Friday, June 1, 2012

Congressional Staff to War Widows: 'Have a Happy Memorial Day!'

Writer Bob Geiger reports on the treatment that Kristen Fenty and I received when visiting our elected officials in Washington:   
Fenty and Esposito have made at least two trips to Capitol Hill this year to drum up support for these bills and the treatment they are getting from elected representatives and Congressional staff runs the gamut from “tell them I’m not here” to brain-dead staffers chirping “have a happy Memorial Day” to two women whose husbands are the subject of that holiday – because they died.
Read Geiger's full report here.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Update on Our Fight for Survivor Benefit Reform

In this video, Kristen Fenty and I talk about some new developments in our fight for military surviving spouse benefit reform.


Monday, May 28, 2012

Does Congress Respect Gold Star Wives?

Kristen Fenty and I share our experiences visiting Capitol Hill last week as advocates for military surviving spouse benefit reform.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Jonathan Gurwitz: 'Don't try balancing budget on heroes' survivors'

Columnist Jonathan Gurwitz of the San Antonio Express-News opined on the Widow's Tax in his Sunday column, focusing on Kristen Fenty and Edith Smith's advocacy of behalf of surviving military spouses:
While [Kristen Fenty] was grieving her husband's loss, she also came to a disturbing realization: For every dollar she received in Dependency and Indemnity Compensation, the government was making a corresponding reduction in the Survivor Benefit Plan annuity.
If insurance companies in the private sector tried to offset the death benefits of separate life insurance policies, they'd get sued to high heaven. When the federal government does so, it carries the force of law — and trims the Pentagon's budget without cutting personnel or weapons programs.
While Gurwitz makes a minor error in his presentation (incorrectly stating that active duty servicemen pay premiums for the Survivor Benefit Plan, which in practice is subsidized by the government as an earned benefit during active duty), his article makes clear how the status quo is grossly unfair to surviving military spouses. As Gurwitz observes, "Gold Star families have paid a high enough price. In a nation that is largely divorced from the consequences of war, it's unconscionable to attempt to balance the budget on their backs."

Needless to say, I wholeheartedly agree.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Sign the Petition to Pass H.R.178 & S.260

My co-blogger and fellow Gold Star wife Kristen Fenty has set up an online petition calling on Congress to pass H.R.178 and S.260, bills that would eliminate the unfair financial offset and punitive tax burdens levied upon the families of our fallen heroes.

To sign the petition, visit here. It's quick, easy, and a great way to help support the cause of surviving spouses.

Monday, April 30, 2012

Media Mention: 'The Disgrace of War Widows Fighting for Benefits'

Author Bob Geiger reports on Kristen Fenty's 'Widow's Tax' advocacy at The Huffington Post.

Here's an excerpt of Geiger's story:
Kristen Fenty knows a thing or two about pain and struggle. 
Like all Gold Star Wives -- women whose spouses have died or been killed while on active duty in the U.S. military -- she has learned to live with the grief of losing her life partner, the disintegration of the life she imagined and, like so many war widows, the burden of instantly becoming a single parent and shepherding a child through the loss of her father.
What Kristen Fenty didn't expect was six years of getting raked over bureaucratic coals in simply trying to receive and keep the benefits to which surviving military families are entitled. . .
Read the full story here.

Monday, April 9, 2012

The Face of the Affected

‎Kristen Fenty and I have been passing out this sheet to members of Congress to help educate them on the unfair Survival Benefit Plan offset issue. It features a picture of Kristen's daughter Lauren, who was 28 days old when her father, Lieutenant Colonel Joseph J. Fenty, was killed in Afghanistan.

In one powerful image, it captures the reality of Lauren's life: that this precious child will never be able to know her father as she so richly deserved.

I encourage all our friends and fellow citizens to be outspoken in defense of surviving military families and to support HR178 & S260, much needed legislation that eliminates the unfair offset levied upon the earned benefits of our fallen heroes. 

I see it as a small, yet powerful gesture that we as the citizens of a grateful nation can make in support of the thousands of surviving military families that are affected by this issue.

Please follow this link to contact your elected representatives today.

New support for the Survival Benefit Plan Reform Cause

I am pleased to report that our effort to ensure that Congress stands behind the families of military heroes who died upon the battlefield or from a service-related cause now has the support of the team at Kilpatrick Townsend & Stockton LLP.

The members of this full-service law firm are experts in government relations and we are deeply grateful that they are willing to stand with us as committed advocates before the Congress.

Friday, March 30, 2012

Four New Congressional Co-Sponsors for H.R.178!

I am pleased to report that four additional members of the House of Representatives have agreed to cosponsor H.R.178—critical legislation that fixes a broken and unfair government policy in force today that requires that the surviving spouses of our military heroes to forfeit their earned Survival Benefit Pension annuity by the dollar amount of Dependency and Indemnity Compensation, a death benefit provided by the Veterans Affairs Department.

