WASHINGTON — Military widows converged on Capitol Hill Wednesday to push for changes in how survivors benefits are distributed, charging that the current system cheats families out of money owed to deceased veterans.

Several military support groups including the Gold Star Wives of America — which represents about 10,000 members whose spouses died while on active duty — have made reconciling problems in the pay system their top legislative priority for the year.

Some issues they focused on Wednesday were individual problems women faced in receiving their benefits. Tonya Mogensen, whose husband Sgt. 1st Class Robert Mogensen was killed in Afghanistan last May, said it took her almost a year to get through the legal paperwork to receive survivors’ benefits due to her and her three children.

“If I didn’t keep on it, we’d never have gotten it,” she said. “He didn’t serve his country for nothing.”

But the groups also are fighting a systematic problem that nullifies payments from Survivor Benefits Plans, which servicemembers pay into to insure their families will always receive a military paycheck.

For active-duty troops who died after 1992, surviving spouses receive $993 a month in Dependency Indemnity Compensation from the Veterans Affairs Department. Children under 18 receive an additional $247 each month.

But that payout is counted against the SBPs, according to Gold Star Wives’ spokeswoman Rose Lee. If a widow is scheduled to receive $1,000 from the plan but is given the $993 DIC payment, she’ll receive only $7 from the SBP.

“We need to eliminate that offset,” she said. “The SBP is like a life insurance plan, and these guys paid into it, so these families deserve that.”

The House and Senate are currently considering separate legislation to get rid of that offset, and the group of widows met with several senators on Wednesday to talk up those measures.

Lee admitted that getting legislation passed will be difficult. House officials already have approved plans to increase the death gratuity from $12,000 to $100,000, and Lee said that appears to be the top priority for Senate lawmakers as well.

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