By Kristin Davis
MOAA members will be participating in the association's annual Storming the Hill event April 18. One of the issues we'll bring to members of Congress is the fight for recognition for Chapter 61 retirees. This is part of a series in which those medically retired servicemembers discuss their experiences.
Gunnery Sgt. Scott Damrauer, USMC (Ret), never wanted to be anything other than a Marine like his father. He enlisted in 1996 at age 18.
“I became an aircraft recovery specialist,” Damrauer says. “We stopped jets on runways like they do on aircraft carriers, except the Marine Corps does it on land.”
The job took a toll on his body. “By 2007, my shoulders and my ankle had been destroyed,” Damrauer says. “In 2008, I went through a medical board.” He was given a 30-percent disability rating. “That crushed my dreams of spending 20 years in the Marines,” he says.
He had no knowledge of military medical retirement impacts. “I had not heard about Chapter 61,” Damrauer says. “When I found out if you do less than 20 years, you either get your VA disability or your retirement, I didn't really comprehend that.”
The reality set in after he returned home to Pennsylvania and visited the VA, which ultimately bumped his disability rating to 80 percent.
“I had to find a job in Philadelphia. I traveled four hours every day and made less than what I was making in the Marines. But I had to,” Damrauer says. “I didn't choose to get hurt. I am retired. I have the same ID card [as] my Navy friend I work with who did 22 years. But he gets both his retirement and his VA disability. It's demoralizing. Absolutely demoralizing.”
MOAA supports ending the deduction of service-earned retirement pay to offset VA disability compensation for those servicemembers whose service-connected, non-combat related disability retirement under Chapter 61, 10 U.S.C. precluded them from serving at least 20 years. Click here to take action.