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Press Release of Senator Cantwell

Senate Enacts Legislation Sought by Cantwell to Remedy Inequity in Federal Benefits for Disabled Retired Veterans

Wednesday, June 04,2003

Senate Enacts Legislation Sought by Cantwell to Remedy Inequity in Federal Benefits for Disabled Retired Veterans

(WASHINGTON, D.C.) – The United States Senate unanimously passed legislation yesterday that would provide full concurrent receipt benefits to our nation's disabled retired veterans. The legislation would seek to reform the current policy that unfairly merges two distinct programs and forces many disabled retirees to forfeit a significant portion of their well-deserved retirement pay.

"This legislation will fix a major inequity in federal law for our nation's veterans," Cantwell said. "Under current law, most of our nation's veterans are singled out as the only federal employees who cannot concurrently receive retirement pay and disability benefits. That's just plain wrong - all of our disabled veterans deserve every penny in disability benefits they are owed."

Under current law, most disabled retired veterans are barred from concurrently receiving both their retirement pay and their disability benefits. As a result of this unfair policy, these disabled retired veterans a forced to forfeit a significant portion of the benefits they are due.

Yesterday's legislation was offered by Senator Harry Reid (D-NV) as an amendment (SA. 697) to the Department of Defense Authorization bill (S.1050). Senator Cantwell has been a long supporter and co-sponsor of the concurrent receipt legislation. The legislation will now be considered in a conference committee with the House of Representatives. The Administration has stated its opposition to the concurrent receipt benefit. In a policy briefing released November 2002, Senator Cantwell stated that full concurrent receipt would bring approximately $135 million annually to an estimated 26,300 veterans in Washington state.

Similar legislation was passed in the Senate last year, but the policy was scaled back considerably due to threatened veto from the Bush Administration. As a result of the compromise legislation, current law provides concurrent receipt only to a very small minority of veterans who fit into one of two categories:

1) Any retiree receiving disability compensation (of at least ten percent) whose disability was combat-related and for which the retiree was awarded the Purple Heart; and

2) Any retiree with a service-connected disability rated at 60 percent or higher incurred as a direct result of armed conflict, while engaged in hazardous service, in the performance of duty under conditions simulating war, or through an instrumentality of war.

More than one out of ten Washingtonians is a veteran. Washington state ranks twelfth in the country in veterans population per capita.