- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 8, 2002

On Sept. 25, the American Forces Press Service's Jim Garamone reported on a budget busting problem for the Department of Defense: "Concurrent Receipt" legislation (S. 170) that would allow military retirees with disabilities connected to their military service to receive both military retired pay and Department of Veterans Affairs disability compensation concurrently.

Due to a century-old law, retired pay is reduced by the amount of disability compensation. If enacted, Concurrent Receipt may cost DoD around $58 billion extra over the next decade, according to the AFPS report.

The Hon. Charles Abell, assistant defense secretary for Force Management Policy and a retired military officer, says in the report that if disabled military retirees receive both retired pay and disability compensation "it is two pays for the same event." Mr. Abell states that 700,000 to 800,000 military retirees could qualify, and the number could go as high as 1.2 million. He also maintains that money to pay for Concurrent Receipt will have to come from accounts now going to readiness and quality-of-life programs. Mr. Abell states there are 25 million veterans in the United States. Mr. Abell states "this is not good government" to provide Concurrent Receipt.

Here is the rest of the story about Concurrent Receipt:

• Fact 1: According to the Congressional Budget Office, Concurrent Receipt would cost $41 billion for the period 2002-2011.

• Fact 2: This "estimated cost" only reflects exactly how much money will be denied to service-connected, disabled military retirees and their families presently and in the future.

• Fact 3: CBO estimates that in 2002 only 530,000 military retirees would be eligible for Concurrent Receipt, and it would grow to 640,00 by 2011. However, the war on terrorism and, possibly, on Iraq could produce more combat-disabled military retirees.

• Fact 4: Funding for Concurrent Receipt does not come from readiness accounts. In the most recent past, Tricare for Life was enacted as "mandatory" spending for those Medicare-eligible military retirees and their eligible family members. Appropriations for mandatory spending works just like Social Security and Medicare: They are automatic after enacted by Congress and signed by the president. But the readiness account is "discretionary" spending and worked out with the congressional appropriations committees

• Fact 5: Concurrent Receipt is not "double dipping," although, according to the AFPS report, it is sometimes called that. Military Retirement is an earned and promised benefit for longevity of service. The Department of Veterans Affairs compensation is "mandatory" funding and is awarded for service-connected disabilities. The majority of military retirees do not receive VA disability compensation.

• Fact 6: All 24 million veterans are not eligible for Concurrent Receipt. Only those veterans with service-connected disabilities who retired from the military with more than 20 years of honorable military service are eligible a very small fraction of the total number of America's veterans.

All facts considered, denying military retirement pay from severely disabled veterans is flat wrong.

Allen Titus chairs the National Security Commission of the 2.8-million member American Legion.

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