Push to End Offset for Combat-Injured Veterans Off to Strong Start in Senate

Push to End Offset for Combat-Injured Veterans Off to Strong Start in Senate
Photo via Architect of the Capitol (www.aoc.gov)

The Major Richard Star Act, legislation which would end an unfair pay offset faced by more than 50,000 combat-injured veterans, was reintroduced in the Senate on Feb. 9 and already has amassed 49 co-sponsors.


S. 344, introduced by Sens. Jon Tester (D-Mont.) and Mike Crapo (R-Idaho), would allow medically retired, combat-injured veterans with less than 20 years of service to receive full DoD retirement pay and VA disability pay, instead of losing hundreds of dollars a month to cover the current unfair offset.


Last year, over two-thirds of Congress supported the Star Act, with 67 Senate co-sponsors and another 336 in the House. The House will reintroduce its bill soon; advocates hope to build on last year’s support and grow the number of original co-sponsors, creating a path to passage as standalone legislation or as part of the annual National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA).


[TAKE ACTION: Urge Your Legislators to Support Concurrent Receipt]


“Before my husband Richard Star lost his long-fought battle, he made me promise him to continue to work with members of Congress, and help over 50,000 families that would desperately benefit from the Major Richard Star Act. It is my honor to carry on this effort in his memory.” said Tonya Star, widow of Maj. Richard Star, USAR. “Last year, two-thirds of Congress supported the Major Richard Star Act, and it is with much gratitude that I thank Senators Tester and Crapo for their continued commitment to pass this legislation for our servicemembers and their families.”


Richard Star asked many of us across the community of military and veterans service organizations (MSOs/VSOs) to keep up the fight after he was gone. A recent press release, replete with statements from advocates across the community, depicts the “one voice” effect critical for an advocacy campaign and commitment to keep that promise.  


“Supporting our combat injured is a national imperative,” said Jack Du Teil, president of The Military Coalition (TMC) – a group of 35 MSOs and VSOs, including MOAA, which represents nearly 5.5 million members of the wider uniformed services community. “More than two-thirds of Congress supported this legislation last year, and we look forward to working [with] Senators Tester and Crapo and Representatives [Gus] Bilirakis and [Raul] Ruiz to get this legislation passed into law this year.”


[MARCH 14 MOAA WEBINAR: Concurrent Receipt Programs: All You Need to Know (and More) About CRDP and CRSC]


Visiting the Hill

TMC advocates, including MOAA representatives, will gather Feb. 28 for in-person meetings on Capitol Hill with lawmakers who co-sponsored last year and are not yet signed on as co-sponsors for the 118th Congress. One of the goals is to reach House 290 co-sponsors, which would make the bill one of the first listed on the House Consensus Calendar when it opens March 1. Entry on that calendar can drive early negotiations for the bill, as the House must also grapple with rules for budgetary control.


The estimated cost of the Star Act is a source of concern for some lawmakers. Military retirement pay is ultimately paid by the DoD out of the Military Retirement Trust Fund; according to baseline projections in a 2020 Congressional Budget Office report, the balance of that fund “increases by 6 percent annually over the coming decade, reaching nearly $1.6 trillion in 2030.” 


The purpose of that fund is to pay for earned retirement, including those injured in combat and forced to retire before reaching 20 years of service.    


“Our combat-injured veterans earned their retirement pay for dedicated years of service often deployed away from home and frequently subjected to enemy fire,” said MOAA President and CEO Lt. Gen. Brian T. Kelly, USAF (Ret). “The Major Richard Star Act supports over 50,000 medically retired servicemembers injured in that line of fire. Maj. Richard Star inspired veterans across the nation with his selfless journey to ensure care for all families and servicemembers. We will honor his legacy by continuing his fight alongside Chairman Tester and Senator Crapo to pass concurrent receipt legislation.”


Make Your Voice Heard

Reaching out to lawmakers in coordination with the Feb. 28 TMC efforts and before the March 1 launch of the House Consensus Calendar will help support MOAA’s advocacy work on this critical bill. After contacting your senators and representatives, you also can encourage friends and individuals in your network to call their legislators’ offices via MOAA’s toll-free 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.


[RELATED: MOAA Answers Your Questions About Concurrent Receipt]


You can follow more about 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.