With the sunset of the widow’s tax earlier in 2023, Gold Star families are turning to a new fight: changing a law that takes away survivors’ benefits for spouses who remarry before age 55. With the so-called “remarriage penalty” being reevaluated in Congress, an advocate shares the latest updates — and military widows share their personal experiences.

About the guests:

Linda K. Ambard is a retired community support coordinator. She retired from Kadena Air Force Base, Japan. Ambard started working for the Air Force in 1986 at the Mountain Home Air Force Base swimming pool. She has held a variety of positions to include Child Development Center director, Youth Programs director, Family Child Care coordinator, DoDEA teacher, and community support coordinator. During her community support coordinator tenure, led the youth resiliency effort at AFMC, created a training video still in use for training casualty officers, and was published for her research in positive trauma growth. Furthermore, Ambard was featured in many public forums to include television, radio and newspaper for her efforts in resiliency and military loss awareness. Ambard was the voice on the Gold Star Air Force training video.

Kaanan Fugler, surviving spouse of Staff Sgt. Matthew Mackey, visits his grave with her children.

Kaanan Fugler is the healthcare navigator in the Supportive Services for Veteran Families Department for Volunteers of America South Central Louisiana. She is the surviving spouse of Staff Sgt. Matthew Mackey, who died 18 days after an active duty accident on July 28, 2010. She is also the mother to five Gold Star children. In 2017, she remarried and became the wife of a disabled veteran, Joshua. She holds a bachelor’s degree in political science from Southern New Hampshire University and a master’s in public administration from Louisiana State University. Before joining the VOA staff, she had spent the last 13 years advocating to protect and improve the rights and earned benefits of surviving families and veterans. She has spent much of her free time making phone calls to legislative representatives advocating for a change of policies that have impacted countless veterans and military surviving families. She continued this advocacy after graduation where she joined others to rally Congress to fix the military widow’s tax. She has written several testimonies about the impacts of current laws on her family that the Transition Assistance Program for Survivors has read and written for testimony before the Veterans Affairs Committee for the U.S. House of Representatives. The most recent was testimony supporting the Love Lives On Act. Through her remarriage, she brought attention to the need for surviving spouses to maintain DoD access to minor children’s records upon remarriage. It was part of the most recent NDAA. She is active in several Gold Star communities and sat on the Gary Sinise Foundation’s Alumni Committee for Snowball Express last year. She has spent time in the past traveling for the Folds of Honor Foundation as an event speaker, helping raise donations that support scholarships for families of the fallen and wounded service members. At VOA, she advocates for and assists homeless and at-risk veterans in obtaining the resources necessary to obtain and maintain permanent housing.

About the podcast:

The Spouse Angle is a podcast breaking down the news for military spouses and their families. Each episode features subject-matter experts and military guests who dive into current events from a military perspective — everything from new policy changes to research on family lifestyle challenges. The podcast is hosted by Natalie Gross, a freelance journalist and former Military Times reporter who grew up in a military family.

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Military Times contributor and former reporter Natalie Gross hosts the Spouse Angle podcast. She grew up in a military family and has a master's degree in journalism from Georgetown University.

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