By Debbie Gregory.
The Congressional Budget Office has revealed that eliminating the collection of retirement pay and disability compensation simultaneously could save the government billions of dollars.
Changing the benefit, which is called “concurrent receipt” would affect some 600,000 military veterans who are able to collect both benefits.
Veterans who sustained career-ending combat injuries are eligible for combat-related special compensation, while those veterans who received a disability rating of 50 percent or more after at least 20 years of service are eligible for concurrent retirement and disability pay.
Congress authorized some veterans to take both as military personnel began to sustain grievous wounds in Afghanistan and Iraq. Since then the number of veterans receiving both retirement pay and disability compensation has risen drastically — from 33 percent in 2005 to more than 50 percent in 2015.
Up until 2003, disabled veterans had to select either their full retirement compensation from the Department of Defense or their disability benefit from Veterans Affairs with a reduced retirement annuity.
In 2015, Air Force Col. Mike Hayden, then-director of government relations for the Military Officers Association of America (MOAA) said, “MOAA’s position is that career service members earn their retired pay by service alone and those unfortunate enough to suffer a service-caused disability in the process should have any VA disability compensation from the VA added to, not subtracted from, their service-earned military retired pay.”
Last year, about 55 percent of the 2 million or so military retirees were subject to the VA offset penalty. Of those, about half — 575,000 retirees — took both payments totaling $10 billion, according to CBO estimates.
Changing the benefit could potentially save the government $139 billion over the next eight years. But is it the right thing to do?