Concurrent Receipt Update: Senate Support Remains Strong After House Setback

Concurrent Receipt Update: Senate Support Remains Strong After House Setback
Maj. Richard Star, USAR, poses his wife Tonya. Star, an Iraq and Afghanistan war veteran whose advocacy efforts in support of concurrent receipt for his fellow servicemembers continued into his final months, died in February after a battle with lung cancer. (Courtesy photo)

A House committee ruling will keep much-needed concurrent receipt reforms out of that chamber’s defense authorization debate, but there’s still time to make your voice heard on behalf of tens of thousands of ill and injured veterans.

 

During its discussion of the FY 2022 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), the House Rules Committee on Sept. 20 found the Major Richard Star Act (H.R. 1282/S. 344) was not in order as an NDAA amendment because there was no identified way to pay for concurrent receipt for the 48,000 combat injured it would support. The bill must have majority support in the House to overcome the chamber’s budgetary “Pay as You Go” procedures and secure a waiver from the committee that would allow it to proceed for a vote.

 

Sens. Jon Tester (D-Mont.) and Mike Crapo (R-Idaho) will submit the Star Act as an amendment to the Senate version of the NDAA later this month, though without its inclusion in the House bill, it’s unlikely to reach the final version.

 

It remains important for you to reach out to your lawmakers and ask them to sign onto  H.R. 1282 and S. 344. Cosponsors (121 in the House, 52 in the Senate) will carry over to the next legislative session, where there is a strong foundation of support. Click these links to see whether your House member or your senators support this legislation. Continuing to build cosponsors for the Star Act each year is the strategy to achieve a win on concurrent receipt.

 

[TAKE ACTION: Ask Your Lawmakers to Support the Major Richard Star Act]

 

The text of the Star Act was No. 558 of the more than 860 proposed amendments to the House version of the NDAA (H.R. 4350). It would have authorized Concurrent Retirement and Disability Pay (CRDP) for combat-related injury or illness. The Star Act is championed in the House by Rep. Gus Bilirakis (R-Fla.) and Rep. Raul Ruiz (D-Calif.).

 

“This group of retired veterans, also known as Chapter 61 retirees, are arguably the most at-risk because of their complex combat injuries and are just as deserving as those who served greater than 20 years of service,” Bilirakis said. “By creating the CRDP, I firmly believe that Congress admitted that the offset required of disabled veterans was wrong.

 

“Approximately 550,000 military retirees are eligible to receive both military retired pay and VA disability compensation but are prohibited under the current guidelines of this program. In my view, I see these veterans as essentially being taxed for their service and sacrifice because they were deemed service-connected disabled.”

 

The Star Act is part of a bipartisan, bicameral strategy to address the larger concurrent receipt problem. It would provide support to 48,000 veterans forced to medically retire because of a combat-related injury. You can find the information on those affected, by state, in the Statistical Report on the Military Retirement System.

 

Many Retirees Fund Their Own Disability Pay

Retired pay is for vested years of service paid by DoD, while disability compensation is for service-caused injury paid by the VA. Reducing a retiree’s retirement pay to fund their own disability is an injustice, yet Title 10 of the U.S. Code requires this reduction, referred to as an offset, dollar for dollar.

 

In 2004, MOAA and The Military Coalition (TMC), a group of organizations representing nearly 5.5 million members of the military community, secured concurrent receipt for retirees who served at least 20 years and have a VA disability rating at 50% or higher. Left behind after that 2004 change are 20-year retirees with a 40% disability rating and below, and those who were medically retired under Chapter 61 with less than 20 years of service. 

 

Previous efforts and advocacy opportunities have not moved us any closer to full concurrent receipt for all those others with service-connected disabilities who are also drawing retirement pay. The total cost to fix concurrent receipt is estimated at $33 billion over 10 years, which is why an incremental strategy, with iterative progress, is necessary.

 

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About the Author

Lt. Col. Mark Belinsky, USA (Ret)
Lt. Col. Mark Belinsky, USA (Ret)

Belinsky retired in 2019 after serving 22 years, with overseas tours to Afghanistan, Iraq, the Republic of Korea, and Germany. He joined the MOAA team in 2019 as Director, Currently Serving and Retired Affairs.