Guest column submitted by U.S. Senator Mike Crapo
All active duty and retired military personnel deserve to receive the full care and benefits they have earned. When Major Richard A. Star, namesake and champion of S. 344, the Major Richard Star Act, passed away last year after a long fight against cancer, our country lost a resolute leader in ensuring veterans receive the benefits they have earned. Major Star was a father, husband and decorated war veteran who, as a result of his combat-related injuries, was medically retired. In honor of his legacy and with deep respect for his fellow veterans and military families, we continue pursuing every possible opportunity to enact this needed legislation.
I recently joined Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee Chairman Jon Tester (D-Montana) in filing the Major Richard Star Act as an amendment to the Fiscal Year (FY) 2023 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). This would ensure medically retired and combat-injured veterans receive both military retired pay and disability compensation earned through their service to our country. Since we introduced the stand-alone bill, S. 344, in February of 2021 along with Committee Ranking Member Jerry Moran (R-Kansas) and more than 40 original co-sponsors, including fellow U.S. Senator for Idaho Jim Risch, the legislation has steadily gained support. The Major Richard Star Act now has commanding Senate support, with 67 Senate co-sponsors. Also, the House companion bill, H.R. 1282, has 319 co-sponsors, including Representative Mike Simpson (R-Idaho).
The legislation has the strong backing of leading Veterans Service Organizations making the case for ensuring medically retired and combat-injured veterans receive full compensation. This includes Idaho veterans who have informed my decision to co-lead the legislation and have worked to gain support for ending pay offsets for medically retired combat veterans.
The non-partisan Congressional Research Service explains the issue: “Concurrent receipt refers to a veteran's simultaneous receipt of two types of monetary benefits: military retired pay from the Department of Defense (DOD) and disability compensation from the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). Prior to 2004, existing laws and regulations stipulated that a military retiree could not receive both payments. As a result, military retirees with disabilities recognized by the VA would incur a retired pay offset (i.e., dollar-for-dollar reduction) by the amount of their VA compensation.”Congress made changes to federal law to ensure military retirees with a disability rating of 50 percent or higher could receive both military retired pay and disability compensation. However, for retired veterans with less than 20 years of service, their disability pay is deducted from their retirement pay.
The Major Richard Star Act would correct this injustice by providing combat-wounded veterans with less than 20 years of service, also known as Chapter 61 Veterans, both their disability compensation and retirement pay without reduction. The funding for this policy change will come from the existing Military Retiree Trust Fund, with no increase to VA or DOD budgets.
More than 50,000 veterans, including hundreds in Idaho, could benefit from this change, based on the most currently available data from the DOD Office of the Actuary. We must meet the responsibility of fixing unfair discrepancies, such as this, to honor the service of all veterans and Major Star’s enduring legacy. I look forward to enactment of the Major Richard Star Act.
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