The four new cosponsors are:

Rep Perlmutter, Ed [CO-7] - 3/19/2012
Rep Green, Al [TX-9] - 3/26/2012
Rep Austria, Steve [OH-7] - 3/26/2012
Rep Kaptur, Marcy [OH-9] - 3/26/2012

If these are your representatives in congress, please be sure to thank them for their support—and ask them to help champion this bill to passage.

You can send them a message here—it's quick, easy and a great way to let your voice be heard.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Coverage of the unfair treatment of military surviving families in the Watertown Daily Times

Reporter Marc Heller of the Watertown Daily Times is covering Kristen’s story here.
Almost six years have passed since Lt. Col. Joseph Fenty Jr., from Fort Drum, was killed in a helicopter accident in Afghanistan. He’s been honored with a building named after him at Drum, the headquarters of the unit to which he belonged.
But his wife, Kristen Fenty, still isn’t being paid the full benefits due her as a surviving spouse. The government owes her tens of thousands of dollars, she said...

Kristen and I Color The Hill Gold

Please take a look at Kristen Fenty's and my video about our fight to support surviving military families by working to pass H.R.178 and S.260, bills that would eliminate the unfair financial offset and punitive tax burdens levied upon the families of our fallen heroes.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Two Widows Walking Tall at Capitol Hill

Here's Kristen Fenty and me after our day on Capitol Hill advocating for Congress to pass H.R.178 and S.260, bills that would eliminate the unfair financial offset and punitive tax burdens levied upon the families of our fallen heroes.

Representatives who need to hear from you on H.R.178

Below is a table of members of the House of Representatives who have yet to sign on in support of H.R.178, the House version of legislation that will fix the broken and unfair government policy that requires that the surviving spouses of our military heroes forfeit their earned Survival Benefit Pension annuity by the dollar amount of Dependency and Indemnity Compensation, a death benefit provided by the Veterans Affairs Department.

This list is current as of today, March 21, @ 2pm.

If your representative is listed below, it means that they need you to encourage them to stand with our military families and pass this legislation. This website sponsored by the Military Officers Association of America makes sending a message quick and easy.

