DoD Official Labels Military Retirement Generous
September 6, 2002

Defense undersecretary David Chu has asserted that concurrent receipt ignores the "generous retirement that members earn after 20 years of military service. He added that VA compensation was designed for veterans unable to complete careers due to disability. He also cited a 1996 survey indicating that military retirees with disabilities had the same average income as those without disabilities. 
He suggested that repeal of REDUX retirement and enactment of Tricare for Life had something to do with concurrent receipt. He also stated that one third of retirees who would gain from concurrent receipt are officers in the top 10 percent of income distribution. Backers of concurrent receipt reply that Chu is simply trying to apply a needs test to earned benefits, and that his claims ignore the fact that the law authorizes service members to be awarded disability compensation and to earn military retirement. 

September 20, 2002

On Sept. 16, NBC Nightly News with Tom Brokaw presented a special segment on the forfeiture of military retired pay by retirees awarded disability compensation by the Department of Veterans Affairs. Referring to "an obscure 19th Century law," the presentation was billed as "Forgotten Heroes  Is Anyone Listening?" Using the term, "broken promises," the segment concluded that wounds are a penalty to full retirement pay. Military retirees are the only retirees from any sector who must forfeit one dollar of their retired pay for each dollar of VA disability compensation awarded. For some, the forfeiture cancels all retired pay earned, thus forcing those retirees to fund their own retirement. A House bill would provide concurrent receipt incrementally to military retirees with VA disability ratings of 60 percent or higher, while a Senate bill would allow full concurrent receipt immediately for all retirees with disability ratings.

September 20, 2002

Faced with a flood of more than three million new patients since 1995 and no commensurate funding, VA director Anthony Principi recently declared a stop to marketing for new patients. He now reportedly has decided to change the VA's scheduling methods. The current policy that grants appointments on a first-come-first-served basis would be changed so that priority would go to the most severely disabled veterans. Under this new policy, severely disabled veterans would be given priority when they seek care for either service or non-service-connected care. Moderately disabled veterans would receive priority for service-connected care. Emergency care would not be affected.

September 20, 2002

Statistics presented by defense undersecretary David Chu, alleging that the dollar-for-dollar forfeiture of retired pay by military retirees awarded VA disability compensation poses no income hardship for disabled veterans, failed to give the whole story, according to sources. Chu inferred that household income averages didnít vary substantially between disabled and non-disabled retirees. However, not included in the 1996 survey he quoted were retirees with 100 percent disabilities and retirees with disability ratings so high that every dollar of their retired pay was forfeited. In short, the most seriously disabled, meaning those most likely to earn less in a civilian career, were simply not counted. Furthermore, the sample taken was so small (only 337 of 19,484) that it could be considered statistically insignificant.

September 23, 2002

Bill Would Finally Reimburse POWs for Service "It's hard to imagine the horror that our POWs went through on behalf of the United States. Every conceivable evil was inflicted on them: painful interrogation, sleep deprivation, torture and performing slave labor for the enemy. We must not forget their sacrifices."

- Congressman Mike Simpson

WASHINGTON, D.C. - As veterans commemorate national Prisoner of War day, Idaho Chairman of the House Veterans Benefits Subcommittee Congressman Mike Simpson authored legislation to increase the compensation of POWs.

H.R. 5235, the Former Prisoners of War Special Compensation Act of 2002 establishes a three-tiered special monthly pension. In the past the Department of Defense has offered some compensation to POWs but it was not levied across the board. Simpson's bill would create a new compensation system delivered through the Department of Veterans Affairs. Under Simpson's legislation, POWs detained 30 to 120 days would receive $150 per month, those detained 121 to 540 days would receive $300 per month, and those detained for 540 or more days would receive $450 per month.

"It's hard to imagine the horror that our POW's went through on behalf of the United States. Every conceivable evil was inflicted on them: painful interrogation, sleep deprivation, torture and performing slave labor for the enemy. We must not forget their sacrifices. This special pension, similar to the Medal of Honor pension that VA pays to Medal of Honor recipients, would be in recognition of the hardships faced by the veteran during his or her captivity and incarceration. It would be paid without regard to any other compensation under the laws of the United States," Simpson said.

Currently there are an estimated 42,781 living American ex-POWS. More than 39,700 are World War II survivors, 2,400 from the Korea War, 601 are from the Vietnam War, one from Somalia and three from Kosovo. Approximately 10 former American POWs die each day.

September 25, 2002

WASHINGTON - A new policy giving veterans with service-connected disabilities priority for medical services provided by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is welcome news for many, but our government still has a long way to go toward solving the crisis in veterans health care, said the Disabled American Veterans (DAV).

With thousands of veterans waiting six months or longer for medical appointments, Secretary of Veterans Affairs Anthony J. Principi has ordered VA facilities to give veterans with service-connected disabilities rated 50 percent or greater and veterans needing care for a service-connected disability first priority in scheduling appointments for non-emergency outpatient medical services and admissions for inpatient hospital care.

