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Washington Update for Monday, February 27th, 2017

TREA Washington Update for Monday, February 27th 2017
 

Today Congress comes back from recess and lots of town hall meetings. Tomorrow President Trump addresses a Joint Session of Congress, so we will have lots of new news Wednesday morning. In the meantime there is a lot to talk about:


Interesting pending Legislation

More on Concurrent Receipt and the CBO Report

VA to Begin Accepting Claims Regarding Camp Lejeune Water Exposure

 

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Interesting pending Legislation


Members of both the House and Senate have been submitting proposed legislation for a full month. Below are several that TREA is working hard to get past and on to the President’s desk. Please contact your members of Congress and urge them to support these important pieces of legislation


 

Concurrent Receipt (and please look down to the following article)


All these bills would end the remaining dollar for dollar offsets for military retired pay and VA service connected disability pay in slightly different ways.


H.R. 303 original sponsor Rep. Gus Bilirakis (R-FL) Retired Pay Restoration Act


“This bill: (1) allows the receipt of both military retired pay and veterans' disability compensation with respect to any service-connected disability (currently, only for a disability rated at 50% or more), and (2) repeals provisions phasing in the full concurrent receipt of such pay through December 31, 2013.
Individuals who were retired or separated from military service due to a service-connected disability shall be eligible for the full concurrent receipt of both veterans' disability compensation and either military retired pay or combat-related special pay.”

It presently has 35 current co-sponsors (25 Republicans and 10 Democrats).


H.R. 333 original sponsor Rep Sanford Bishop (D-GA) H.R. 333 Disabled Veterans Tax Termination Act


“This bill amends federal military retired pay provisions to: (1) permit veterans with a service-connected disability of less than 50% to concurrently receive both retired pay and disability compensation; (2) eliminate provisions requiring a phase-in between January 1, 2004, and December 31, 2013, of concurrent receipt of retired pay and disability compensation; (3) eliminate a phase-in of concurrent receipt of retired pay and disability compensation for disabled veterans determined to be individually unemployable; and (4) require a limited reduction in retired pay for qualified disability retirees with less than 20 years of retirement-creditable service.”

It presently has 28 co-sponsors (24 Democrats and 4 Republicans).
 

S. 66 Original Sponsor Senator Dean Heller (R-NV) Retired Pay Restoration Act


This bill allows retired members of the uniformed services who have a service connected disability to collect both their disability compensation from the Department of Veterans Affairs for their disability and either retired pay by reason of their years of military service or Combat-Related Special Compensation.

It presently has 5 co-sponsors (4 Democrats and 1 Republican).
 

SBP/DIC Offset


Survivors of Service members who qualify for both SBP from DoD and Dependency Indemnification Compensation (DIC) face a dollar for dollar offset as their spouse did. For years we have been fighting to end this unfair offset as well. We are starting to fight it again this year.


H.R. 846 Original Sponsor Rep. Joe Wilson (R-SC) Military Surviving Spouses Equity Act


“This bill: (1) repeals certain provisions that require the offset of amounts paid in dependency and indemnity compensation from Survivor Benefit Plan (SBP) annuities for the surviving spouses of former military personnel who are entitled to military retired pay or who would be entitled to retired pay except for being under 60 years of age, (2) prohibits requiring repayment of certain amounts previously paid to SBP recipients in the form of a retired pay refund, and (3) requires (current law authorizes) the Secretary of the military department concerned to pay an annuity to a member's dependent children when there is no eligible surviving spouse.

The Secretary concerned shall restore annuity eligibility to a surviving spouse who earlier agreed to transfer such eligibility to the surviving child or children of a member.”

It presently has no co-sponsors.
 

S. 339 Original Sponsor Sen Bill Nelson (D-FL) Military Widow's Tax Elimination Act of 2017


“This bill repeals certain provisions which require the offset of amounts paid in dependency and indemnity compensation from Survivor Benefit Plan (SBP) annuities for the surviving spouses of former military personnel who are entitled to military retired pay or who would be entitled to such pay, except for being under 60 years of age.

The Department of Defense is prohibited from recouping certain amounts previously paid to SBP recipients in the form of a retired pay refund.
The bill requires (current law authorizes) the Secretary of the military department concerned to pay an annuity to a member's dependent children when there is no eligible surviving spouse. The Secretary concerned shall restore annuity eligibility to a surviving spouse who earlier agreed to transfer such eligibility to the surviving child or children of a member.”

