After important progress in the House, a MOAA-supported bill correcting a longtime injustice for combat-injured veterans faces a critical moment in the Senate as both chambers consider annual defense authorization legislation.
More than two-thirds of Congress supports the Major Richard Star Act (H.R. 1282/S. 344) – as of June 29, 325 of 435 House members and 68 of 100 senators had signed on as co-sponsors. MOAA and other military and veteran advocacy groups have turned attention to the Senate, where Sens. Jon Tester (D-Mont.) and Mike Crapo (R-Idaho) plan to introduce a floor amendment to that chamber’s version of the FY 2024 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) including the text of the Star Act.
[TAKE ACTION: Ask Your Legislators to Support Combat-Injured Veterans]
Growing co-sponsors to reach the goal of over 70 in the Senate is nearing critical mass; if you haven’t already, ask your senators to join the fight.
The Star Act cleared the House Armed Services Committee (HASC) on June 21, but was not included in that chamber’s NDAA legislation. While the bill could proceed to the House floor for a standalone vote, budgetary rules remain a problem.
HASC Chairman Mike Rogers (R-Ala.) indicated his support for the legislation, and his frustration over funding it, in his opening statement to the committee.
“H.R. 1282 ensures that veterans who were medically retired from the military with less than 20 years of service AND are eligible for Combat-Related Special Compensation receive full concurrent receipt,” Rogers said. “Although I support this bill, I am disappointed the committee is being forced to act on it before a pay-for could be found. Moving a bill forward with mandatory spending that isn’t fully offset opens the bill up to a point of order against its consideration on the floor. That is the reason why we cannot carry mandatory spending provisions that have no offset in the NDAA.”
[FROM THE MILITARY COALITION: Star Act Information Paper]
Grassroots advocacy from across The Military Coalition and our military and veteran communities worked to achieve the House committee vote – it serves as evidence that messages from constituents matter to elected officials. Advocacy is still required for a negotiated solution to the budgetary requirement for an “offset” to keep overall mandatory spending at the same levels.
This is a frustrating situation – requiring an “offset” to remove the “offset” facing combat-injured veterans who lose the DoD retirement pay they earned through extraordinary sacrifice for years served and grade achieved.
Hope in the Senate
While the Senate Armed Services Committee has yet to release the full text of its NDAA version, it will not include the Star Act. Sens. Tester and Crapo hope to correct this oversight via a floor amendment, but cost remains the stumbling block for supporting combat-injured veterans.
Most senators have not served in uniform. It seems too many have not considered the impact of the recruiting crisis on the all-volunteer force. Servicemembers do not get to tell commanders they are concerned about cost when ordered to deploy, and lawmakers seeking a stronger military must begin by correcting policies unfairly punishing those who serve. The Star Act not only restores the earned compensation of more than 50,000 combat-injured veterans, it will serve to show a greater commitment by our lawmakers to the fair treatment of all who wear the uniform.
Check here (Senate | House) to see whether your lawmakers support the Major Richard Star Act, and click here to read more about MOAA’s advocacy efforts on the issue and get talking points to share with your legislators and their staffers. For more information on other advocacy initiatives, please visit MOAA’s Advocacy News page.
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