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VA Takes Back Compensation Benefits From Disabled Vets

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By Debbie Gregory.

From 2010 to 2015, the Department of Veteran Affairs has taken almost half a billion dollars in military separation pay back from disabled veterans. Why? Two words- double dipping.

Close to 25,000 veterans were penalized as a result of a decades old federal law that bans the “double dipping” of government benefits.

Years after the military ramped up its force size for the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, as those conflicts wound down and budget sequestration kicked in, many service members were forced out of the military due to downsizing, and they got a nasty shock when they received a disability rating from the VA.

Servicemembers who accepted military separation pay will have to pay that money back to the VA if they later apply for disability compensation. Once their severance is fully repaid, usually through monthly withholdings, they can collect full disability payments.

In a letter, the VA’s Office of General Counsel offered little defense of that long-standing practice:

“Neither the statutory text nor the legislative history… provides clear insight into the ‘why’ behind the requirement that separation pay must be recouped from VA disability benefits.”

There are some veterans who have succeeded in appealing their recoupment rates by contacting their elected representatives. Often times, if you take your problem to your local congressperson, they can help you navigate the government red tape.

“There is a promise between the American public, the American taxpayer, and military service members, when they go in, when they serve and when they get out, they’ll have this support, and in my view, the federal government and the Congress are violating this contractual obligation,” said Democratic Rep. Mark DeSaulnier of California.

DeSaulnier would like to pass legislation to stop the recoupments, but finding funds to pay for it has stalled those plans in Congress.

Military Connection salutes and proudly serves veterans and service members in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, Guard and Reserve,  and their families.

Should Congress Halt Concurrent Receipt to Veterans to Save Money?

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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?

Military Connection salutes and proudly serves veterans and service members in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, Guard and Reserve,  and their families.

Military Connection: Great News for VA Benefits: By Debbie Gregory

S.2258A measure has been passed that paves the way for increased benefits for Veterans with disabilities.

The Veterans’ Compensation Cost-of-Living Adjustment Act of 2014, referred to the Senate’s Committee on Veterans” Affairs as Senate bill: S.2258, passed by unanimous committee consent on September 11th. It was then sent to the House. Once in the House, S. 2258 was fast tracked on a motion by Rep. Lamborn from Colorado. The legislation was passed by a voice vote in the House on September 16th.

Essentially, the Veterans’ Compensation Cost-of-Living Adjustment Act of 2014 directs the secretary of Veterans Affairs to increase the payments of a number of Veteran benefits. The increased rates will affect benefits such as Veterans” disability compensation, additional compensation for dependents, clothing allowances for certain disabled veterans, and dependency and indemnity compensation for surviving spouses and children. The measure also requires each increase to be the same percentage as the increase in benefits provided under Title II (Old Age, Survivors and Disability Insurance) of the Social Security Act, on the same effective date.

According to the bill, the changes would go into effect as of December 1, 2014.

Since the Veterans’ Compensation Cost-of-Living Adjustment Act of 2014 has been passed in both the House and Senate, it now heads to President Obama to either be vetoed or signed into law.

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Military Connection: Great News for VA Benefits: By Debbie Gregory