WASHINGTON The 2.8-million member American Legion, the nation’s largest veterans organization, is at odds with the Bush administration. The issue is legislation that would allow service-disabled military retirees to concurrently receive their military retired pay and their disability compensation from the Department of Veterans Affairs.
The Office of Management and Budget issued a policy statement, recommending a presidential veto of any legislation that would authorize concurrent receipt of both retired pay and disability compensation. The American Legion has been fighting hard on Capitol Hill to invalidate the century-old provision that subtracts a dollar from a military retiree’s retired pay for every dollar he or she earns in compensation for disabilities sustained in military service.
“This is one of the hottest issues that I encounter in every place I visit,” American Legion National Commander Richard J. Santos said. “A military career is filled with hardships, family separations, personal sacrifices, and all too often being placed in harm’s way. Denying a military retiree an earned benefit his or her military retirement pay is unconscionable. Today, in Afghanistan, career officers and noncommissioned officers risk losing their retirement pay if they are wounded or seriously injured, which is absurd.
“We are talking about two entirely different issues: longevity-of-service pay and disability compensation. You choose to serve your country, but you do not choose to get wounded or hurt. Punishing someone for getting shot in the defense of democracy is immoral and must not be tolerated by the American people. Congress understands which is the reason there is enough support for concurrent receipt legislation in both chambers to override a veto.”
Ironically, a veteran (non-military retiree), collecting disability compensation, who retires from any government or private employer, receives concurrently retired pay and disability compensation without penalty. The law penalizes military retirees by not allowing concurrent receipt. And The American Legion takes issue with the status quo.