Vets Call Sequestration Cuts "Irresponsible"

Readers of Tom Philpott's Military Update column sound off on sequestration matters affecting military benefits.

MORE GAIN IN ‘CONCURRENT RECEIPT' ELIGIBILITY UNLIKELY

I retired in 1990 with a 20-percent disability.  Over the years I was led to believe there was a change made to law whereby military retirees with disabilities would receive their full retirement pay and a disability check based upon their percentage of disability.  I believe the term used was "concurrent receipt."

New articles I've read on this advised retirees that the change would begin with retirees having 100-percent disability ratings and progress to include everyone with a disability.  I have not seen any news coverage updating on this issue either from the military or the commercial press.

In July last year I began checking into this, contacting Rep. Ron Barber at his Sierra Vista, Ariz., office.  They advised me to check back in October 2012. In September I read an Army Times article which stated:  "Medical disability retirees still have their military retired pay reduced dollar for dollar by any amount received in VA disability compensation.  That offset has been phased out for most disabled military retirees with 20 or more years of service and will be fully phased out for all by 2014, giving them concurrent receipt of both benefits."

I heard nothing from Barber's office and contacted them again in November.  I was put in touch with an aide named Jeremy.  He advised me that concurrent receipt was capped in 2004, affecting only those with 50-percent disability ratings.  He said a change to extend to retirees with lesser disabilities was included in the 2010 budget request, which the House passed but the Senate rejected.  Another change had been agreed to in the House in 2012 but again had been turned down in the Senate.

I am hoping you could look into this issue and provide some up-to-date information.  I personally know other retirees in Sierra Vista who have been patiently waiting to get concurrent receipt checks for disabilities rated below 50 percent.  There must be thousands of others throughout the U.S. who still believe that their benefit will be forthcoming.

PETER P. SMITH
Master Sergeant, USA-Ret.
Via email

During the Bush administration – and despite initial opposition from that administration -- Congress voted to phase out the ban on concurrent receipt for the most seriously disabled military retirees, those with ratings from the VA of 50 percent or higher.

In 2008, then-presidential candidate Barack Obama campaigned on a promise to continue to phase out the concurrent receipt ban for all disabled retirees, meaning those with ratings 40 percent and below.  He proposed such a change his first year in office but didn't set aside money to pay for it, and the full Congress failed to pass it.

In his 2010 budget request, the president abandoned the idea of bringing relief to retirees with disability ratings of 40 percent or less.  Instead his budget proposed a wholly new idea: phase in "concurrent receipt" eligibility for all Chapter 61 retirees – those who received a disability retirement from the Department of Defense.  Many Chapter 61 retirees -- those with ratings of 50 percent or higher -- already were eligible for concurrent receipt.  So this initiative targeted Chapter 61 retirees who were forced from service by ailments or injuries before they could serve 20 years and qualify for regular retirement. 

In other words, ignoring regular retirees who received disability ratings from VA of 40 percent or lower, the administration proposed expanding eligibility for the Concurrent Retirement and Disability Pay (CRDP) to all Chapter 61 retirees.  Why?

The White House's Office of Management and Budget came up with this idea as an affordable compromise.  It would cost $5.4 billion over the first 10 years versus $45 billion if Obama fulfilled his pledge to extend concurrent receipt to all disabled military retirees.  This would allow Congress to continue to address CR but dampen the cost of doing so by targeting a smaller group and giving priority to the more severely disabled under a five-year phase-in plan. 

 Congress didn't authorize this change either.   After 2010, it wasn't mentioned again in Obama's budgets.  Since then, all attention has been on the debt crisis and to slowing growth in federal entitlements rather than creating more.  So Congress in the near term will not vote to expand concurrent receipt eligibility to retirees with disabilities rated 40 percent or less. – Tom Philpott

IRRESPONSIBLE

As a Navy veteran I find these defense budgets cuts through sequestration to be irresponsible.  How much do we have to jeopardize our soldiers and sailors so that our elected officials can neglect doing their job?

 I think it is time our elected officials are held to the same standard as the civilian sector: if you don't do the job you were hired for, you get fired.

SUSAN TUCKER
Via email

Let's look at realistic ways to save money:

-- Cut "special interest" projects until we're back on our financial feet.
-- Slow our contributions to foreign countries and let other nations that can afford it catch up to what U.S. taxpayers have contributed without a say.
-- Be more frugal in our spending to rebuild what we blow up.  After all, there's a reason for its destruction; why put it back or even make it better than what was there?
-- Stop building roads in foreign countries.  We can't afford to maintain what we have here and it's our money not the government's.
-- Penalize U.S. companies through tariffs for taking their operations and jobs outside our country.
-- Stop importing oil from Arab nations when we have plenty here that we're not using.
-- Take real action to address a generation of welfare babies that are sucking the system dry.
-- Make our senators, representatives and government officials serve 20 years, like our military, before they can draw retirement benefits.
The common sense list goes on and on.  But with all of the little, private agendas of folks who are supposed to work for us, they increasingly care only about what's in it for them.  

THOMAS J. MCCANN II
Chief Petty Officer, USN-Ret.
Via email

Letters may be edited for clarity or length.  Write to Military Forum, P.O. Box 231111, Centreville, VA 20120-1111, send e-mail to militaryforum@aol.com or visit www.militaryupdate.com

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Tom Philpott has been breaking news for and about military people since 1977. After service in the Coast Guard, and 17 years as a reporter and senior editor with Army Times Publishing Company, Tom launched "Military Update," his syndicated weekly news column, in 1994. "Military Update" features timely news and analysis on issues affecting active duty members, reservists, retirees and their families.

Visit Tom Philpott's Military Update Archive to view his past articles.

Tom also edits a reader reaction column, "Military Forum." The online "home" for both features is Military.com.

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Tom's freelance articles have appeared in numerous magazines including The New Yorker, Reader's Digest and Washingtonian. His critically-acclaimed book, Glory Denied, on the extraordinary ordeal and heroism of Col. Floyd "Jim" Thompson, the longest-held prisoner of war in American history, is available in hardcover and paperback.

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