Tester, Murkowski Introduce Bipartisan Bill to End Unfair Offset of Military Retiree Pay and Disability Benefits for Veterans

(U.S. Senate) – Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee Chairman Jon Tester (D-Mont.) and U.S. Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) are introducing bipartisan legislation to end the unfair offset of retirement pay and disability benefits for nearly 400,000 military retirees.

Under current law, thousands of veterans who receive military pay from the Department of Defense take a dollar-for-dollar pay reduction for any disability compensation they receive from the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). The Senators’ bipartisan Retired Pay Restoration Act would eliminate the current offset that prevents veterans with less than a 50 percent disability rating from receiving benefits from both agencies.

“No military retiree should ever have to forfeit a portion of their hard-earned pension simply because he or she got injured serving our country,” said Chairman Tester. “The Retired Pay Restoration Act will ensure veterans receive compensation for their injuries while keeping what they rightfully earned through their service. This bipartisan bill is a necessary step in making sure we do right by thousands of men and women who’ve sacrificed on our behalf.”

“Currently, only military veterans who retire after 20 years of service and who are over 50 percent disabled may receive concurrent pay for disability and retirement. This means that many of America’s veterans who suffered service-related injuries are receiving a much lower payment for disability and retirement assistance than they have rightfully earned. This is unacceptable. Our men and women in uniform who sacrificed their safety and well-being—many of whom endured permanent injuries to protect our freedoms—should receive the compensation they deserve,” said Senator Murkowski. “I’m proud to join Senator Tester in introducing the Retired Pay Restoration Act, which will ensure veterans are payed fairly for the time they’ve served as well as their painfully earned disability.”

While prior legislative reforms have carved out protections for certain veterans against the concurrent receipt offset, veterans with disability ratings of less than 50 percent and Chapter 61 retirees—those forced to retire before 20 years of service due to a service-related disability—have been excluded from such reforms. The Retired Pay Restoration Act would significantly expand the eligibility to these veteran populations.

Veterans Service Organizations applauded the Senators’ bipartisan effort to remove the concurrent offset and provide disabled veterans with their earned compensation.

“Military retired pay and VA disability compensation are two different benefits for two different purposes, and no veteran should have to forfeit a portion of the pay they earned simply because they suffered a service-connected disability,” said Vice President of Government and Community Relations at Wounded Warrior Project Jose Ramos. “Wounded Warrior Project strongly supports the Retired Pay Restoration Act and we thank Senator Tester and Senator Murkowski for their commitment to ending this unjust offset for all veterans.”

“This legislation would rightfully provide total offset relief for servicemembers and veterans who put in 20 years of service that don't meet the current service-connected disability threshold" said Director of Legislative Affairs at The Retired Enlisted Association (TREA) Bill McCabe. "TREA thanks Chairman Tester, Senator Murkowski, and their staffs for their leadership on this important issue. We urge Congress to pass this long overdue correction without delay."

“Veterans who have given a full career to the U.S. military, including many DAV members, have rightfully earned their retirement pay independent of the injuries or illnesses they may have incurred,” said National Legislative Director of Disabled American Veterans (DAV) Joy Ilem. “DAV is proud to support the Retired Pay Restoration Act, which would eliminate the unfair offset of DoD retired pay and VA compensation benefits for longevity retired disabled veterans. DAV has long advocated for the removal of this unfair policy and we thank Senator Tester for his efforts to honor the service and sacrifice of our nation’s veterans.”

“Senators Tester and Murkowski’s introduction of legislation to repeal the remaining vestiges of the disabled veterans tax, known as concurrent receipt, continues a decades-long endeavor to reverse a gross injustice,” said Executive Director of Government Affairs of American Legion Chanin Nuntayong. “With passage of this bill by Congress, eligible veterans will never have to choose between payment for their service or the debt owed to them for their sacrifices.”

“We appreciate Senators Tester and Murkowski for introducing legislation to restore retired pay concurrent with all levels of VA disability compensation,” said President and CEO of Military Officer Association of America (MOAA) Lt. Gen. Dana T. Atkins. “MOAA was instrumental in getting Congress to approve a portion of concurrent receipt in the 2003 NDAA for those with disabilities rated at 50 percent and higher, but continuing efforts by Congress along with Military and Veteran Service Organizations have been met with fiscal road blocks. In our support of this legislation we ask Congress to identify the funding source to pay for this significant improvement for these deserving retirees–without putting the fiscal burden on the back of our uniformed services members and their families.”

“Our government provides for the security and well-being of those who defend our country—those who risk life and limb—by affording them healthcare and disability compensation when they are physically and/or emotionally diminished as the result of their active military service.  Sadly, this is not true for all disabled veterans injured protection our nation's freedom,” said National President of Vietnam Veterans of America (VVA) John Rowan. “Retirement pay and disability compensation must be awarded to all veterans for injuries they incurred while in service, regardless of time served, as stated in the Retired Pay Restoration Act.”

“Retirement pay and Disability Benefits are two entirely different benefits earned for different reasons,” said National Legislative Director of Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) Pat Murray. “The VFW supports this effort to restore full receipt for veterans who have some of their earned benefits reduced due to unjust offsets. We’re thankful for the bipartisan support in Congress to correct this practice and make sure veterans receive their full benefits.

“Retired, disabled veterans are entitled to VA compensation due to their service-connected conditions just as they are entitled to retired pay or Combat-Related Special Compensation because of their service. The Retired Pay Restoration Act will eliminate offsets that veterans have faced for too long,” said Executive Director of AMVETS Joe Chenelly. 

“Veterans with service-connected illnesses and injuries have rightfully earned their military retirement pay and VA disability benefits regardless of their disability level,” said Associate Executive Director of Government Relations of Paralyzed Veterans of America (PVA) Heather Ansley. “PVA supports the Retired Pay Restoration Act, which eliminates the current system’s inequities by expanding eligibility for concurrent receipt to all veterans.”

“FRA supports full concurrent receipt for all disabled veterans and this legislation is a big step forward in achieving that goal,” said Director of Legislative Programs of Fleet Reserve Association (FRA) John Davis.