Murkowski Signs On to Legislation Benefitting Military Families

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, has signed on to two bills that would benefit Alaska military families. The first would reduce the distance required for reimbursement when military families travel to specialty medical care providers and the second would allow military spouses to retain their Alaska residency, if they choose, for voting and tax purposes, when they move with their spouse to duty locations outside the Alaska.
The Care Affordability for Military Families Act (S.476) would reduce the one-way travel distance required for reimbursement when military families must travel to specialty medical care providers. Currently, to qualify for reimbursement, families must travel at least 100 miles, one-way and this bill would lower the reimbursement minimum to 50 miles, one-way. Under the current system, families traveling from Delta Junction, the nearest community to Fort Greely, to a specialist in Fairbanks would not be reimbursed for their approximately 90-mile journey, but would be reimbursed under S.476. The bill could also benefit families based at Clear Air Force Station, which is 78 miles from Fairbanks.
“When military families are stationed at rural posts in Alaska, traveling off post to see a specialist is often a burden” Murkowski said. “By lowering the minimum mileage for reimbursement, we can provide some relief to Alaska’s military families who must be seen by a specialist.”
The Military Spouses Residency Relief Act (S.475) would protect the right of spouses of service members to vote in their home state, and guarantee the right of military spouses to vote in U.S. elections while living abroad. It also establishes that the income tax domicile for a military spouse is the individual’s home state. Some military spouses are now required to complete multiple state income tax returns when they move to new duty locations. Federal law has long provided that the income tax domicile of the service member is the state the service member regards as home, regardless of duty location. The bill does not alter current state rules regarding eligibility for the Alaska Permanent Fund dividend.
“The men and women of our armed forces are not the only people who serve our country,” Murkowski said. “Military spouses must make substantial sacrifices to support their husbands and wives who are deployed in the service of our country, and this bill will grant them the benefit protections they deserve.”
The Military Spouses Residency Relief Act will be considered in a hearing before the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee on Wednesday, April 29, 2009.
The military spouses’ measure was introduced earlier this year by Sens. Dianne Feinstein, D-CA and Richard Burr, R-NC, and the reimbursement proposal was introduced earlier this year by Sens. Barbara Boxer, D-CA and Kit Bond, R-MO.