Former spouses of military retirees would get part of the retiree's monthly pension and be eligible for survivor benefits, even after divorce, under legislation introduced yesterday by Rep. Patricia Schroeder (D-Colo.).
The bill is designed to ensure that women (and men) married 10 or more years to a career military person get some of his - or her - benefits after the person retires or dies, even though they are divorced. They would be entitled to up to 50 per cent of the monthly military pension of their exspouses, and up to 27.5 per cent of the value of a survivor benefit when their former marriage partner dies.
Currently, persons who are divorced from career military professionals have no guarantee that they will get part of the pension, and there is no provision in law for survivor benefits after divorce.
The Schroeder bill, which can safely be called controversial, faces a long congressional fight. It would not be retroactive. Instead, it would affect only individuals retiring after it becomes law.
One of the less explosive aspects of the bill would virtually guarantee a survivor benefit to the widows (or widowers) of military retirees. Congressional sources say that only about half of all military retirees have provided (by taking a reduced monthly pension) that their spouse will get a survivor benefit when the retiree dies.
Military people can elect, when they retire, whether to take a slightly reduced pension to provide a survivor benefit for a spouse. The Schroeder bill would make that benefit automatic unless the beneficiary rejected it in writing.
Thousands of survivors of military retirees - mostly women - have been left without any benefits because their husband failed to take out a survivor benefit when they retired. In involves filling out a form, and taking a monthly pension reduction.
For an enlisted retiree with a monthly pension of $423, the annuity reduction for providing a survivor benefit would be about $20.For retired officers getting $840 a month, the reduction would run around $62.
The buzz-saw part of the Schroeder bills deals with guaranteeing a divorced partner part of the military pension and a portion of the survivor benefit. This is certain to come under attack from many military people, and from the so-called "second-wife lobby."
Schroeder's legislation would base the amount of the monthly pension entitlement to a divorced spouse on the length of the old marriage and how much of that time coincided with the actual active-duty military career.
In the case of retirees who had several marriages and divorces, the maximum 50 per cent would be split among ex-spouses depending upon the amount of time married during the period of active-duty military service.
Military survivor benefits are equal to about 55 per cent of the actual retirement pay. Under the Schroeder bill, the ex-spouse would get half that, or 27.5 per cent, and the current spouse the other 27.5 per cent. If the retiree had several ex-marriage partners, they would split the 27.5 per cent based on length of marriage and the time of military service. The spouse at the time of death would get the 27.5 per cent.
The Armed Services Committee will handle the bill.
Early Retirement: The Department of Housing and Urban Development has asked Civil Service Commission for permission to offer senior workers the option of retiring early, on immediate pension. Under the proposal, if CSC approves it, HUD employes with 25 years of service could retire immediately at any age. Those age 50 with 20 years service could retire on immediate, but reduced, pensions. HUD is in the proctss of reorganizing. Many workers - especially those in Grades 13 through 15 - face the prospect of demotions, transfers or layoffs.
Health, Education and Welfare has had a similar early-out retirement request pending with CSC for two months. No work yet on whether CSC will approve it. Agency for International Development has been given permission to offer early-out retirement to civil service workers through May 31.