Last night, Rep. Adam Smith, a member of the House Armed Services Committee, voted to instruct conferees on the Department of Defense authorization bill to agree to Senate language providing full concurrent receipt for veterans. The Senate approved its version of the defense authorization bill with a provision that would completely eliminate the current offset between military retired pay and VA disability compensation. The House-passed version included partial repeal of the current, unfair policy. Unfortunately, some of the president’s senior advisors have pledged to recommend that he veto the defense authorization measure if either of the concurrent receipt provisions are included in the final bill. This motion to instruct reinforces the House's commitment to veterans and helps jumpstart conference negotiations so that work can be completed on the FY03 DOD authorization bill.
“Retirement pay is a hard-earned benefit for our veterans and I’m glad that we have sent a strong signal to both conferees and to the White House that we stand with our nation's veterans. For weeks, the conference committee has been stalled over the issue of concurrent receipt, in part due to the president's veto threat. It is unfortunate that the authorization bill has not been enacted -- it's good legislation that enjoys a majority of support in both chambers. We cannot afford to allow the president to play political games with the health and well-being of our servicemen and women and our veterans,” said Smith. “I believe that all our veterans should be justly compensated for their service and dedication, and I am hopeful that we can reach agreement on concurrent receipt and pass this critically important legislation. I remain committed to seeing concurrent receipt not only enacted, but fully funded and will do all I can to further its progress.”
In addition to the resolving the concurrent receipt inequity, the Defense Authorization bill greatly improves the quality of life for our men and women in uniform. The bill provides a 4.1 percent military pay raise, with larger pay increases for mid-grade and senior non-commissioned officers and mid-grade officers, reduces out-of-pocket housing costs for military personnel by increasing housing allowances to cover 92.5 percent of all housing costs and provides $500 million more than the president’s request, for military construction and family housing projects.
Under present law, service-disabled military retirees must surrender a portion of their retired pay if they want to receive the disability compensation to which they are entitled. Congress enacted this unjust law in 1891, and it affects approximately 550,000 disabled military retirees. Military retirees are the only federal employees affected by the offset. For 17 years, legislation has been introduced in the House of Representatives to correct this long-standing inequity. The Retired Pay Restoration Act has received strong bipartisan support in Congress with more than 400 cosponsors in the House and 82 cosponsors in the Senate.
Earlier this year, the House of Representatives approved the Fiscal Year 2003 budget resolution, which included funding for a partial repeal of the dollar-for-dollar offset of military retired pay and VA disability compensation. On May 9, 2002, the House of Representatives approved H.R. 4546, the Bob Stump National Defense Authorization Act, which follows the FY 2003 budget resolution and includes a provision to authorize military retirees who are 60 percent or greater disabled to receive their full retired pay and VA disability compensation benefit by Fiscal Year 2007.
As a member of the House Armed Services Committee, Rep. Adam Smith has been a strong advocate of full funding for concurrent receipt. He believes that health care is a critical issue not only for our military retirees and their dependents, but also for those who are considering a career in the military. Improving the treatment of personnel, retirees and veterans is not only the right thing to do, but is critical to our national security. If we want to continue leading the world in military power, we must have to have the best Armed Services.