Friday, September 07, 2012

Why do we pay a 'death gratuity' for members of Congress?


This came to my attention the other day - we actually have a law that requires a Death Gratuity be paid to the survivors of a member of Congress who dies in office.

The amount paid is equal to one year’s salary, so when Sen. Robert Byrd died, his family got $193,400 from taxpayers.

When Sen. Ted Kennedy died, his family (already rich by Pres. Obama's standards) got $174,000 in taxpayer funds. Rep. John Murtha's family also got $174,000.

Why?

Originally, it was supposed to be a form of life insurance, and it has been compared to what many private sector employers offer to their employees. But with all the the other 'perks' that go with Congressional elective service, is this really necessary?

The Senate handbook details what is to be done following the death of a member in office: “in the next appropriations bill, an item will be inserted for a gratuity to be paid to the widow(er) or other next- of-kin, in the amount of one-year’s compensation.”

The House amount is "equal to the Member’s annual salary, payable to the deceased Member’s widow or widower, or children."

In both cases, the gratuity is considered a "gift" per U.S. Code.

Most people will find this atrocious, especially when 'average' Americans are charged a death tax when they die.

In 2010, Rep. Bill Posey introduced a bill to end the death gratuity. It was a target of the Republican Study Committee’s (RSC) Sunset Caucus. As Posey told the Daily Caller when he introduced the bill:

"We’ve got soldiers dying that don’t get customary benefits like that. That is not right so we are going to see if we can repeal it.

"Nobody knows about this program. It is not that the public is demanding that something be done about this, but if they did know about it, then they would be demanding it."

Indeed.

On Oct. 10, 2011, Posey's bill was referred to the House Committee on House Administration, where it awaits action.

Maybe it's time to bring it to a vote.

4 comments:

skeeter1107 said...

For the rest of us in the real world and not in Congress, receiving income from an employer that isn't a life insurance payment would be considered income and subject to all payroll taxes.

Personally, I believe we should eliminate their pensions. It would be one less incentive to stay for 50 plus years like John Dingall or the 30 plus years of Marcy Kaptur.

I would also eliminate their special health benefits. They would be given monies to buy a policy in the open market while they serve in Congress.

J Motes said...

Agree: Eliminate their pensions. Make them, and all other Federal employees, pay into Social Security.

Agree: Eliminate their special health benefits. They can use their own money to buy private insurance, the same way we who do not have employer-provided health insurance do. After all, they don't actually work full-time, do they, especially when you consider the enormous percentage of their time that is devoted to finagling for campaign contributions or working on getting reelected or running for a better office -- stuff that we never get to do on our employer's time.

Add: Force them, like all other seniors, to have their healthcare provided by Medicare when they retire. No opting out for private insurance or anything else that my mom is forbidden to do.

Add: Force them to live under all the same laws and regulations that they shove down our throats.

Maggie Thurber said...

skeeter1107 and J Motes - I agree wholeheartedly!

mrmac said...

Since 1984 members of congress DO pay into Social Security. They participate in the same health insurance plans that all federal workers enjoy. There is plenty to complain about, but you should get your facts straight.

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