Ruiz and Bilirakis Lead Bipartisan Push to Provide Disabled Veterans Full Military Benefits

February 27, 2021
Press Release

Washington, D.C. – This week, Congressmen Raul Ruiz, M.D. (CA-36) and Gus Bilirakis (FL-12) introduced bipartisan legislation to help disabled veterans access their full earned benefits. Currently, at least 42,000 military retirees with combat-related injuries qualify for medical retirement pay for their service from the Department of Defense and for disability compensation for injuries connected to their service from the Department of Veterans Affairs. However, for retired veterans with fewer than 20 years of service, their disability pay is deducted from their retirement pay. The Major Richard Star Act would repeal this unfair offset, allowing disabled veterans to receive both their retirement pay and their disability compensation.  

“I am proud to re-introduce the bipartisan Major Richard Star Act this week,” said Dr. Ruiz. “Major Star tragically passed away this month far too soon at the age of 51. This bill honors his service and life by repealing 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.”

“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 Rep. Bilirakis. “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.” 

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 tragically died from cancer on February 13, 2021.

“It is with much gratitude that I thank Representatives Bilirakis and Ruiz for introducing the Major Richard Star Act, and for their continued commitment to helping our American soldiers, veterans, and their families,” said Tonya D. Star, spouse of Major Richard Star. “Before Major Richard Star lost his long-fought battle with cancer just a few days ago after 29 years of service, he made me promise him to continue to work with members of Congress to get this bill passed and help the 42,000 families that would desperately benefit from it. It is my honor to carry on this effort in his memory.” 

“Maj. Richard Star inspired veterans across the nation as he embarked on this selfless journey to ensure all families of servicemembers will be taken care of,” said Lt. Gen. Dana T. Atkins, president and CEO of Military Officers Association of America. “He has earned his rest and now it’s our turn. We will honor his legacy by continuing his fight alongside Congressmen Bilirakis and Ruiz to get concurrent receipt passed for all servicemembers.”

BACKROUND

Under current law, medically retired veterans with fewer than 20 years of service who are wounded in combat are offset their DoD retirement pay by their VA disability compensation. Many of these veterans had the full intention of serving for 20 or more years and gain full retirement benefits, but, through no fault of their own, were unable to due to their service and sacrifice in the line of duty. This group of retired veterans, also known as Chapter 61 retirees, are arguably the most at-risk because of their complex combat injuries and are just as deserving as those who served greater than 20 years of service. 

The Major Richard Star Act would repeal the unfair offset of DoD retirement benefits and VA disability compensation and provide full concurrent receipt for these Chapter 61 veterans with less than 20 years of service. This bill would provide approximately 42,000 retirees who have been discharged due to combat-related injuries access to their DoD retirement pay. This legislation ensures that veterans are paid separately for their years of service from the Department of Defense and for their entitled benefits at the Department of Veterans Affairs.

The Senate companion to the House Bill has been filed by Senators Tester, and Crapo, Moran.  The Senate Bill also had 42 original bipartisan co-sponsors in the Senate. 

The Major Richard Star Act received strong backing from leading Veterans Service Organizations including the Military Coalition, Military Officer Association of America (MOAA), Wounded Warrior Project (WWP), and Disabled American Veterans (DAV).

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