Mark an Iraq War Milestone by Supporting Combat-Injured Veterans

Mark an Iraq War Milestone by Supporting Combat-Injured Veterans
A U.S. Army 3rd Infantry Division tank rolls deeper into Iraqi territory March 23, 2003, south of the city of An Najaf. (Photo by Scott Nelson/Getty Images)

Twenty years ago, a coalition of American and British combined forces invaded Iraq as part of the Global War on Terror. The invasion went faster than expected, nearly outrunning logistics, and demonstrated the unique teamwork and initiative empowered by mutual trust across our armed forces. At unit level, mutual trust was essential for rapid decision-making on the move.


Now, both nations face a recruiting crisis and a diminished trust in service and propensity to serve. The anniversary of this invasion is a good time to reach out to your lawmakers and ask them to build back some of that trust by supporting combat-injured veterans by passing the Major Richard Star Act, a bill bearing the name of an Iraq War veteran.


[TAKE ACTION: Urge Your Legislators To Support The Major Richard Star Act]


The bill (H.R. 1282/S. 344) would help those forced to medically retire and ease some moral injury from having their retirement pay reduced as a cost-savings measure. Saving money on the backs of our combat injured is the wrong way to improve our nation’s bottom line.


The Major Richard Star Act would repeal an unjust offset, one that reduces earned retirement pay from DoD for those injured in combat and forced to retire because of their injures before reaching 20 years of service.


Over two-thirds of Congress supported the Major Richard Star Act last year for good reason. Imagine being injured by an improvised explosive device (IED) in Iraq and waking up in a hospital bed to discover you could not return to service and your years of service would not fully count toward your calculated retirement pay because it is offset, dollar for dollar, by VA disability. DoD retired pay is for years of service and VA disability is compensation for injury: Two different payments for two different purposes.




This offset can have second- and third-order effects on our all-volunteer force. It erodes faith and trust in our nation’s commitment to servicemembers while we find ourselves in a recruiting crisis.


Servicemembers are focused on their mission and should not have to worry whether they will be taken care of if injured in combat. Trust is essential to support our all-volunteer force as we approach the 50th anniversary of transitioning away from the draft.


Last year, 336 representatives and 67 senators supported the Star Act as midterm elections drove lawmakers to engage with constituents. The measure did not pass due to time and cost concerns.


At the time this article was written, 243 representatives and 62 senators have co-sponsored the legislation in the 118th Congress. Of those who supported the bill last session, 76 representatives and 12 senators have yet to return as co-sponsors.


Some lawmakers wait until the end of the year to support legislation when it is already apparent it will not be included in the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). By reaching out early in the session, and by noting a legislator’s prior co-sponsorship of the bill, constituents should have an easy “ask” – one that will help the bill’s path to passage considerably.  


[RELATED: MOAA Answers Your Questions About Concurrent Receipt]


With the president’s budget recently released, including a large increase in DoD spending, it is important to engage your lawmakers and ask them why it remains necessary to cut costs on the backs of our combat-injured veterans.


Check to see whether your elected officials are co-sponsors here: House | Senate


You also can encourage friends and individuals in your network to call their legislators’ offices via MOAA’s Capitol Hotline – 866-272-MOAA (6622), a toll-free line to the U.S. Capitol switchboard – and request a meeting to discuss this issue with their military legislative assistant or legislative director.


You can follow this and other MOAA legislative priorities at MOAA’s Advocacy News page.


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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.