Lawmakers Consider Bill To Allow Veterans Who Receive Disability Benefits To Receive Full Retirement Benefits
Under pressure from veterans and House Democrats, House Republican leaders and Bush administration officials are discussing compromise legislation that would allow about 550,000 retired veterans who receive disability benefits to receive full retirement benefits, the Washington Post reports. Currently, for every dollar disabled veterans receive from the Veterans Administration for disability compensation, one dollar is deducted from their military pensions. Last year, Congress and the Bush administration arrived at a compromise under which a limited number of disabled retirees were granted full retirement pay and disability benefits. This year, veterans and House Democrats are pushing for further reforms (Eilperin, Washington Post, 9/6). For example, 401 retired generals and admirals last week wrote a letter to the president urging reform, saying they were "profoundly concerned that the United States is penalizing hundreds of thousands of disabled military retirees, including many who are unemployable because of disability incurred in service to their country." House Republicans on Friday met with veterans groups to discuss changes to the system, which "has threatened to sour relations between the president and veterans," AP/Long Island Newsday reports.
Repealing the law limiting veterans' retirement and disability benefits "has long been popular in Congress, but resisted by administrations because of the costs," the AP/Newsday reports. It could cost as much as $58 billion for 10 years to provide all disabled veterans full retirement benefits in addition to disability benefits. Less expensive plans have been proposed, including one that would offer full retirement benefits to veterans with the most serious disabilities and another that would phase in changes over five to 10 years (Abrams, AP/Long Island Newsday, 9/5). The Defense Department has said that it cannot afford to spend more than the $35 billion it currently pays each year for military pension and health care benefits (Washington Post, 9/6).
House Democrats have organized a discharge petition that would force a bill on the issue to come to a vote on the House floor. The petition needs 218 House members' signatures to force a vote; the effort has garnered 202 signatures to date, including the support of one Republican, Rep. Tom Tancredo (Colo.) (AP/Long Island Newsday, 9/5). Several other Republicans have "threatened to sign the petition if their leadership does not act soon," the Post reports (Washington Post, 9/6).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.