Full benefits for America's career veterans

For more than 200 years, Americans from all walks of life have answered the call to duty by defending our nation in times of conflict. Many have taken that call to duty one step further, choosing to make a career out of military service and can look forward to a retirement plan reflecting their years of devotion.

However, under an arcane law still in place today, hundreds of thousands of these career soldiers must forfeit some of their retirement pay should they qualify for disability pay.

This law, passed over a century ago, prohibits veterans from collecting military and disability pay at the same time, ignoring the distinction between two separate entitlement programs - earned retirement pay and the benefit of disability compensation for injuries incurred while serving in the line of duty. Under the current law, military retirees who qualify for disability benefits must forfeit a portion of their retirement pay equal to what they receive in disability pay. It discriminates only against disabled career soldiers by requiring them to essentially pay their own disability compensation while civilian personnel who receive disability pay for military injuries are under no such forfeiture requirement.

I've introduced legislation to correct this inequity. The bill, which is also cosponsored by Sen. Daniel Inouye, D-Hawaii, allows veterans who have retired from the military to receive the full retirement pay which they have rightfully earned, and full disability pay which they rightly deserve.

This initiative, called the Armed Forces Concurrent Retirement and Disability Payment Act, will ensure that America's veterans who are facing serious disabilities as a result of their time in service will not be forced to choose between retirement pay and losing a portion of their disability benefits.

Like my friend and colleague Sen. Inouye, these brave men and women sacrificed their own safety to protect America's freedom, and they deserve to be treated equitably under the law. Our legislation would honor this sacrifice by allowing veterans to receive both military retirement pay and disability compensation at the same time.

This legislation Sen. Inouye and I have introduced will benefit more than 400,000 miltiary retirees nationwide. It is supported by veterans' organizations including the American Legion, Disabled American Veterans and the Paralyzed Veterans of America.

Passing the Concurrent Retirement and Disability Payment Act is a good opportunity to show our gratitude to these remarkable military men and women by ending the disservice they face under the current law.

Harry Reid is a U.S. senator from Nevada.


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