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'We've seen historic numbers' | Surviving military spouses fight for benefits reaches milestone

Senate and House bills to change law that strips benefits reaches record milestone.

WASHINGTON -- Surviving military spouses, fighting for benefits they are entitled to, have reached a milestone and are nearing a finish line in a decades-long fight.

"I feel good about it. I feel that Congress realizes that this should happen," Edith Smith said.

RELATED: 'There's been many days and nights that I shed tears over this' | Surviving military spouses battle for full benefits

On a windy spring morning a group of widows hug and kiss, ecstatic that their hard work and persistence is paying off.

"We've seen historic numbers in the House and the Senate who are getting on this," said Sen. Doug Jones, D-Ala.

Jones, along with a few of his Senate colleagues, reassured more than 65,000 surviving military spouses across the country that this is the year lawmakers will repeal a law that costs families thousands of dollars a year.

"I think this year we're going to make it across the finish line. We've got over 67 sponsors in the Senate -- a record number -- I think over 300 in the House. I think also a record number," Jones said.

"The 67 in the Senate actually makes this legislation veto proof," TAPS Senior Advisor Candace Wheeler said.

A record number of years lobbying Congress has gotten the surviving spouses to this moment.

RELATED: Surviving military spouses to lawmakers on Capitol Hill: If they can't take care of our veterans, stop creating them

Now, it's up to all 67 Senate sponsors to go forward and vote. On the House side, they are well past the 290 needed to reach the floor for a vote.

"There is huge momentum. There is bipartisan support more so than we've seen in 18 years," Wheeler said.

Gold Star wife Rania Taylor has been praying for this moment.

"The men and women of the military have performed the ultimate duty. They have taken upon themselves to provide for their family. It's now time for the Senate to perform their duty and stop this terrible offset," Taylor said.

Credit: WUSA 9
Gold Star Wife Raina Taylor celebrates with surviving spouse Kristy DiDomenico

Taylor is talking about the Survivor Benefit Plan-The Dependency and Indemnity Compensation offset. 

DIC is a benefit the VA determined spouses are eligible to receive.

It's a monthly $1,300 tax free payment to survivors of service members who die in the line of duty. Or if their death is due to a service-related injury or disease.

But in 1972, Congress established the SBP, which is an annuity military members pay into with their own money.

Surviving military spouses thought they would receive a combined monthly payment of the SBP and DIC. But existing law prevents more than 65,000 surviving spouses from collecting both federal benefits even though the SBP is an insurance program.

RELATED: 'I lose a full $1,000 a month' | Surviving military spouses across US storm Capitol Hill to fight for full benefits

According to the Military Officers Association of America that costs survivors about $12,000 a year.

"We're the only families affected by it," Kristy DiDomenico said.

It is the only offset that has not been eliminated. In fact, six times Congress has repealed benefit compensation laws that unfairly impacted veterans and survivors. 

Use the tool below to see if your Senator or Representative is a cosponsor: 

It sounds like a no brainer to get rid of this law. But, lawmakers say it comes down to the money.

RELATED: Surviving military spouses to US lawmakers: We are not taking care of our fallen veterans' families

"We can find the money. We have found the money to do other things and we can find the money to do this for these families and for those who have gone before," Jones said.

"It's time to do the right thing," Taylor said. 

Check here to find out how you can help military surviving spouses.

Take action: Show your support. Call and ask to be connected to your lawmakers at the U.S. House of Representatives 202-225-3121, or U.S. senators at 202-224-3121. 

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