President Donald Trump surprised members of the armed forces late Friday by issuing a public letter unveiling his Christmas gift for them and also wishing them all a very Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.
Published through his Twitter profile, the letter “To The Extraordinary Men and Women of the United States Military” began by praising America’s men and women in uniform for their “selfless service, noble sacrifice, and unfailing allegiance to duty and Country.”
To The Extraordinary Men and Women of the United States Military: pic.twitter.com/luDyPVKgfY
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 21, 2019
It then quickly pivoted to the president’s Christmas gift.
“Your incredible contributions to our Nation are why I am proud to inform you that I recently signed into law major improvements to the compensation and benefits for Federal Employees as part of the 2020 National Defense Reauthorization Act,” he wrote.
Shortly before publishing his letter to Twitter, the president signed a slew of last-minute spending bills that included, among other things, a 3.1 percent average federal pay raise for members of the military.
“Starting January 1, 2020, each service member will see their PAY INCREASE by 3.1 percent — the largest raise for our Military in more than 10 years,” his letter continued.
“While previous administrations allowed Military pay to stagnate, my Administration has secured pay raises for our Troops in each of the past 3 years — every year of my Presidency. This is unprecedented.”
Particularly given what occurred during the latter years of former President Barack Hussein Obama’s administration.
“President Obama used the power granted to him by section 1009(e), Title 37 of the U.S. Code to cap military pay increases at a maximum of 1 to 1.3% for the years 2014 through 2016,” even the left-wing fact-checking website Snopes notes.
Trump has blown way past that cap.
Continuing his letter, the president further noted that the spending bills he just signed into law also repeal the widely disliked, long-standing “Widow’s Tax.”
Honored to finally put an end to the “Widow’s Tax” and ensure that our surviving military spouses receive their full benefits. The spouses and families of our fallen heroes have suffered enough and WE must do everything in our power to ease the burden.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 21, 2019
What is the “Widow’s Tax?”
According to retired U.S. Navy Rear Admiral Tom Jurkowsky of the Military Officers Association of America, it’s a four-decades-old law that essentially makes the surviving family members of a deceased service member sacrifice some of their owed annuity.
“[S]urvivors of deceased service members who died as a result of military operations or service-connected causes are required to forfeit part or all of an annuity — referred to as the Survivor Benefit Plan, or SBP — which their service member purchased as a life insurance-type of policy,” he wrote in a column earlier this year.
“These survivors sacrifice part or all of the annuity because Congress mandated an offset from a Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) compensation for which survivors also are eligible, based on the service member’s cause of death.”
With the Senate passing the NDAA today, Widow’s Tax is one step closer to being repealed. Over 65K military families will be unburdened by this tax once @realDonaldTrump signs the bill. I am grateful for the resolve and dedication of the widows who never gave up! #WidowsTaxAxed
— Joe Wilson (@RepJoeWilson) December 17, 2019
The president concluded his letter by reminding America’s servicemen and servicewomen of the “vibrant” economy that awaits them once they return to civilian life.
“Our Country is vibrant, dynamic, thriving and flourishing. Almost 160 million great Americans are working — more than ever before — the unemployment rate is at a 50-year low, and wages are up substantially for the first time in decades. Our economy is booming and the Stock Market has set more than 130 record highs over the last 3 years …,” he wrote.
“I want to thank each of you for your distinguished service this past year, and I am excited about what we will achieve working together for the American people in 2020. Our Country has never been stronger than it is right now — and we are just getting started! May God bless you and your family this holiday season. May God bless the Military. And may God continue to bless the United States of America. Merry Christmas, and Happy New Year!”
The letter comes amid the recent release of a Military Times survey revealing that a 50.1 percent majority of the military boasts either a favorable or neutral view of the president.
The data also shows “Trump with a higher [military] approval rating than former President Barack Obama when he left office in January 2017,” the Times noted.
Friday’s announcement also comes amid the president having pardoned two Army veterans and restored the rank of a Navy SEAL for Thanksgiving:
- Clint Lorance was serving six years into a 19-year sentence for ordering his soldiers to kill three men in Afghanistan. Lorence supporters said he killed Taliban terrorists, but several members of his unit claimed the men were innocent.
- Mathew Golsteyn‘s trial was expected to begin in December. The Green Beret was charged with murder in the 2010 death of a suspected Taliban bomb maker. The bomb maker reportedly murdered two Marines.
- Edward Gallagher — a 15-year Navy SEAL — was acquitted of murdering an ISIS terrorist in Iraq in 2017.
No matter what the holiday, it seems like the president always has America’s men and women in uniform on his mind.