Washington, DC — Working to give America’s disabled veterans the full benefits they deserve, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid today introduced The Retired Pay Restoration Act of 2007, important legislation to allow veterans eligible for both disability compensation and retirement pay to collect both at the same time—also known as “concurrent receipt.” This issue has been a top priority of Nevada’s 250,000 veterans, as well as veterans across the country. Introducing the bill on the Senate floor, Reid said, “The Retired Pay Restoration Act of 2007 is important legislation because it ensures veterans receive what they rightfully deserve and doesn’t force them to choose between disability compensation or retirement.” Reid added, “Our state is home to the third largest veterans’ population in the nation. This is an important issue for Nevada veterans and I’m happy I can give back to the veterans that gave our country so much.” Reid is a champion in the fight for concurrent receipt. Year after year, members of Congress have revisited the existing ban on concurrent receipt as an injustice in compensation for veterans, but legislation addressing the issue has died several years in a row. Meanwhile, disabled veterans face the obstacle of forfeiting retirement pay dollar-for-dollar if they receive disability compensation. Senator Reid has a long record of fighting for Concurrent Receipt on behalf of America’s veterans:
- 2000—Reid introduced legislation to eliminate this unfair policy for the first time. The Senate passed his legislation, but it was removed by the House during conference.
- 2001/2002—Reid reintroduced the legislation again during the 107th Congress. It was once again adopted by the Senate, but removed in conference.
- 2003—Reid proposed legislation to allow disabled veterans with at least a fifty percent disability rating to become eligible for full concurrent receipt over a ten-year phase-in period. Despite veto threats from the Bush administration, Congress passed this version.
- 2004—Reid introduced and passed legislation to eliminate the ten-year phase-in period for veterans with a 100 percent disability rating to get concurrent receipt to the most severely disabled veterans.
- 2005—Reid successfully eliminated the ten-year phase-in for those veterans listed as “unemployable.” The conference committee chose not to enact this legislation for veterans rated as “unemployable” until 2009.
In addition to concurrent receipt, Reid has backed numerous veteran initiatives, including the Combat-Related Special Compensation Act, an increase in funding for the Department of Veterans Affairs and improved veterans’ health care across Nevada. The text of Senator Reid’s speech, as prepared, is below. Mr. President, in the next few days, the Senate will begin an historic debate about the war in Iraq—a war that has demanded unparalleled sacrifices from our men and women in uniform. While we have our disagreements about the President’s conduct of the war, the 100 of us stand side by side in supporting our troops. They have done everything asked of them, carrying their difficult mission with honor and with skill. We as a country owe the brave men and women in our military a debt of gratitude, and have a responsibility to ensure that our veterans receive both the thanks of a grateful nation and the benefits they have earned. Sadly, right now, for too many disabled veterans in my home state of Nevada and across this great nation, that is not the case. They’ve heard the thanks, but have been robbed of their benefits. I refer specifically to the thousands of men and women who have been denied their retirement because of an unfair policy referred to as concurrent receipt. By law, disabled veterans cannot collect disability pay and military retirement pay at the same time. What does this mean? It means that for every dollar of compensation a disabled veteran receives as a result of their injuries, they must sacrifice a dollar of the retirement pay they earned in the service of our nation. In many cases, this ban takes away a veteran’s full retirement pay, wiping away the benefits he or she earned in 20 or more years of service. It’s wrong. Concurrent receipt is a special tax on the very men and women who keep us safe. Few retired veterans can afford to live on their retirement pay alone. Those burdened with a severe disability face an even greater struggle, often denied any post-service working life. They receive disability compensation to pay for the pain, suffering, and lost future earnings caused by a service-connected illness or injury. No other federal retiree is forced to make forfeit their retirement—only our disabled military retirees. This is not just an error, it is a disgrace. Of course, concurrent receipt is not a new problem—most everyone in the Senate knows about it. This is the seventh year that I have introduced legislation to give disabled veterans the support they have earned, and I will continue fighting until we succeed in ending this unacceptable policy. We would never abandon a soldier on the battlefield, and we should not abandon disabled veterans when they return home. We are blessed in this country to be defended by an all-volunteer military. These patriots put their lives and safety on the line because they love this country. It is time for this country and this Congress to repay their service and their sacrifice, which is why I am introducing the “Retired Pay Restoration Act of 2007”.