New Bill Would Stop Disabled Vets from Losing Retirement Benefits
Washington, D.C. — Senator Harry Reid (D-NV) has a new bill that would protect disabled combat veterans from losing their retirement benefits.
The bill, called the “Combat-Related Special Compensation Act of 2006,” was introduced in the Senate today. It would give pro-rated retirement benefits to military personnel who are forced into early retirement because of combat injuries. Right now, troops who get injured before they complete 20 years of service are forced out of the military without any retirement pay.
“I have visited military hospitals, and have seen first-hand the terrible injuries our troops have suffered,” said Reid. “People who had planned to make the military a career are being forced into premature retirement because of medical problems. That means they lose their retirement pay, and I think that’s unfair. We shouldn’t penalize veterans because they were injured serving their country. They fought to protect us, and now we need to take care of them.”
The “Combat-Related Special Compensation Act of 2006” is especially important because of the number of injuries among soldiers in Iraq. The nature of the combat in Iraq has caused an increase in medically discharged veterans. Reid’s bill will allow those veterans to get both disability pay and pro-rated retirement pay.
“Some of these veterans have served 10 or 15 years, and had planned to keep serving until retirement. Now they can’t,” said Reid. “These people serve because they love America. They made sacrifices to protect our freedom. It’s not their fault they got injured. If we force them into early retirement, we should at least give them the retirement benefits they’ve earned. It’s the right thing to do.”
The “Combat-Related Special Compensation Act of 2006” is part of Reid’s ongoing efforts to end an outdated policy known as the ban on concurrent receipt. The policy prevents disabled veterans from collecting both their military retirement pay and disability compensation. Retired disabled veterans must deduct the amount of any disability compensation they receive – dollar for dollar – from their retirement pay.
Reid has been working for years to end the ban on concurrent receipt. In 2003, Congress passed his bill to allow concurrent receipt for some veterans, although with a ten-year waiting period. Last year, Congress passed Reid’s amendment to expand concurrent receipt to cover America’s most severely disabled veterans, and to implement the new policy immediately instead of phasing it in over a decade. However, that legislation will not be enacted until 2009.
“Ending the ban on concurrent receipt remains one of my highest priorities,” said Reid. “I’m proud of the progress we’ve made so far, but we need to keep chipping away at the unfair policy in place now. I am committed to that goal 100-percent.”
“We’re grateful to Senator Reid for championing this cause and going this extra mile to make sure our nation’s disabled heroes no longer suffer such indignities,” said Vice Admiral Norb Ryan, Jr., President of the Military Officers Association of America. “A military retiree who spent at least 20 years in uniform and who has any combat-incurred disability no longer suffers under the unfair policy banning concurrent receipt. But a service member who suffers a 100-percent disabling combat injury and is forced into medical retirement with 19 years and 11 months of service can still lose his entire retired pay. People in that circumstance should be vested so they don’t suffer that penalty.”