Martha Roby (R 2nd)
Robert Aderholt (R 4th)
Terri Sewell (D 7th)
Don Young (R At-Large)
American Samoa
Eni Faleomavaega (D At-Large)
Trent Franks (R 2nd)
Ben Quayle (R 3rd)
David Schweikert (R 5th)
Jeff Flake (R 6th)
Gabrielle Giffords (D 8th)
Rick Crawford (R 1st)
Steve Womack (R 3rd)
Mike Thompson (D 1st)
Wally Herger (R 2nd)
Dan Lungren (R 3rd)
Tom McClintock (R 4th)
Doris Matsui (D 5th)
George Miller (D 7th)
Nancy Pelosi (D 8th)
Barbara Lee (D 9th)
John Garamendi (D 10th)
Jackie Speier (D 12th)
Anna Eshoo (D 14th)
Zoe Lofgren (D 16th)
Sam Farr (D 17th)
Dennis Cardoza (D 18th)
Jeff Denham (R 19th)
Jim Costa (D 20th)
Devin Nunes (R 21st)
Kevin McCarthy (R 22nd)
Howard McKeon (R 25th)
David Dreier (R 26th)
Brad Sherman (D 27th)
Howard Berman (D 28th)
Henry Waxman (D 30th)
Xavier Becerra (D 31st)
Karen Bass (D 33rd)
Lucille Roybal-Allard (D 34th)
Maxine Waters (D 35th)
Laura Richardson (D 37th)
Grace Napolitano (D 38th)
Ed Royce (R 40th)
Jerry Lewis (R 41st)
Gary Miller (R 42nd)
Joe Baca (D 43rd)
Mary Bono Mack (R 45th)
Dana Rohrabacher (R 46th)
John Campbell (R 48th)
Darrell Issa (R 49th)
Diana DeGette (D 1st)
Scott Tipton (R 3rd)
Cory Gardner (R 4th)
Doug Lamborn (R 5th)
John Larson (D 1st)
Rosa DeLauro (D 3rd)
Jim Himes (D 4th)
Christopher Murphy (D 5th)
John Carney (D At-Large)
District of Columbia
Eleanor Norton (D At-Large)
Steve Southerland (R 2nd)
Corrine Brown (D 3rd)
Cliff Stearns (R 6th)
Daniel Webster (R 8th)
C.W. Bill Young (R 10th)
Connie Mack (R 14th)
Frederica Wilson (D 17th)
Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R 18th)
Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D 20th)
Mario Diaz-Balart (R 21st)
Jack Kingston (R 1st)
Sanford Bishop (D 2nd)
Lynn Westmoreland (R 3rd)
Hank Johnson (D 4th)
John Lewis (D 5th)
Tom Price (R 6th)
Rob Woodall (R 7th)
Austin Scott (R 8th)
Tom Graves (R 9th)
Paul Broun (R 10th)
Phil Gingrey (R 11th)
David Scott (D 13th)
Colleen Hanabusa (D 1st)
Raul Labrador (R 1st)
Mike Simpson (R 2nd)
Mike Quigley (D 5th)
Joe Walsh (R 8th)
Jan Schakowsky (D 9th)
Robert Dold (R 10th)
Adam Kinzinger (R 11th)
Judy Biggert (R 13th)
Timothy Johnson (R 15th)
Peter Visclosky (D 1st)
Marlin Stutzman (R 3rd)
Todd Rokita (R 4th)
Dan Burton (R 5th)
Mike Pence (R 6th)
Larry Bucshon (R 8th)
Todd Young (R 9th)
Steve King (R 5th)
Tim Huelskamp (R 1st)
Kevin Yoder (R 3rd)
Mike Pompeo (R 4th)
Edward Whitfield (R 1st)
Geoff Davis (R 4th)
Harold Rogers (R 5th)
Cedric Richmond (D 2nd)
Jeff Landry (R 3rd)
John Fleming (R 4th)
Bill Cassidy (R 6th)
Charles Boustany (R 7th)
Andy Harris (R 1st)
C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger (D 2nd)
John Sarbanes (D 3rd)
Steny Hoyer (D 5th)
Richard Neal (D 2nd)
Edward Markey (D 7th)
Michael Capuano (D 8th)
Stephen Lynch (D 9th)
William Keating (D 10th)
Dan Benishek (R 1st)
Bill Huizenga (R 2nd)
Justin Amash (R 3rd)
Dave Camp (R 4th)
Fred Upton (R 6th)
Tim Walberg (R 7th)
Gary Peters (D 9th)
Candice Miller (R 10th)
Sander Levin (D 12th)
Hansen Clarke (D 13th)
John Conyers (D 14th)
John Dingell (D 15th)
John Kline (R 2nd)
Erik Paulsen (R 3rd)
Betty McCollum (D 4th)
Bennie Thompson (D 2nd)
Gregg Harper (R 3rd)
Steven Palazzo (R 4th)
William Lacy Clay (D 1st)
Todd Akin (R 2nd)
Emanuel Cleaver (D 5th)
Sam Graves (R 6th)
Jo Ann Emerson (R 8th)
Denny Rehberg (R At-Large)
Lee Terry (R 2nd)
Adrian Smith (R 3rd)
New Hampshire
Frank Guinta (R 1st)
Charles Bass (R 2nd)
New Jersey
Robert Andrews (D 1st)
Scott Garrett (R 5th)
Frank Pallone (D 6th)
Bill Pascrell (D 8th)
Steven Rothman (D 9th)
Donald Payne (D 10th)
Rodney Frelinghuysen (R 11th)
Rush Holt (D 12th)
Albio Sires (D 13th)
New York
Steve Israel (D 2nd)
Gregory Meeks (D 6th)
Joseph Crowley (D 7th)
Jerrold Nadler (D 8th)
Bob Turner (R 9th)
Edolphus Towns (D 10th)
Yvette Clarke (D 11th)
Nydia Velazquez (D 12th)
Michael Grimm (R 13th)
Carolyn Maloney (D 14th)
Charles Rangel (D 15th)
Jose Serrano (D 16th)
Eliot Engel (D 17th)
Nita Lowey (D 18th)
Nan Hayworth (R 19th)
Paul Tonko (D 21st)
Maurice Hinchey (D 22nd)
Bill Owens (D 23rd)
Richard Hanna (R 24th)
Ann Marie Buerkle (R 25th)
Kathy Hochul (D 26th)
Brian Higgins (D 27th)
Louise Slaughter (D 28th)
Tom Reed (R 29th)
North Carolina
G.K. Butterfield (D 1st)
Renee Ellmers (R 2nd)
Virginia Foxx (R 5th)
Sue Myrick (R 9th)
Patrick McHenry (R 10th)
Heath Shuler (D 11th)
Melvin Watt (D 12th)
Steve Chabot (R 1st)
Jean Schmidt (R 2nd)
Jim Jordan (R 4th)
Steve Austria (R 7th)
John Boehner (R 8th)
Marcy Kaptur (D 9th)
Dennis Kucinich (D 10th)
Marcia Fudge (D 11th)
Steven LaTourette (R 14th)
James Renacci (R 16th)
Bob Gibbs (R 18th)
John Sullivan (R 1st)
Tom Cole (R 4th)
James Lankford (R 5th)
Greg Walden (R 2nd)
Earl Blumenauer (D 3rd)
Kurt Schrader (D 5th)
Chaka Fattah (D 2nd)
Mike Kelly (R 3rd)
Jim Gerlach (R 6th)
Patrick Meehan (R 7th)
Bill Shuster (R 9th)
Tom Marino (R 10th)
Lou Barletta (R 11th)
Allyson Schwartz (D 13th)
Charlie Dent (R 15th)
Joe Pitts (R 16th)
Tim Murphy (R 18th)
Puerto Rico
Pedro Pierluisi (D At-Large)
South Carolina
Tim Scott (R 1st)
Jeff Duncan (R 3rd)
Trey Gowdy (R 4th)
Mick Mulvaney (R 5th)
James Clyburn (D 6th)
John Duncan (R 2nd)
Chuck Fleischmann (R 3rd)
Scott DesJarlais (R 4th)
Jim Cooper (D 5th)
Diane Black (R 6th)
Marsha Blackburn (R 7th)
Stephen Fincher (R 8th)
Sam Johnson (R 3rd)
Ralph Hall (R 4th)
Jeb Hensarling (R 5th)
Joe Barton (R 6th)
John Culberson (R 7th)
Kevin Brady (R 8th)
Al Green (D 9th)
Kay Granger (R 12th)
William Thornberry (R 13th)
Ron Paul (R 14th)
Bill Flores (R 17th)
Sheila Jackson Lee (D 18th)
Randy Neugebauer (R 19th)
Francisco Canseco (R 23rd)
Kenny Marchant (R 24th)
Blake Farenthold (R 27th)
Eddie Bernice Johnson (D 30th)
Pete Sessions (R 32nd)
Rob Bishop (R 1st)
Jason Chaffetz (R 3rd)
Virgin Islands
Donna Christensen (D At-Large)
Eric Cantor (R 7th)
Morgan Griffith (R 9th)
Jaime Herrera Beutler (R 3rd)
Doc Hastings (R 4th)
Norm Dicks (D 6th)
Adam Smith (D 9th)
West Virginia
David McKinley (R 1st)
Shelley Capito (R 2nd)
Paul Ryan (R 1st)
Gwen Moore (D 4th)
F. James Sensenbrenner (R 5th)
Tom Petri (R 6th)
Sean Duffy (R 7th)
Reid Ribble (R 8th)
Cynthia Lummis (R At-Large)

