New York's Disabled Veterans Hit Hard by Sharp & Unfair Cuts to Their Retirement Benefits

Nov 10, 2003
Press Release
New York (November 10, 2003): Today, eight New York members of Congress released a new Congressional report showing that 6,800 disabled New York veterans lose $32.4 million in retirement benefits annually, because of an unfair law that slashes their retirement benefits on a dollar-for-dollar basis, for the amount they receive in disability compensation.

The report finds that 1 in 5 retired New York veterans are affected by the unfair penalty on retirement benefits, and that the average loss per disabled veteran is $5,010 a year, amounting to a reduction in military benefits of 28%.

The report was conducted by the Special Investigations Division of the House Committee on Government Reform, Minority Staff, at the request of New York Members of Congress, Timothy Bishop , Charles Rangel, Louise Slaughter, Nita Lowey, Carolyn Maloney, Carolyn McCarthy, Joseph Crowley, and Steve Israel.

These members of Congress have all cosponsored the Retired Pay Restoration Act of 2003 (H.R. 303) to eliminate disability-based cuts to veterans' retirement benefits. H.R. 303 would restore full benefits to the 6,800 affected veterans in New York in 2004. This legislation stands in sharp contrast to a weaker measure recently forced through the House by Republican leaders, when they attached it to a $400 billion dollar defense spending bill. The Republican plan would benefit only 1,827 veterans in New York, would help only those veterans with disability ratings of 50% or more, and would not be fully phased in until 2014. Democratic leaders attempted to re-shape the defense spending bill so that all disabled veterans could receive their full retirement benefits, but the effort was blocked by the majority.

The full report can be found at: https://maloney.house.gov/sites/maloney.house.gov/files/documents/olddocs/veterans/NY_disabled_veterans_tax_report.pdf

Congresswoman Maloney (NY-14), who is also leading an effort to prevent the closing of the Manhattan VA Hospital, said of the report's findings, "Disabled veterans need and deserve their full benefits, not a politically driven, half measure that continues a rip-off of the nation's veterans. Right now, we have a policy that pretends to help disabled veterans, but in reality just gives with one hand, and takes away with the other."

Congresswoman Lowey (NY-18) said, "As we mark Veteran's Day, we honor and remember the heroes who have served our nation in the armed forces. Those who spend their careers serving our nation - especially those disabled fighting for our freedoms - deserve not only our respect and gratitude but the full benefits they have earned. It is time to stop penalizing the more than 560,000 disabled veterans who are affected by this wrong-headed policy."

Congressman Bishop (NY-01) said, "I believe that every day should be Veterans Day, and that 365 days a year, we should show our veterans the proper respect," Congressman Bishop said. "That is why I am extremely upset that nearly 6,800 New York vets lose an average of $5,000 a year because of the Disabled Veterans Tax. These are veterans who put their lives on the line for this nation, and it is a national disgrace that this Congress has not repealed this tax."

Congresswoman McCarthy (NY-4) said "Disabled veterans deserve our help, not unfair cuts to their benefits. This Veterans Day, I hope Congress will join me in giving veterans the benefits they earned through service to their country."

Congresswoman Slaughter (NY-28) said, "Our nation's veterans put their lives on the line to serve this country and protect our freedom. It is unconscionable that the government continues to deny thousands of disabled veterans the benefits that they are owed. The value of their service to this nation is immeasurable. If we can afford huge tax cuts, we can afford to compensate our veterans appropriately. Now is the time to pass H.R. 303, to honor our veterans and their brave service to this nation."

Additional Background: Under current law, veterans with 20 years of military service are entitled to receive retirement benefits from the Department of Defense. In addition, veterans who incurred service-related disabilities are entitled to receive disability compensation benefits from the Department of veterans affairs. If a veteran has both 20 years of military service and a service-related disability, however, the veteran's military retirement benefit is reduced on a dollar-for-dollar basis by the amount the veteran receives in disability compensation. This reduction in veteran's retirement benefits is commonly known as the "Disabled Veterans Tax."

Under current law, veterans with 20 years of military service are entitled to receive retirement benefits from the Department of Defense. In addition, veterans who incurred service-related disabilities are entitled to receive disability compensation benefits from the Department of veterans affairs. If a veteran has both 20 years of military service and a service-related disability, however, the veteran's military retirement benefit is reduced on a dollar-for-dollar basis by the amount the veteran receives in disability compensation. This reduction in veteran's retirement benefits is commonly known as the "Disabled Veterans Tax."

H.R. 303, to eliminate the Disabled Veterans Tax, has 373 cosponsors in the House, more than enough to pass the bill, but Republican leaders in Congress have not allowed a vote on the bill. In response, Congressman Jim Marshall (D-GA) filed a "discharge petition" in June of 2003, to force a vote on the bill. If the discharge petition receives the signatures of 218 House members (a majority), House rules require a vote on the legislation. There are presently 200 Democratic members, two Republican members, and one independent member of the House who have signed the discharge petition.

As noted above, last week, House Republican leaders attached a weaker, partial change on the issue to a defense spending bill. It would help some disabled veterans, but leave thousands more facing the same unfair cuts in their retirement benefits that they have always faced, simply because they are disabled and receive some federal compensation as a result.

Contact: Phil Craft (Office of Congresswoman Maloney) 212 860-0606

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