There is presently one co-sponsor Senator Susan Collins (R-ME)


  Blue  Water Navy


Another long term fight has been to have veterans who fought in the Vietnam War in the blue water (the territorial waters) to qualify for the Vietnam presumptive ailments. This is moving very well in the House with 195 co-sponsors, 99 Democrats and 96 Republicans.
 

H.R. 299 Original Sponsor Rep. David Valadao (R-CA) Blue Water Vietnam Veterans Act of 2017


“This bill includes as part of the Republic of Vietnam its territorial seas for purposes of the presumption of service connection for diseases associated with exposure by veterans to certain herbicide agents while in Vietnam.”

Last week Senator Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), along with Senators Mark Warner (D-VA) and Tim Kaine (D-VA) introduced companion legislation in the Senate. There is no bill number yet. That effort has 25 additional bipartisan co-sponsors, for a total of 28 out of only 100 US Senators, which is in itself a fantastic start. We’ll keep you posted on any progress.
 
 

More on Concurrent Receipt and the CBO Report


Last week we devoted our entire update to a discussion about Concurrent Receipt of military retirement pay and VA disability pay and a report that was issued by the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) that has upset many military retirees.  As we explained, that CBO report was just that – a report.  It was not a proposal and no such proposal exists in Congress.

We want to thank all those who responded to the article.  In fact, there were too many for us to answer individually, but we want to assure you that we read them all.

Although there is no proposal to take away concurrent receipt from those who now receive it, one of our ongoing concerns is those retirees who have a VA disability rating of less than 50 percent and those who are Chapter 61 retirees (who were medically retired from military service because of an injury or disability that was not combat-related).  They still do not receive both their military retired pay and their VA disability pay. 

As there has been every year since 2004, (when TREA helped win concurrent receipt for those with disability ratings of 50 percent and above, which we had worked on for years) there is legislation in Congress to give all retirees full concurrent receipt.  In the House the bills are HR 303 and HR 333.  In the Senate the bill is S 66.  And as in every year since 2004, those bills or ones just like them have been sent to the Armed Services Committees of the House and Senate, where they have remained.  They have never been able to make it out of committee.

The reason is the cost of the legislation.  There are about 450,000 military retirees who still do not receive both their retired pay and their disability pay.  The Congressional Budget Office has estimated that to extend benefits to all veterans who would be eligible for both disability benefits and military retired pay would cost $30 billion from 2015-2024.  And so far, the members of the Armed Services Committees have not come up with that money because they want to spend it on weapons systems instead because that brings jobs to their districts and states.

Having said that, Congress is able to come up with money for the things they really want to do.  If you want them to find the money to pay for the legislation so that those bills can get out of committee and go to the floors of the House and Senate for a vote, you must contact your Senators and your Representative and politely but firmly tell them you want them to vote for those bills.

“The squeaking wheel gets the grease” is an old cliché but it’s absolutely true.  You, the voters, must put constant pressure on your own members of Congress if you want them to act.  The reason Congress has not yet passed concurrent receipt legislation is because members of Congress don’t believe they’ll pay a political price by not passing it.  Only you can put the kind of pressure on them to cause them to finally act.

We at TREA will keep you posted on what’s happening with the legislation, but you have to call or write your own members of Congress and start putting pressure on them. 


 

VA to Begin Accepting Claims for Camp Lejeune Water Exposure
 

 

On March 14th the Department of Veterans' Affairs will begin processing new compensation claims totaling more than $2.2 billion from veterans exposed to toxic water at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina. 

After years of lawsuits and appeals, acts of Congress and amendments since the contaminated water was confirmed in the 1980s, the VA will begin accepting claims March 14 for disabilities stemming from eight presumptive conditions. Those conditions are:

  • Adult leukemia
  • Aplastic anemia and other myelodysplastic syndromes
  • Bladder cancer
  • Kidney cancer
  • Liver cancer
  • Multiple myeloma
  • Non-Hodgkin's lymphoma
  • Parkinson's disease

For more information, go to: http://www.military.com/daily-news/2017/02/25/va-to-begin-processing-camp-lejeune-toxic-water-claims.html

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