For decades, military retirees have complained to Congress about a 19th-century law that required their retired pay to be reduced, dollar for dollar, by the amount they received in Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) compensation for service-related injuries or illnesses. The complaints, it seemed, had no more impact than raindrops striking stone. But this year, real relief, in the form of restored retired pay, is on the way for at least 82,000 retirees—those with the most serious disabilities.
In early May, the House Armed Services Committee approved a defense bill for 2003 that would raise retirement benefits dramatically for those who completed full careers and who have VA disability ratings of 60% or higher. The Senate Armed Services Committee approved a similar plan.
Military associations and veterans groups, however, hold out hope that the full Senate will go even further, adopting a floor amendment from Senator Harry Reid (D-NV) to eliminate all retired pay offsets for career retirees with disabilities. Even if that does occur, unless some way is found to pay for the more ambitious plan, it likely will die in a conference committee with the House.