Posted : Wednesday Jun 24, 2009 20:37:40 EDT
A stripped-down and temporary boost in pay for some disabled military retirees approved Wednesday by House lawmakers is drawing swift criticism.The bill, HR 2990, authorizes people who receive military disability retirement short of 20 years of service to draw their full military retired pay and veterans disability compensation over a five-year period, with no offsets in retired pay. That would be a major improvement for the 121,000 veterans who receive military disability retired pay from the Defense Department and disability pay from the Veterans Affairs Department. This is exactly what President Barack Obama proposed as part of the 2010 defense budget. But the bill includes something Obama didn’t request that is drawing harsh words from some lawmakers: a provision that would terminate the new benefit after just nine months of payments, after only about 44,000 of the disabled retirees receive any money. Only those with disabilities rated at 90 percent or higher would be allowed to receive their full military and veterans benefits — and on Oct. 1, 2010, the extra payments would end. Rep. Joe Wilson of South Carolina, ranking Republican on the House Armed Services military personnel panel, said the bill is a “ghost of a proposal” that “could have done so much more.” He called it a “small pittance for a small number of retirees.” Rep. Ike Skelton, D-Mo., the House Armed Services Committee chairman and chief sponsor of bill, admits it is just a “temporary fix” to a big complaint about the government’s long practice of reducing military retired pay by any amount received in veterans disability pay, and he pledged that Congress would try to do more.