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.


Girls on a Mission

Hi, I'm Kristen Fenty, the widow of Lieutenant Colonel Joseph Fenty, who was killed in Afghanistan May 5, 2006. Joseph and I had been married for nearly 20 years and I gave birth to our first child, Lauren, 28 days before Joe was killed. Calling from Afghanistan, he contacted me by cell phone just as Lauren was being born. She is our little miracle and I thank God every day for her, just as I thank him for the 20 years Joe and I spent together.

Since losing Joe, I have struggled to move forward. It is not always easy, being a single mother and grieving wife while recreating my life within the constraints of our much changed financial picture. I aim for success, but I am not the same woman I was before Joe's tragic loss. Still, I do the best I can. I can accept my new circumstances, but not the fact that our Congress has not kept its promise to my husband or the thousands of other servicemembers lost in or from disabilities resulting from their service.
Simply put, we Survivors are not being paid the benefits to which we are entitled.

With Siobhan and the Gold Star Wives, I am working to pass H.R. 178 and S. 260, which will eliminate the unfair offset and punitive tax burdens levied upon the families of our fallen heroes. Currently, my husband's earned retirement Survivor Benefit is being offset, dollar for dollar, by the VA Disability Indemnity Compensation to which I am legally entitled. Thousands of surviving families are subject to this unjust offset and taxation.

We have consistently been told that both are separate and different benefits to which we are legally entitled, but that Congress cannot find the money. If we (the survivors) can find the money in the military personnel budget, then Congress will support us. Until we do so, debate on the issue will be shut down based on PayGo rules That is not our responsibility.

Congress would not allow our Nation to default on our National debt, yet they have defaulted on a debt to our fallen, which is morally and patriotically bankrupt.

When our military is asked to GO, they go. When they are lost in or from their Service, our Nation must keep it's promise to our heroes and PAY the benefits to which their widowed and orphaned Survivors are entitled. Hiding behind PayGo rules on this issue is coward bullying and stonewalling through institutional traditions and tactics when what should happen, instead, is advocacy for and expedited bipartisan execution of the legislation to reverse the unjust offset and taxation.

Tomorrow, Siobhan and I join others to seek support in Washington. We'll spend two days asking for co-sponsors, and attend a hearing on Veterans issues. Please support us by asking your represenatives to co-sponsor this crucial legislation here.