Picture this: You have just completed thirty years of service as a federal forest ranger and you now receive your retirement check. After a time you develop problems walking and the doctors tell you an accident you had a few years earlier, when you were hit by a falling tree, is causing pressure on your spine. Not too much later you can no longer stand unassisted and you are told you are 100% disabled. In addition, you are told you must pay the cost of your own disability. This is outrageous, you cry! Nobody could do such a thing. Wrong!!!!!
This is exactly what has been happening to retired members of the United States Armed Forces for more than 100 years. In the United States of America, a man or woman can serve twenty or more years on active duty and earn a retirement check based upon those years of service. If the same individual has a disability as the result of this military service....he or she can pay for it out of their own pocket. It happens, because the amount of VA disability payment is deducted from their retirement check. This decades long prohibition against the concurrent receipt of military retirement pay and disability compensation only exists as a punitive measure to be inflicted only against 437,00 disabled military retirees who dedicated their lives to fight for this country.
If you were the forest ranger, or IRS agent, or civil service clerk, or Member of Congress, the provision against concurrent receipt would not apply. You would still receive a retirement check for service rendered and a compensation check which reflected the severity of your disability. In fact, those in private employment who retire from their place of work and are found to have a VA related disability are compensated for their years of service and separately for their injuries.
Year after year Congress and the Department of Defense have looked at the concurrent receipt problem, but always came to the same conclusion...it just couldn't be fixed. The "bottom line" was really what created this inaction. It would cost a lot of money. Even this past March, the issue was again in congressional hands and a bill was moving forward with multiple co-sponsors, only to be torpedoed by Representative Mac Thornberry, R-Texas, who introduced a substitute amendment to the House Budget Resolution for fiscal 2002, which called for further study of the problem. It is a ploy of congress which has been used year after year to delay action on correcting this injustice.
Senator Harry Reid, D-NV recently introduced S. 170, the Retired Pay Restoration Act of 2001. Over in the House of Representatives, Congressman Michael Bilrakis, R-FL introduced HR 303, which is the House equivalent of the senate bill.
There are dozens upon dozens of co-sponsors to this proposed legislation.
We can once again expect the budget people to cry there are no funds available. Department of Defense personnel will sadly report these is no room within its appropriations to cover the cost. But, the untold secret is....the money is there!
According to retired Lieutenant Colonel Charles D. Revie, who has more than 25 years experience in preparing cost estimates as a project test manager at White Sands Missile Range, a review of the figures listed by the Congressional Budget Office and the Department of Defense show an overestimate of retirement liabilities compared to a continuing decrease in the active duty force. The money is not there by intent or design. It is there simply because cost estimation is a "safe side" process and nobody anticipated the draw downs as a consequence of the ending of the cold war.
However, the end result is...the money is sitting there waiting...and should be available without additional appropriations being needed to fund the Retired Pay Restoration Act.
military retirees across the country are now letting Congress know what
has been discovered. Will our national leadership act responsibly,
or will we also see this information sent
to some dark hole for "additional study"?