Legion reminds Congress, Bush of unfinished business

Legion reminds Congress, Bush of unfinished business The 2.8-million member American Legion was busy this election season, reminding President Bush, members of Congress, and political candidates of unfinished business: ending the government's rip-off of service-disabled military retirees, many of whom were wounded in combat.

The nation's largest veterans organization continues to remind the administration and Congress that the veterans community will not give up the fight for enactment of "concurrent receipt" legislation contained in the 2003 National Defense Authorization bill, American Legion National Commander Ronald F. Conley said. Congressional conferees are expected to finalize the bill after the November elections. Conley, who met with White House officials recently on this issue, wants the measure passed now.

"More than a half-million service-disabled military retirees have their retired pay reduced by the amount of disability compensation they receive from the Department of Veterans Affairs. Concurrent receipt legislation should be enacted to put an end to that ridiculous offset," Conley said. "We're not allowing this issue to disappear from our elected officials' radar screen.

Both Congress and the administration have the moral responsibility to enact it. If enactment requires Congress to override a presidential veto, then the 402 House members and 83 senators who co-sponsored concurrent-receipt legislation should stick to their guns and take care of the disabled military retirees who once took care of our nation's freedom.

"When concurrent receipt passes, no longer will a disabled veteran, who retires from any other federal agency but the U.S. armed forces, receive disability compensation while the military retiree does not. When this measure becomes law, the average retired E-6, for instance, who receives $2,300 a month from VA for a 100 percent disability rating, will no longer sacrifice about $1,500 in monthly retired pay due to an obsolete, century-old federal law. Retired pay is for serving honorably for at least 20 years on active duty, and disability compensation is for a condition sustained during military service. Clearly, those who deserve both payments should receive both. Pentagon officials have the audacity to say that a military retiree such as this is 'well-off.'

"We support the president in the war on terrorism. We support him as he prepares to send our troops into Iraq. However, existing law sends the wrong message to those who are fighting today: If you get wounded, you will pay for it ultimately out of your retirement pay."

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