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

A New Fight for Justice for Military Families

Hello, I am Siobhan Esposito, and I am the widow of Army Captain Phillip Esposito, who was murdered by a soldier under his command in Iraq in 2005.

Today, as I work to rebuild my life since Phillip’s murder, I have found myself thrust into roles that I never envisioned, but that are nevertheless necessary to ensure proper justice—for myself as a widow and mother to our daughter, for the other victims of violent crime who deserve our support, and for other survivors of military members who died in battle, or from service-related causes.

Tomorrow, as the newly-minted Vice President of the Potomac Chapter of the Gold Star Wives of America, I will join with my good friend and fellow Army widow Kristen Fenty to go to Capitol Hill and help fight for passage of two important bills before Congress: H.R.178 and S.260.

These two bills fix a broken and unfair government policy in force today that requires that the surviving spouses of our military heroes to forfeit their earned Survival Benefit Pension annuity by the dollar amount of Dependency and Indemnity Compensation, a death benefit provided by the Veterans Affairs Department.

They also help to fix the problems caused when a surviving spouse elects to place their Survival Benefit Pension annuity in their children’s name and the government then turns around and taxes that annuity at the punishing Alternative Minimum Tax rate of 26%.

When I learned that Kristen’s five-year-old daughter Lauren is made to pay the 26% Alternative Minimum Tax on the benefits that she receives, I was both stunned and appalled. Lauren’s father Army Lieutenant Colonel Joseph Fenty died in Afghanistan a mere 28 days after Lauren was born. Lauren never even had the opportunity to be held by Joe—a man who deeply loved and provided for his family, but who can do so no more as he died in the service of our nation.

And yet this how our nation stands behind a beautiful little girl like Lauren, and helps her to have the opportunities that she deserves in the face of her father’s tragic death? This is how America shows its thanks to her and her family in the face of their most painful loss?

Fortunately, Congress now has the opportunity to fix this problem—once and for all. Two bills, H.R.178 and S.260, eliminate the unfair offset and punitive tax burdens levied upon the families of our fallen heroes.

But we need your help to make things right. These bills are stuck in committee, and they will never pass unless the people of our nation who stand with the families of our fallen heroes speak out.

Please, help us and other military families to pass these bills and fix this injustice. Write a letter to your representative today and let them know that you expect them to affirm your values and to support our military families. This website sponsored by the Military Officers Association of America makes it easy.

I thank you for your support.