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Concurrent receipt's slow advance confuses veterans.

The piecemeal approach employed by Congress and the administration to enact legislation dealing with concurrent receipt of military longevity retirement pay and disability compensation has left many eligible veterans confused and bewildered, and it is adding to the costs of administering the program.

"While we welcome measures that make benefits more equitable for disabled career military retirees, our ultimate goal is the complete elimination of the offset between longevity retirement pay and VA compensation," said National Legislative Director Joseph A. Violante. "Congress has enacted a hodge-podge of measures to remove the ban on concurrent receipt of the two benefits."

"Many disabled veterans are thoroughly confused by the various eligibility requirements," said Violante. "Meanwhile, nothing has been done in recent years to correct the injustice for disabled retirees rated 40 percent or less. The piecemeal approach is being used by some in Congress to escape mounting public pressure while still avoiding paying the cost of an outright fix."

Most recently, a provision in the 2006 National Defense Authorization Act authorizes career military retirees with service-connected disabilities rated as total by virtue of individual unemployability to begin receiving the full amount of Concurrent Retirement and Disability Payment (CRDP) on Oct. 1, 2009. In simpler terms, those eligible will receive CRDP at the full amount almost four years earlier than scheduled.

This was a change from the 2005 National Defense Authorization Act which eliminated the phase-in period for eligible retirees with a VA disability rating of 100 percent. The legislation meant that veterans rated 100 percent disabled are paid CRDP at the full amount immediately without having to wait until 2014.

It was shortly after the enactment of the 2005 act that controversy arose as to whether the accelerated CRDP was intended for veterans whose 100 percent ratings were based on individual unemployability. The Department of Veterans Affairs can assign 100 percent ratings to veterans who are unable to maintain employment as a result of their service-connected disabilities.

Despite repeated efforts by the DAV and other veterans service organizations to change the policy, veterans with 100 percent ratings based on individual unemployability were denied entitlement to accelerated CRDP. This disparity was unacceptable to Congress and led to the 2006 provision authorizing those on individual unemployability to begin receiving the full amount of CRDP on Oct. 1, 2009.

Historically, the 2004 National Defense Authorization Act contained the provisions to incrementally restore the full amount of military longevity retirement pay deducted from career military retirees' accounts who receive VA disability compensation. The phased-in restoration known as CRDP is reflected on retiree account statements as "VA waiver."

"DAV had predicted that the incremental solution used the last three years would create year-to-year battles for small improvements to existing programs," said Violante. "Regrettably, our predictions have come true. Many disabled veterans are confused by the various eligibility requirements."

"It is unfair that veterans who spent their careers in the armed services and retired with service-connected VA disability ratings of 40 percent or less get nothing under the current law," Violante said. "The DAV will continue to work for a more coherent and integraded plan of concurrent receipt."

Adding to the tangled web veterans face concerning concurrent receipt is legislation passed in 2003 which authorized combat-related special compensation (CRSC) for military retirees with combat or combat-related disabilities of 60 percent or more and retirees with disability ratings of 10 percent or higher who received the Purple Heart decoration. In 2004 CRSC was expanded to include all disability ratings for combat or combat-related injuries. (See page 38.)

"The snail-pace, confusing, piecemeal accumulation of concurrent receipt legislation has resulted in fewer veterans applying for CRSC," said Violante. "We continue to work with Congress to simplify and expand concurrent receipt so all those eligible will no longer be subject to this unfair inequity."

For additional information regarding eligibility requirements for CRDP, veterans are advised to contact their local DAV National Service Office.
COPYRIGHT 2006 Disabled American Veterans
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Copyright 2006, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Publication:DAV Magazine
Date:May 1, 2006
Words:651
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