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.