Reprinted in part from TROA Web Site
Recently, the House Budget Committee made history by including over half a billion dollars in its FY 2003 Budget Resolution, as an initial down payment toward eventually ending the dollar-for-dollar offset of military retired pay for VA disability compensation. The full House then passed its version of the Budget Resolution (H. Con. Res. 353) by a 221-to-209 vote. Earlier, Reps Ronnie Shows (D-Ms) and Gene Taylor (D-Ms), had sought to offer an amendment to provide full concurrent receipt funding, but the Rules Committee refused to rule the amendment in order.
Next, the Senate Budget Committee drafted its own version of the Budget Resolution, and followed the House's lead on the concurrent receipt funding. Another provision adopted by the Budget Committee, sponsored by Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL), expressing the non-binding "sense of the Senate" that Congress should repeal the offset law and fund concurrent receipt, and that the President should fully fund this change in future budget requests. The committee's action, on top of that already taken by the House, virtually assures that some real progress will be made in FY 2003.
But action on the Budget Resolution still isn't over. Following a two-week Easter recess, the full Senate will take action on the resolution when it returns. As he did last year, Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV) plans to offer an amendment on the Senate floor that would add funding for full, immediate concurrent receipt for all disabled retirees with 20 or more years of service. In another development, Reid, Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin (D-MI) and Ranking Minority Member John Warner (R-VA) and 23 other senators (including Majority Leader Tom Daschle (D-SD), Minority Leader Trent Lott (R-MS) and almost the entire Armed Services Committee) introduced a new bill (S. 2051) that would eliminate the disability offset to retired pay.
If a full-concurrent-receipt amendment is offered on the Senate floor and is approved, House and Senate Budget negotiators would then have to decide between the partial and full provisions, or some further compromise.
Then it will be up to the House and Senate Armed Services Committees to translate the Budget Resolution's concurrent receipt funding allocation (at least $6 billion over five years, and perhaps more depending on Senate floor action) into specific legislative authority in the FY2003 Defense Authorization Act.
TROA and virtually all other military and veterans' organizations agree that military retirees with the most severe disabilities should be first in line for relief if only partial funding is available.
Obviously, our goal remains to win full elimination of the offset for all disabled retirees, and we're not ready to concede that that can't happen this year. But we sincerely applaud the members of both the House and Senate Budget Committees, who deserve great credit for allocating the funding authority to help ensure FY2003 brings at least some substantial relief from this long standing inequity.
New Recording Secretary
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