Lawmakers push to help Gold Star children with tax issue

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WASHINGTON (GrayDC) When a military service member dies, their families, termed Gold Star families, are faced with long-term financial decisions. The tax cut law in 2017 inadvertently taxed Gold Star children at a higher rate if they’re receiving survivor benefits. Lawmakers are trying to fix that issue.

Traci Voelke lost her husband in 2012--he was serving in the Army on deployment in Afghanistan. She is pictured here with her two sons. (Source: Gray DC)

“In front of me stood two men in uniform. As a military spouse, you know what that means. And you know that in that instant, your whole world as you know it is about to change,” said Voelke.

Traci Voelke lost her husband Maj. Paul Voelke in 2012. Maj. Voelke, her high school sweetheart, was killed on a deployment in Afghanistan.

“I remember feeling confused, sad…that whole time period, 3-6 months, just seems like one big blur of emotion,” said Voelke.

When spouses like Voelke lose their loved ones, they have the choice to keep survivor benefits in their name or put the money in their children’s name. Voelke chose to put the money in her name.

But some military families select the children as the beneficiaries.

Texas Republican Senator John Cornyn said a provision in the 2017 tax law unintentionally taxes those Gold Star children more than they should pay.

“Most families are paying more this year,” said the surviving spouse.

“That’s a burden.”

The Gold Star Family Tax Relief Act to lower the tax rate passed in the Senate. The House is working on the same issue.

Sen. Cornyn (R-TX) cosponsored the legislation.

“Well obviously, they’ve sacrificed a lot. And I think we not only owe them a debt of gratitude, we owe them our support,” said the Senator.

Voelke is relieved to see legislation to help Gold Star children, but said she wants to see more done to help the families as a whole.

“This is a cost of war. The financial security of our families is just as important for any budget in the military,” said Voelke.

Currently, Congress is working to help Gold Star families receive full survivor benefits by adding legislation to the defense spending bill. But there is no guarantee that will happen.

Lawmakers are expected to take up these issues when they get back from the holiday recess.

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