Correcting benefits for medically retired vets a ‘top priority’ for Senate VA Committee, Tester vows
Rose L. Thayer
Stars and Stripes
March 1, 2023
This will be the year that the law is changed
to allow all medically retired veterans to receive full retirement and
disability checks — not just veterans with more than 20 years of
service, Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont., vowed Tuesday.
“This is a top priority for nearly
every veterans service group,” Tester, the chairman of the Senate
Veterans’ Affairs Committee, said during a news conference about the
bill known as the Maj. Richard Star Act. “We’ll take our marching orders
from them. They're the folks that served.”
The Star Act, which was first
introduced in 2021, would allow veterans who were forced to retire for
medical reasons prior to reaching 20 years of service to be eligible to
receive full benefit payments from their Defense Department retirement
and Department of Veterans Affairs disability.
The law now requires a veteran’s
retirement check be reduced based on the amount of his or her disability
payment. This is known in government as concurrent receipt. A 2004
change to the law allowed for veterans with a disability rating more
than 50% and more than 20 years of service to receive the full amount of
More than 50,000 combat-injured
veterans would benefit from the Star Act, if it passed, according to the
Military Officers Association of America.
Tester reintroduced the bill Feb. 9 with Sen. Mike Crapo, R-Idaho, and they have collected 49 cosponsors for the bill.
Rep. Gus Bilirakis, R-Fla.,
introduced the House version of the bill Monday with Rep. Raul Ruiz,
D-Calif., and said during the news conference that it already has 200
The Star Act also has the backing
of The Military Coalition, which is comprised of 35 military and veteran
service organizations that represent more than 5.5 million service
members, veterans, family members and survivors.
“Military retirement pay and
disability compensation are two separate benefits. For those injured in
the line of duty, this offset creates an undue financial burden on the
family of a disabled veteran,” Vietnam Veterans of America National
President Jack McManus said in a statement. “Those injured in defense of
the U.S. Constitution have earned these benefits. It is time for
Congress to address this injustice and change this law.”
If passed, the law would cost about $7 billion for 10 years, Tester said.
“People are going to argue that
this costs too much money to do,” he said. “If we're going to send them
off to war, we take care of them when they get home. Otherwise, we
shouldn’t send them off to war to begin with.”
Richard Star, the veteran for whom
the legislation is named, served in the Army Reserve and deployed to
Iraq and Afghanistan. He medically retired in 2018 after being diagnosed
with lung cancer that was linked to toxic exposure from those
deployments. He died Feb. 13, 2021, at age 51.
“We've got to get this done for him
and the rest of the heroes, all the heroes who worked so very hard, and
really wanted to go the full 20 years, but through no fault of their
own, because they were injured in combat, they were not able to continue
the careers,” Bilirakis said.
Disclaimer: The opinions expressed within this article are the views of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of FRA.