Congresswoman Susan Davis, a senior member of the House Armed Services Committee, successfully fought to extend survivor benefits for 63,000 military widows in the final version of the National Defense Authorization Act that passed the House today. These widows will receive approximately $2.8 billion in benefits over the next ten years.
The benefit for widows of servicemembers who died on active duty, called the Special Survivor Indemnity Allowance (SSIA), was set to expire next spring. In the culmination of a two-year struggle, Davis helped extend the benefit indefinitely for these widows through amendments to the NDAA and strong advocacy with other members of the House Armed Services Committee.
“This is an example of bipartisan work on behalf of those who sacrificed an immeasurable amount for our country,” said Davis. “I thank the Chairman for working with me to honor our commitment to the sacrifice made by these widows.”
Davis also secured $41 million, an increase from $25 million last year, to be used for the recruitment, integration, retention, training, and treatment of women in the Afghan National Security Forces; and the recruitment, training, and contracting of female security forces.
“Empowering the young women of Afghanistan is essential for the security of Afghanistan and essential for America’s security,” said Davis. “Having traveled to Afghanistan for over 10 years and meeting with Afghan women, I have always been inspired by their resilience and determination to rebuild their country and ensure peace for the Afghan people.”
Other policy provisions Davis included in the NDAA:
- Equal Justice for our Military. The Davis amendment directed the DOD to examine cases where servicemembers have less access to Supreme Court review than civilians operating in the civilian court system. This study is an important early step to eliminating restrictions to our servicemembers’ ability to access our Supreme Court. Davis has introduced the Equal Justice for our Military Act to grant personnel access to the Supreme Court.
- Military Family Leave Act. Those who serve our country give so much, and their spouses and families are no exception to the sacrifice. Davis seeks to minimize that burden. Davis added an amendment so servicemembers will have more flexibility when it comes to their frequent moves when it concerns their spouses’ job or education, their children’s education, and exceptional and chronically sick family members.
- Explosive Ordnance Disposal Report. As Co-Chair of the House Explosive Ordance Disposal Caucus, Davis increased the occasions and depth of briefings required by Congress regarding the Explosive Ordnance Disposal programs in the DOD. These briefings will continue to help develop EOD talent management, career opportunities and funding, among other things. It will ensure we are best managing and utilizing this critical capability within the armed forces.
- GI Bill Benefit Transparency. There is a substantial benefit that the Post 9-11 GI Bill provides servicemembers to further their or their dependent’s education. Due to the length of service requirements to earn the benefit or transfer the benefit to a dependent, many servicemembers have experienced difficulty understanding how much of the benefit they have earned. In this year’s bill the DOD will find ways to better educate servicemembers on their earned GI Bill benefits before they leave the service.
- Cyber training and talent management. Davis directed the Secretary of Defense to examine how to further develop cyber protection teams that can leverage the best attributes, authorities, and capabilities of both civilian and military cyber practitioners. In addition, the DOD will seek to help cyber forces evaluate and quickly integrate new technologies such as autonomy, machine learning, and big data analytics.
- Minesweeper Capabilities Protections. Davis protected a critical capability in the U.S. Navy. Her amendment will preserve mine countermeasure ships and helicopters until there are adequate replacement mine countermeasures capabilities that are available in sufficient quantity and capacity to meet the combatant commander.