Previously, the VA scheduled non-emergency appointments on a first-come, first-served basis. Under that policy, a severely disabled combat-wounded veteran might have to wait for medical care behind veterans whose ailments are unrelated to their military service.

"Secretary Principi is to be commended for improving access to health care for disabled veterans," said DAV National Commander Edward R. Heath, Sr. "The DAV is hopeful this bold initiative will help set the stage for meaningful debate and result in dramatic changes to further improve the VA health care system."

"The backlog of veterans waiting for appointments stems from decades of inadequate VA budgets that have failed to keep pace with rising health care costs and the increasing number of veterans seeking treatment," Commander Heath said. "The solution is to change VA health care from a discretionary budget item to a mandatory budget item as proposed in the Veterans Health Care Funding Guarantee Act of 2002 (H.R. 5250/S. 2903)."

The measure has strong bipartisan support in Congress and is endorsed by the major veterans organizations, including the DAV, the American Legion, and the Veterans of Foreign Wars.

"By tying funding each year to the number of veterans who are enrolled," Commander Heath said, "there would be dependable, stable, and sustained funding for veterans health care. Costs could increase each year only by the rate of inflation or if the number of veterans in the system rose. With adequate funding assured, it would no longer be necessary for the VA to ration care to veterans."

The DAV is asking members of Congress to sign a pledge to actively support and work for the prompt passage of guaranteed mandatory health care funding for our nation's sick and disabled veterans.

The nearly 1.3 million-member Disabled American Veterans, a non-profit organization founded in 1920 and chartered by the U.S. Congress in 1932, represents this nation?s disabled veterans. It is dedicated to a single purpose: building better lives for our nation?s disabled veterans and their families. For more information, visit the organization?s Web site 

September 26, 2002


Word is that Congress hopes to complete the fiscal 2003 defense authorization act without coming back for a lame-duck session. That means it's put-up-or-shut-up time for the overwhelming number of members that have shown support for concurrent receipt. The Military Coalition of more than 30 organizations and individual veterans groups have mounted a fierce campaign to have Congress overturn the century-old law that forces military retirees to forfeit one dollar of retired pay for every dollar of disability compensation awarded by the Department of Veterans Affairs. Several groups have posted Capitol Hill telephone numbers for operators who will connect callers directly to individual lawmaker's offices as well as to the President (whose administration has recommended a veto of any concurrent receipt bill). Examples: 1-202-224-3121, 1-202-224-3121, 1-202-456-1111. In addition, web sites such as have posted ready-made e-mails to send to legislators and the President. 

2nd GI Bill Increase Takes Effect
Veterans College Educational Benefits Jump Another 12.5% on October 1st

Monday, September 30, 2002

(Trenton) - At a morning press conference on the campus of Thomas Edison State College in New Jersey, Congressman Chris Smith (NJ-4) today announced that a second major increase in the G.I. Bill college education benefit authorized by his legislation will take effect tomorrow, October 1st, raising the monthly benefit from $800 to $900. The final increase raising the monthly benefit to $985 will take effect next October 1st.

Smith, who was joined by officials from Thomas Edison State College and New Jersey veterans leaders, said he organized the event to, "get the word out that the GI Bill is an unbeatable value for servicemembers looking to pursue higher education or specialized training."

Smith's GI Bill legislation, the Veterans Education and Benefits Expansion Act of 2001 (P.L. 107-103), authorized three increases to the Montgomery GI Bill program that will eventually raise the lifetime benefit by 46% from $24,192 (prior to October 1, 2001) to $35,460 on October 1, 2003.

"The GI Bill is one of the most successful government programs ever developed, having benefited over 21 million military veterans and helping to create the modern middle class," said Smith, who chairs the House Committee on Veterans' Affairs. "However in recent years, inflation and escalating college tuition rates had seriously eroded the value of the GI Bill, causing fewer veterans to participate in the program," he said. The latest statistics show that only about half of all eligible veterans participate.

"Last year, we made modernization of the GI Bill program a top priority of the Veterans' Affairs Committee, and with enactment of my legislation we have taken a major step forward to enhance the educational opportunities for America's veterans," Smith said. "With these record increases, many more veterans will find that they can now afford higher education or advanced career training," he said.

Under the GI Bill program, a military servicemember who elects to participate in the program pays $100 a month for 12 months while on active duty. Upon separation, a veteran who served for three years would be eligible for 36 months of educational assistance benefits at a qualified education institution, including vocational and other professional training courses. The monthly benefit, $900 beginning October 1st, can be used to pay for tuition, books, college fees, room and board, and other living expenses while attending school. For veterans who served for two years on active duty, the monthly benefit is slightly lower, rising to $732 beginning on October 1st, and then to $800 next October 1st.

"The GI Bill not only helps our veterans and our educational institutions, it is also the military's top recruitment and retention tool," said Smith. "With our soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines embarked upon a war to defend our nation against terrorism, we must ensure that these brave men and women get all of the assistance they need to help them in their transition back to civilian life. The GI Bill is and will remain a cornerstone of that effort," he said.