but only modest enhancements have been made since 1993.
“Here we are almost twenty years later and the DIC rates have failed to keep up with the cost of living,” Sharri wrote.
The Caring for Survivors Act of 2021 has the support of veterans organizations including the Gold Star Wives of America.
The Senate VA Committee also discussed Boozman’s bipartisan legislation to eliminate barriers to benefits for veterans who served in Thailand during the Vietnam War and were exposed to Agent Orange.
The VA currently awards service-connected benefits for exposure to toxic chemicals to veterans whose duties placed them on or near the perimeters of Thai military bases from February 28, 1961 to May 7, 1975. This restriction arbitrarily disqualifies veterans who may otherwise be able to prove their exposure, regardless of their assigned duties during their time stationed in Thailand.
Boozman’s legislation would allow Vietnam War-era veterans the opportunity to prove toxic exposure in order to qualify for Department of Veterans Affairs benefits.
Boozman initiated a legislative fix to correct this inequity after Mena, Arkansas veteran Bill Rhodes made him aware of the VA’s presumptions for toxic exposure.