(U.S. Senate) – Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee Chairman Jon Tester (D-Mont.), U.S. Senator Mike Crapo (R-Idaho), and Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee Ranking Member Jerry Moran (R-Kan.) today introduced the Major Richard Star Act, bipartisan legislation to provide combat-injured veterans with less than 20 years of military service their full benefits.
Currently, 42,000 military retirees with combat-related injuries qualify for retirement pay for their service from the Department of Defense (DoD) and for disability compensation for injuries acquired in combat from the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). However, for retired veterans with less than 20 years of service, their disability pay is deducted from their retirement pay. The Major Richard Star Act would repeal this unfair offset, allowing disabled veterans to receive both their retirement pay and their disability compensation.
“When it comes to our nation’s disabled veterans, we’ve got to cut through the bureaucratic red tape that’s prevented them from getting the full benefits they’ve earned,” said Tester. “The Major Richard Star Act would fix the unfair offset that prevents thousands of veterans living with the wounds of war from accessing both their disability benefits and retired pay. And it honors the service and sacrifice of Major Richard Star, whose legacy lives on in our continued fight to ensure our men and women in uniform get the assistance they deserve.”
“All active duty and retired military personnel deserve to receive the full care and benefits they have earned, not just fragments offset by government red tape,” said Crapo. “The Major Richard Star Act will ensure medically retired and combat-injured veterans receive both military retired pay and disability compensation earned through their service to our nation. I join the nation in mourning the recent loss of Major Richard Star, and I remain dedicated to improving veterans benefits, including fixing unfair discrepancies such as this, to honor his legacy.”
“Congress must work to make certain our veterans aren’t being shortchanged by unfair rules that result in one benefit they’ve earned as a servicemember canceling out another benefit they’re entitled to as a veteran,” said Moran. “This bipartisan legislation would ensure combat-wounded veterans are able to receive their full disability compensation from the Department of Veterans Affairs and retirement pay from the Department of Defense without having their disability pay deducted from their retirement pay.”
The bill is named in honor of Major Richard A. Star—a father, husband, and decorated war veteran who, as a result of his combat-related injuries, was medically retired. Major Star sadly lost his battle with cancer on February 13, 2021.
“It is with much gratitude that I thank Senator Tester for introducing the Major Richard Star Act, and for his continued commitment to helping our American soldiers, veterans, and their families,” said Tonya D. Star, spouse of Major Richard Star. “Before Major Richard Star lost his long-fought battle with cancer just a few days ago after 29 years of service, he made me promise him to continue to work with members of Congress to get this bill passed, and help the 42,000 families that would desperately benefit from it. It is my honor to carry on this effort in his memory.”
The Major Richard Star Act received strong backing from leading Veterans Service Organizations including the Military Coalition, Military Officer Association of America (MOAA), Wounded Warrior Project (WWP), and Disabled American Veterans (DAV).
“Our Coalition, which is comprised of 35 veteran and military service organizations representing more than 5.5 million servicemembers, veterans, and their families, proudly support Senator Tester’s commonsense legislation,” said President of the Military Coalition Jack Du Teil. “We will never rest until this long overdue bill is passed and signed into law.”
“Major Richard Star inspired veterans across the nation as he embarked on this selfless journey to ensure all families of servicemembers will be taken care of,” said President and CEO of MOAA Lt. Gen. Dana T. Atkins. “He has earned his rest and now it’s our turn. We will honor his legacy by continuing his fight alongside Chairman Tester and Senator Crapo to get concurrent receipt passed for all servicemembers.”
“We were saddened to hear of the recent passing of Major Richard Star and have offered our sincerest condolences to his family. His service to our Nation and tireless advocacy for veterans will never be forgotten,” said Director of Legislative Affairs at The Enlisted Association (TREA) Bill McCabe. “This legislation would rightfully provide total offset relief for combat injured servicemembers who were medically retired before reaching 20 years of service. TREA thanks Chairman Tester and his staff for their leadership and urges Congress to swiftly pass this long overdue correction of injustice.”
“Military retired pay and VA disability compensation are two different benefits established by Congress for two different purposes, and under no circumstances should veterans have to forfeit a portion of their retirement pay simply because they were medically retired for combat-related injuries,” said WWP Vice President of Government Affairs Jose Ramos. “The Major Richard Star Act would finally eliminate the offset for those veterans, fully recognizing their extraordinary sacrifices while in service. Wounded Warrior Project is proud to offer our endorsement to Senator Tester and we thank him for introducing this important bill.”
“Disabled veterans who are entitled to VA compensation due to their service-connected conditions and retired military pay for their service to this country deserve to receive both, without any offsets,” said DAV Washington Headquarters Executive Director Randy Reese. “DAV supports the Major Richard Star Act to repeal the offset between VA disability compensation and DoD medical retirement pay, just as we support the Retired Pay Restoration Act, which would eliminate the remaining offsets for longevity retired pay and disability compensation.”
“The VFW would like to thank Chairman Tester for reintroducing the Major Richard Star Act,” Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) National Commander Hal Roesch. “As we mourn the recent passing of fellow VFW member and legislation namesake, we are committed to honoring Major Star’s legacy by working to get rid of this egregious compensation rule. The Major Richard Star Act would eliminate this unjust offset for 42,163 Chapter 61 retirees who suffered injuries in combat. While this is a modest segment of the more than 575,000 Chapter 61 military retirees, they are just as deserving of retirement pay even though their injuries prevented them from fulfilling their 20-year obligation. We urge Congress to pass this Act and honor this nation’s promise to care for all its veterans.”
“VVA is in full support of the Major Richard Star Act, which, when enacted, will correct a grave injustice facing those medically retired veterans without 20 years’ service whose military retirement pay is now being reduced by the amount of their disability compensation,” said Vietnam Veterans of America (VVA) National President John Rowan. “Military retirement pay and disability compensation are two separate benefits; for those injured in the line of duty, this offset creates an undue financial burden on the family of a disabled veteran. Those injured in defense of the U.S. Constitution have earned these benefits. It is time for Congress to address this injustice and change this law.”
“Retirement pay and VA disability compensation are two distinct and separate benefits that veterans earn through their service,” said National Commander of The American Legion James W. “Bill” Oxford. “However, these two benefits have been unjustly tied together to reduce costs. Current law requires that these benefits offset one another by reducing retirement pay for every dollar of disability received. The Major Richard Star Act is a vital step in the right direction but there is more to be done to solve the issue of concurrent receipt once and for all. The American Legion is proud to support this legislation and calls for this bill to be swiftly passed through Congress.”
“AMVETS supports Chairman Tester’s initiative that allows military retirees to concurrently receive VA disability compensation and military retirement payments even if they served for less than 20 years,” said Executive Director of American Veterans (AMVETS) Joe Chenelly. “This legislation is the right thing to do for these veterans and we strongly support its passage this Congress.”
“FRA strongly supports this legislation because is a big step forward in Congress authorizing the immediate payment of concurrent receipt of full military retired pay and veterans’ disability compensation for all disabled retirees, including those who were medically retired with less than 20 years of service,” said Fleet Reserve Association (FRA) Director of Legislative Programs John Davis.
Text of the Major Richard Star Act can be found HERE.