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Thread: Disabled retirees may start getting two checks

  1. #1

    Disabled retirees may start getting two checks

    Published: Saturday, August 31, 2002Â*@@@@
    Disabled retirees may start getting two checks


    Tom Philpott
    Military Update

    Congress seems ready to scrap a century-old ban on receiving both military retired pay and disability compensation from the Veterans Administration.

    But is the political momentum that carried the issue this far losing ground to rising budget deficits, a presidential veto threat and unease among some lawmakers who publicly support the multibillion-dollar initiative?

    David Chu hopes so. As under secretary of defense for personnel and readiness, he is the Bush administration's top critic of sending two checks to one person. Congress, he argues, doesn't understand the ban, and if it's removed, will come to regret it.

    "This is a bad choice for the American public. It's not really targeted at the veterans who are our greatest concern, and therefore the administration opposes it," Chu said.

    A House-Senate conference committee soon will iron out differences in separate versions of the 2003 defense authorization bills. One difference is over the practice of reducing retired pay dollar-for-dollar when someone draws tax-free disability compensation.

    The House voted to phase out the offset over five years for roughly 90,000 retirees with disability ratings of 60 percent or higher from the Department of Veterans Affairs. The Senate would end the offset immediately for all 700,000 career retirees drawing VA disability pay.

    About 700,000 nondisabled retirees are expected to apply for VA disability ratings once the retired pay offset ends.

    The administration agrees with Congress that disabled retirees must be properly compensated, Chu said. "Where we disagree is over what's necessary to do that."
    Proponents for ending the offset say other disabled veterans can leave the service, take federal civilian or private industry jobs, and draw both VA compensation and civilian pay or retirement without suffering an offset.

    It's an appealing argument, Chu conceded. But it ignores the "generous" military retirement package payable after 20 years and fully protected from inflation, he said. It's generous in part to compensate for the danger and, to some extent, career-related ailments or injuries, Chu added. The law has allowed retirees to replace taxable retired pay with tax-free disability pay, but has not allowed, until now, any double payments.

    VA compensation was designed, Chu said, for veterans unable to complete their careers due to disability.

    Congress somehow lost focus on the real question, Chu said, which is, "Are we taking care of veterans properly?" Instead, it moved to satisfy retirees who want to draw both benefits, regardless of financial need.

    Chu said he has heard from senior officers with distinguished combat service who say Congress is going too far. If there are disabled retirees not properly compensated, Chu said, "it's a very small group."

    Yet, if the Senate provision passes, two-thirds of all military retirees would begin drawing a second payment, in a range from a few hundreds dollars a month to $2,100 or more for retirees rated 100 percent disabled.

    "I don't think anyone really argues that two-thirds of our military retirees are in trouble financially," Chu said.

    Mitchell Daniels, director of the Office of Management and Budget, will recommend a presidential veto if either provision is enacted, Chu said.

    Steve Strobridge of the Retired Officers Association, an advocate for the Military Coalition, an umbrella group of service associations, said Chu is trying to apply a needs test to a dispute over earned benefits. "According to that logic, we shouldn't pay senators, because most of them are millionaires," Strobridge said.

    "The issue is: Did people earn their disability compensation? Did they earn their retired pay? If they did, then anything they get for the disability should be in addition to retired pay. They should not be forced to give up their retired pay," Strobridge said.

    He hasn't detected a lot of wavering on this issue. Some lawmakers always are ready to drop support for high-priced programs, he said. But with military pay, "90 percent of Congress has their name on the line."

    Comments and suggestions are welcomed. Write to Military Update, P.O. Box 231111, Centreville, VA 20120-1111, or send e-mail to milupdate@aol.com

    http://www.heraldnet.com/Stories/02/8/31/15792910.cfm

  2. #2
    Super Moderator Sue Pendleton's Avatar
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    "Proponents for ending the offset say other disabled veterans can leave the service, take federal civilian or private industry jobs, and draw both VA compensation and civilian pay or retirement without suffering an offset."

    Just like our elected representatives. The few who bothered to actually sign on for military service, that is. They can draw as many paychecks from as many government agencies as we have agencies.

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