Bill From Gus Bilirakis Expanding Retirement Benefits for Disabled Veterans Building Momentum

U.S. Rep. Gus Bilirakis, R-Fla., announced that his proposal to expand retirement benefits for disabled veterans is gaining traction on Capitol Hill.

Back in February 2021, Bilirakis paired up with U.S. Rep. Raul Ruiz, D-Calif., to bring back the “Major Richard Star Act”.

The Florida Republican office offered some of the rationales behind the proposal when he first introduced it a year ago.

“In 2004, Congress passed concurrent receipt legislation, which allows military retirees with a disability rating of 50 percent or higher to receive both military retired pay and compensation. This had previously been prohibited by law. Unfortunately, those who have retired from the military who did not reach the 20-year mark and were medically retired under Chapter 61 due to combat-related injuries do not receive the compensation they deserve. These retirees have their disability pay deducted from their retirement pay, which is wrong,” the congressman’s office noted, insisting the bill “will allow more veterans who are just as deserving to receive the benefits to which they are rightfully entitled” by repealing the “unfair offset and allows combat-wounded Chapter 61 veterans (those who were medically-retired with less than 20 years of service) to participate in the Concurrent Receipt Program, receiving their retirement pay from the Department of the Defense and their disability compensation from the Department of Veterans Affairs. “

“The bill is named in honor of Major Richard A. Star—a father, husband, and decorated war veteran who, as a result of his combat-related injuries, was medically retired. Major Star sadly lost his battle with cancer on February 13, 2021,” the congressman’s office noted

The bill was sent to the U.S. House Armed Services and Veterans Affairs Committees. The bill now has 290 co-sponsors in the House including U.S. Reps. Vern Buchanan, R-Fla., Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., Bill Posey, R-Fla., and John Rutherford, R-Fla., who were all early backers of the proposal. U.S. Rep. Alcee Hastings, D-Fla., was also an early supporter of the bill before his death last year.

With that many co-sponsors, the bill has been added to the Consensus Calendar.

“The brave men and women who return from serving our country should be able to receive the benefits promised to them. Military retirement pay and service-connected disability compensation are two completely different benefits. One does not diminish the merits of the other,” said Bilirakis at the end of last week. “I am committed to rectifying this injustice for all veterans, and passage of the Major Richard Star Act will get us one step closer to our goal of ensuring that veterans receive the benefits they have earned and deserve.

“I’d like to thank the Veterans Service Organizations that have been tenacious in their outreach to members of Congress throughout the country to request co-sponsorship. Because of their unwavering support, we are able to move this bill one step closer to becoming law,” Bilirakis added.

“After serving and sacrificing for our nation, too many veterans face unnecessary roadblocks in receiving the benefits they need, have earned, and deserve,” said Ruiz. “The Major Richard Star Act would repeal the unjust law that stands in the way of veterans receiving the military retirement pay and service-connected disability compensation that they have rightfully earned.”

U.S. Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont., is championing the proposal in the U.S. Senate and has reeled in more than 60 co-sponsors.

Kevin Derby
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