These Bills Will
Help Medical Retirees. Encourage Your Lawmakers to Support Them
Multiple pieces of legislation have
been introduced this session to address one of MOAA's key advocacy issues -
retirees who are forced to relinquish all or a portion of their retirement pay
to receive VA disability compensation. MOAA needs your support to get the House
and Senate to make these bills a priority.
MOAA and other advocacy groups have
long targeted members of this group and have since 2001 expanded the pool of
retirees who are eligible to receive full DoD retirement and VA disability
benefits. Current law exempts combat-injured retirees from the offset, for
example, as well as those who served more than 20 years and have a disability
rating of 50 percent or higher.
That still leaves several groups of
veterans who must part with their earned retirement benefit, dollar for dollar,
to receive VA compensation. These bills seek to right that wrong:
The Disabled Veterans
Tax Termination Act (H.R. 333), introduced by Rep. Sanford
Bishop (D-Ga.), addresses retirees with more than 20 years of service and
disability ratings of 40 percent or lower, as well as medical retirees with
less than 20 years of service - so-called “Chapter 61 retirees.”
The Retired Pay
Restoration Act (H.R. 303), introduced by Rep. Gus Bilirakis
(R-Fla.), would eliminate the offset for 20-year retirees with disability
ratings at 40 percent or lower, but would not address those with less than 20
years in uniform.
The Senate version of the Retired
Pay Restoration Act (S. 208), introduced by Sen. Jon Tester
(D-Mont.), uses slightly different language to achieve the same ends as the
House version with the same name.
Why Back All the Bills?
MOAA supports all three pieces of
legislation, and continues to support any effort that would address any group
of veterans suffering from this unfair system, which has its roots in
19th-century veterans legislation.
“The reality is, we have to trust
these legislators and their strategy to gain approval for full removal of the
offset,” said Col. Dan Merry, USAF (Ret), MOAA's vice president of government
relations. “We're seeking the restoration of earned benefits, and not on the
backs of other beneficiaries. All of these bills in the aggregate achieve that
end, and we'll keep fighting until all retirees receive both their
service-earned retirement pay from DoD and their Disability Compensation from
MOAA President and CEO Lt. Gen.
Dana T. Atkins, USAF (Ret), offered similar guidance in a letter to Tester and
Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), an original co-sponsor of S. 208.
“Expanding eligibility for
concurrent receipt of earned retirement and disability compensation is an issue
of great importance to our members,” Atkins wrote. “MOAA supports any effort to
secure concurrent payment of retirement pay and disability compensation for our
disabled servicemen and women, such as the Retired Pay Restoration Act. …
Although I know that full resolution to issues of concurrent receipt may not be
achieved by any single bill, I look forward to working alongside you and others
in Congress to provide further relief by securing concurrent receipt for all
disabled veterans who have lost their retirement benefits.”
Join MOAA's cause by asking your representatives to support H.R. 333, along with H.R. 303 and S. 208.
Here’s How the New VA Appeals Process Works
In a Tuesday ceremony at VA
Headquarters in Washington, D.C., Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary
Robert Wilkie officially implemented the VA's new appeals process, which is commonly
called the Appeals Modernization Act (AMA).
Signed into law Aug. 23, 2017, this
overhaul of the cumbersome legacy appeals process was no small undertaking. Led
by Cheryl Mason (chair, Board of Veterans' Appeals) and David McLenachen
(director, Appeals Management Office), the VA devised a three-tiered approach
to tackling appeals, with a goal of completing supplemental claims and
higher-level reviews within 125 days. Direct appeals to the board
are expected to average 365 days.
“With the implementation of the
Appeals Modernization Act, I believe that the department is in the midst of the
greatest transformative period in its history,” Wilkie said. “The VA is well on
its way to becoming a 21st-century administration.”
MOAA was among the veteran service
organization partners that played an influential role in the act's development
and passage; several VSO representatives, as well as members of Congress and
staffers from the Senate and House Veterans Affairs committees, attended
The new law is designed to
modernize the current system and provide earlier claim resolution, per the VA.
It requires improved beneficiary notification of VA decisions, and it offers
three review options for beneficiaries who disagree with those decisions:
A Higher-Level Review sends
the claim to a senior claims adjudicator with no new evidence allowed. The
reviewer can overturn the original ruling based on his or her opinion, or
based on a clear and unmistakable error.
A Supplemental Claim lets
the veteran submit new, relevant evidence to support the appeal.
An Appeal to the Board gives
the veteran the chance to appeal directly to the Board of Veterans' Appeals,
either via direct review (no new evidence or hearing, just a new look at the
claim); by submitting new evidence without requesting a hearing, or by
requesting a full hearing, with new evidence and the chance to testify before a
Veterans Law Judge. Under the new system, VA officials “anticipate an uptick in
appeals directly to the board, but not a significant one,” Mason said. “The
board is ready.”
Find additional information on the
Appeals Modernization Act through this VA fact sheet or this list of frequently asked questions. Learn more about
how to file and track your appeal here.
The new system takes over for the
Rapid Appeals Modernization Program (RAMP), a pilot program that accepted more
than 84,000 claims since its November 2017 launch, according to Military.com. RAMP will continue
processing claims submitted under that process, but the program won't accept
any new appeals.
What Would Major Cuts to Military Medical Personnel Mean to Your Care?
In July, MOAA first
identified four key and rather worrisome trends we've
been closely tracking that are taking place in the military health care system.
Now, we can add the planned reduction in the number of military medical
personnel to the list.
If the numbers are as large as we
have been led to believe (approximately 17,000 positions), this will exceed and
intensify the impact of the other trends, and may have considerable effect on
military beneficiaries in significant ways.
We will not be able to assess the
impact of these large cuts in the number of practicing military physicians,
nurses, medics, and other allied medical personnel until the fiscal year 2020
defense budget request is approved by the White House and sent to Congress in
mid-March. If Congress approves the cuts, to be presented billet by billet,
they would start to take effect quickly in FY 2021.
Proposed personnel reductions of
such magnitude surely will affect military medical training platforms. It takes
years to educate physicians, and there are projections of physician shortages:
A recent study released by the Association
of American Medical Colleges predicts that by 2030, the United States will face
a shortage of between 42,600 and 121,300 physicians. This leads us to our first
question: How this will affect the military mission and medical care, and how
can leaders expect to have a medically ready force without a ready medical
Our second question: What would
these cuts mean for beneficiaries? If the plan is just to replace these health
care providers with civilians, that's not a reliable strategy. Getting
private-sector medical professionals to take jobs near rural bases may not be
realistic or feasible.
Beneficiaries, including active
duty families who receive care at military treatment facilities, may be forced
to seek it in the TRICARE networks. Pediatric and obstetric care - which are
now available to these beneficiaries - may vanish from the MTFs. Lab and
pharmacy services, along with radiology, may be greatly reduced. We already are
starting to see TRICARE Prime retirees being re-enrolled from MTFs into the
civilian networks, resulting in them being charged with new, and higher,
These are major shifts in military medicine. MOAA will
watch DoD's proposed FY 2020 budget closely and will assess the impact on