Veterans Day is a time to reflect on the service of our armed forces and thank our military service members, past and present, for their hard work and their sacrifice.
My husband served over 25 years in the military. He passed away suddenly at 47, just a few months after he retired from the U.S. Coast Guard. He loved our country and, like all those that serve now and have served in the past, his life was dedicated to this country.
An issue that many military widows face is the Military Widow’s Tax, which has impacted my family and me for over 26 years and continues to burden some 65,000 military widows across the country. For the past several years I have used my voice to advocate the repeal of this egregious inequity. I have spent many hours phoning and emailing our senators and representatives, and have made many trips to visit Congressional offices in Washington, D.C. This advocacy is not altogether pleasant, as I am continually discussing the death of my husband. Each time it is like I am digging him up and burying him again!
Given Washington D.C.'s decades of inaction on this issue, it would be easy to believe our government has forgotten military widows or they just do not care. However, Senator Jones has courageously taken the lead to correct this egregious wrong. He, along with Senator Susan Collins, introduced the Military Widow’s Tax Elimination Act, which would restore a benefit that my husband paid for with his life, his service, and with monthly premiums. Because of Senator Jones' efforts, and the support of lawmakers from both parties, we are gaining momentum on this issue like we’ve never experienced. We are so close — and that gives me hope.
Senator Jones also rallied to the defense of our veterans in 2018, when a report revealed inadequate care at VA nursing homes here in Alabama and across the nation. He introduced legislation that would require the VA to produce yearly reports on the quality of care veterans receive in VA-run nursing homes. Senator Richard Shelby joined Senator Jones in supporting these reforms, and President Trump signed the legislation into law in 2018. This bipartisan legislation is a step in the right direction to bring transparency and oversight to the VA so that veterans are treated properly. This gives Gold Star families, and veterans who are still with us and their families, a reason to hope.
Deep concern for military families who have paid the ultimate price courses like a strong thread through our national fabric. Consider these words from President Abraham Lincoln, who no doubt had another generation of those families in his heart when crafting his Second Inaugural Address in 1865:
"With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right, as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation's wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle, and for his widow and his orphan - to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations."
So on this Veterans Day, let us join Senator Jones and our nation’s leadership in advocating for our veterans and military families so that they can receive the dignity, care and respect they deserve.
Cathy Milford is a Baldwin County resident