It’s Time to End the Unjust Tax on Combat-Injured Military Retirees

It’s Time to End the Unjust Tax on Combat-Injured Military Retirees
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Combat-injured veterans who were forced to medically retire have their vested retirement pay reduced, like a tax, for every dollar of VA disability they receive. The offset is a cost-cutting measure, and if it sounds wrong to boost the government’s bottom line on the backs of those injured during combat, or anyone who has served in uniform … it’s because it is.


With growing world tensions and headlines focused on Russian aggression in Ukraine, and the $40 billion earmarked to counter these actions, keeping the attention of lawmakers on fixing this injustice remains important. There are many competing priorities for elected officials, and persistent grassroots engagement is required.


[TAKE ACTION: Ask Your Lawmakers to Support the Major Richard Star Act


The Major Richard Star Act would ensure more than 50,000 combat-injured veterans receive the vested retirement pay they earned and are no longer punished financially because of their injuries or illnesses. Some lawmakers have expressed concern over the cost of such a measure – the bill has an unofficial cost estimate of $7 billion over 10 years – but a funding solution to fix this acknowledged injustice has always been possible. It’s simply a matter of attention.


Congress acknowledged the offset was an injustice in 2004, when it authorized concurrent receipt of retired pay and disability compensation for those who reached 20 years of service and have a 50% disability rating or above. At the time, the 50% measure was a compromise on cost, with the intention to make incremental progress in the out-years. That progress never came.  


[LEARN MORE: Read an Information Paper on the Major Richard Star Act]


There are many competing priorities for elected officials as midterm elections approach. The House Armed Services Committee will begin its work to mark up the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) in June. The annual NDAA is the primary legislative vehicle for all manner of defense programs, as well as items like the Major Richard Star Act, which are designed to provide support for the uniformed services community.



Support Continues to Build

Support for the Major Richard Star Act has grown over 229 co-sponsors in the House and 58 co-sponsors in the Senate as of May 17 – covering more than half of Congress. Reaching 290 co-sponsors in the House would make this legislation difficult to ignore during the NDAA process. Multiple engagements with staffers are necessary to achieve the domino effect. (You can check by state to see whether your lawmakers support here:S. 344|H.R. 1282


MOAA and other advocacy groups traveled a similar path to repeal a similarly unjust policy – the Survivor Benefit Plan-Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (SBP-DIC) offset, better known as the “widows tax.” It was repealed as part of the FY 2020 NDAA.


To achieve similar success on behalf of our combat-injured veterans, MOAA members must continue to engage their representatives. More than 3,000 messages on behalf of the Richard Star Act went out as part of Advocacy in Action 2022; if you haven’t sent a message yet, do so now via MOAA’s Legislative Action Center.


If you’ve sent the message, consider reaching out to your lawmakers via MOAA’s Capital Hotline – 866-272-MOAA (6622), a toll-free line to the U.S. Capitol switchboard – and asking a simple question: “Why don’t you support our combat-injured veterans, especially with so many members of our state delegation already signed on?”


With NDAA preparation looming, these outreach efforts are more important now than ever before. Help MOAA push Congress to make progress on concurrent receipt as part of the NDAA by ending the unjust offset for combat-injured veterans.


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About the Author

Lt. Col. Mark Belinsky, USA (Ret)
Lt. Col. Mark Belinsky, USA (Ret)

Belinsky retired in 2019 after serving 22 years, with overseas tours to Afghanistan, Iraq, the Republic of Korea, and Germany. He joined the MOAA team in 2019 as Director, Currently Serving and Retired Affairs.