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Washington Update for Monday, February 20th, 2017

TREA Washington Update for Tuesday February 21st 2017

 

 

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Concurrent Receipt (Veterans Disability Payments) and the Myth Going Around the Internet

 

We have been receiving many inquiries from members regarding Concurrent Receipt – the fancy term for VA disability payments for military retirees.

Apparently there is information going around the internet that has gotten many veterans upset because we’ve been asked multiple times about a CBO report that is titled “Eliminate Concurrent Receipt of Retirement Pay and Disability Compensation for Disabled Veterans.”

This is NOT a proposal.  The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) puts out a report each year which lists government programs that could be eliminated or cut back if Congress wants to save money.  However, these are only for informational purposes to Congress.  They are Not proposals. 

They only would become a problem if a member of Congress decided to take information and have a bill drafted to do what the report says could be done.

However, because so many have expressed their concern, we are devoting this entire update to the issue.

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A Brief History of Concurrent Receipt

According to the Congressional Research Service, “Concurrent receipt” refers to the simultaneous receipt of two types of monetary benefits: military retired pay and Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) disability compensation. With several separate programs, varying eligibility criteria and several eligibility dates, most observers find the subject complex and somewhat confusing. There are, however, two common criteria: first, all recipients are military retirees; second, they are also eligible for VA disability compensation. Beyond the basic eligibility criteria there are two separate and distinct components that are commonly referred to as making up the Concurrent Receipt program: (1) Concurrent Retirement and Disability Payments (CRDP) and (2) Combat-Related Special Compensation (CRSC). As of July 2016, the Department of Defense (DOD) reported that 486,632 retirees were receiving CRDP, with an additional 88,610 receiving CRSC at a total annual cost of $10.3 billion.

Until 2004, the law required that military retired pay be reduced dollar-for-dollar by the amount of any VA disability compensation received.  This procedure was generally referred to as an “offset.” If, for example, a military retiree who received $1,500 a month in retired pay and was rated by the VA as 70% disabled (and therefore entitled to approximately $1,000 per month in disability compensation), the offset would operate to pay $500 monthly in retired pay and the $1,000 in disability compensation. The only advantage for the retiree was that the VA disability compensation was not taxable. For many years some military retirees and advocacy groups [including TREA] sought a change in law to permit receipt of all, or some, of both payments. Opponents of concurrent receipt frequently referred to it as “double dipping” because they maintained that it represented two payments for the same condition. 

[TREA has never argued that getting paid twice (from the service and from the VA) for the same disabilities should be allowed. However, a portion of your service retired pay is based on your vested years of service, and that makes the pay earned due to time served.  You shouldn’t have to sacrifice retired pay you earned through years of service. Vested years of service and disability pay have nothing to do with each other.]

Most of the major changes to these programs have been made through the annual National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). The Bob Stump National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2003, created a benefit known as “Combat Related Special Compensation,” or CRSC.  CRSC provided, for certain disabled retirees whose disability is combat-related, a cash benefit financially identical to what concurrent receipt would provide them.

The Ronald W. Reagan NDAA for Fiscal Year 2005 further liberalized the concurrent receipt rules contained in the FY2004 NDAA and authorized immediate concurrent receipt for those rated by the VA totaling 100%. The FY2008 NDAA expanded concurrent receipt eligibility to include those who are 100% disabled due to unemployability and provided CRSC to those who were medically retired or retired prematurely due to force reduction programs prior to completing 20 years of service.

The FY2004 NDAA authorized, for the first time, actual concurrent receipt (now referred to as Concurrent Retirement and Disability Payments or CRDP), as well as a greatly expanded CRSC program.  The changes included authorization of concurrent receipt for retirees with at least a 50% disability, regardless of the cause of disability.  However, the amount of concurrent receipt was phased in over a 10-year period, from 2004-2013.  The offset in retired pay was totally eliminated by 2014.

The Ronald W. Reagan NDAA for Fiscal Year 2005 further liberalized the concurrent receipt rules contained in the FY2004 NDAA and authorized immediate concurrent receipt for those rated by the VA totaling 100%. The FY2008 NDAA expanded concurrent receipt eligibility to include those who are 100% disabled due to unemployability and provided CRSC to those who were medically retired or retired prematurely due to force reduction programs prior to completing 20 years of service

As veterans, military retirees can apply to the VA for disability compensation. A retiree may (1) apply for VA compensation any time after leaving the service and (2) have his or her degree of disability changed by the VA as the result of a later medical reevaluation, as noted above. Many retirees seek benefits from the VA years after retirement for a condition that may have been incurred during military service but that does not manifest itself until many years later. Typical examples include hearing loss, some cardiovascular problems and conditions related to exposure to Agent Orange.

The DOD and VA disability rating systems have much in common, but there are also significant differences. DOD makes a determination of eligibility for disability retirement only once, at the time the individual is separating from the service. Although DOD uses the VA rating schedule to determine the percentage of disability, DOD measures disability, or lack thereof, against the extent to which the individual can or cannot perform military duties. Military disability retired pay, but not VA disability compensation, is usually taxable, unless related to a combat disability.

As a result of the current disability process, a retiree can have both a DOD and a VA disability rating and these ratings will not necessarily be the same percentage. The percentage determined by DOD is used to determine fitness for duty and may result in the medical separation or disability retirement of the service member. The VA rating, on the other hand, was designed to reflect the average loss of earning power. Studies over the past several years have consistently recommended a single, comprehensive medical examination that would establish a disability rating that could be used by both DOD and the VA.

The National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2008 required a joint DOD/VA report on the feasibility of consolidating disability evaluation systems to eliminate duplication by having one medical examination and a single-source disability rating.  As a result, DOD and the VA initiated a one-year pilot program, now called the Integrated Disability Evaluation System (IDES), at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center, the National Naval Medical Center at Bethesda and the Malcolm Grove Medical Center at Andrews Air Force Base. The program was expanded to other sites in 2009 and 2010 and since September 2011, all new disability retirement cases at facilities worldwide have been processed through IDES.

In conclusion, we repeat what we said at the beginning.

This is NOT presently a proposal.  The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) puts out a report each year which lists government programs that could be eliminated or cut back if Congress wants to save money.  However, these are only for informational purposes to Congress.  They are Not proposals. 

They only would become a problem if a member of Congress decided to take information and have a bill drafted to do what the report says could be done. We are already working to convince everyone that it would be a disastrous idea.  If a member of Congress did ever try to make this happen TREA will alert you and mount an all-out campaign to defeat whatever proposal had been made.

 

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