Beaufort News

Bills to boost benefits for military

Certain military retirees, National Guard members, reservists and the spouses of troops killed in combat could received increased military benefits under a series of bills introduced last month by U.S. Rep. Joe Wilson, R-SC.

Wilson, whose congressional district includes Beaufort County, has introduced four bills aimed at increasing military benefits by more than $8 billion, according to The Military Times.

The first -- and most costly of the three -- is HR 178, which Wilson dubbed the "Military Surviving Spouses Equity Act."

According to Wilson's office, the bill eliminates a current policy it says costs spouses eligible for survivor benefits from the military and the Department of Veterans Affairs over $1,000 a month.

"Military members make necessary arrangements for their spouses to be taken care of in the event of their death," Wilson said in a statement. "We owe it to these fallen heroes to carry out their wishes and ensure their expectations are fully met."

According to The Military Times, enacting HR 178 would cost between $6 billion and $7.2 billion over the next 10 years.

The bill was referred to the House Armed Services Committee, according to legislative records.

Wilson also wants the Pentagon to increase retirement benefits for National Guardsmen and reservists.

Under another proposal, HR 181, those groups would be eligible to receive retirement pay 90 days before their 60th birthday for every 90 days of cumulative active-duty service dating back to Sept. 11, 2001.

Troops are currently only credited for active-duty tours served since Jan. 28, 2008.

The proposal will cost about $1.2 billion, according to The Military Times.

That bill also was referred to the House Armed Services Committee, according to legislative records.

Wilson also introduced a bill to increase pay for medically retired troops with less than 20 years of service, and another to make National Guardsmen and Reservists under age 60 eligible for military health care benefits.

Wilson could not be reached this week for comment on the proposals and how they might be funded, according to a spokesman.