Military Update: 'Unemployable' retirees still waiting for fully restored pay
February 12, 2005
Military retirees rated “unemployable” are unlikely to see their retired pay fully restored under the “accelerated concurrent receipt” provision that Congress approved last fall.
After months of internal debate, the Department of Defense is nearing a final decision to limit full concurrent payments to 23,000 retirees who have disability ratings of 100 percent, an official said.
That would mean 28,000 retirees rated as “individuals unemployable” (IU) will not see their retired pay fully restored immediately but rather will continue to see it phased in under a 10-year schedule set in 2003.
“Concurrent receipt” refers to payment of both military retirement, usually after 20 or more years’ service, and VA disability pay for injuries or illnesses that occur while on active duty.
Until recently, all disabled retirees who completed full careers saw retired pay reduced, dollar-for-dollar, by any amount they received in tax-free VA compensation.
Congress a few years ago voted to end the retired pay offset for combat-related disabilities, and to phase it out over a decade for retirees with noncombat disabilities of 50 percent or higher.
Last year, lawmakers relaxed the concurrent receipt ban further, voting to fully restore, effective Jan. 1, any offsets in retired pay for 100-percent disabled retirees.
Defense officials found the law’s technical language vague, however, with regard to retirees rated as unemployable.
These retirees have disability ratings below 100 percent but so still severe that they can’t work. VA declares such disabilities “total” and provides compensation equal to that of 100-percent disabled retirees.
An armed services committee staff member put the odds of Congress voting to extend accelerated concurrent receipt to IU retirees later this year at “well below 50-50” if the issue, as expected, returns to Capitol Hill.
“It’s the dollars,” the staffer said. “And if the reality is that DOD tried but couldn’t get it done, it won’t help political chances up here.”