Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Military retirement and disability: the candidates weigh in; military retirement and the DADT policy


A good question for military people has to do with the “don’t ask don’t tell” policy, largely discussed on the GLBT blog. What happens to their retirement if they are forced to leave?

Generally it appears that military people who leave “quietly” by resigning after the required number of years in service (20) have been able to collect pensions normally. Randy Shilts, in his book (“Conduct Unbecoming”) points out that in many cases officers or senior NCO’s have been encouraged to “leave quietly” for this reason. When military personnel are forced out early, because of DADT, they usually lose their pensions. In the civilian world, in most cases when people leave a company voluntarily, they can collect all of their unfrozen pension benefits if they were vested (with enough years of service) at the time of leaving. If they are forced out early (as with misconduct or some problem) they forfeit this.

The military has sometimes kept people, because of need, even after disclosures that violate DADT. SLDN has a story from Fort Bragg NC in February 2002, here. “By resigning, Donovan would forfeit his lifetime health benefits and his military retirement pay, now about three years away and estimated to be worth about $250,000, Conormon said,” the story reads. The link is here.

But a more obvious military retirement issue concerns has to do with veterans. Several of the Democratic presidential candidates for 2008 have made an issue of this, especially Joe Biden and John Edwards. The John Edwards campaign writes:

“While boasting of cutting waitlists for VA health care, the Bush administration has done so by excluding nearly 500,000 veterans from enrolling. Bush has strongly opposed granting our nation's veterans full disability and retirement pay. We will end the game of playing politics with funding for veterans health care by making it mandatory. We will end the "disabled veterans tax," under which military retirees who receive both veteran's pensions and disability compensation must surrender a dollar from their military retirement pay for every dollar they get for military compensation.”

The link for this statement is here.

The Edwards issues page is titled “I think we need a president who asks Americans to sacrifice,” and this link deals with national service and proposals to end DADT. So I could have put this on my GLBT blog or my issues blog. In order to address questions on military retirees on this blog, I put it here this time.

The issue of VA disability compensation in conjunction with military retirement seems complicated, and the web doesn't turn up a lot of good resources. Generally, it appears that federal law prohibits collecting both. Here is a typical discussion at BEDaily, which states "Federal law prohibits the award of VA disability compensation
concurrently with military retirement pay, except to the extent the retirement pay is waived." Obviously, this sounds like a good issue to attract the attention of military and veteran voters this year.

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