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How legislation would provide benefits for 42,000 disabled veterans

Despite hundreds of lawmakers co-sponsoring the bill in 2021-22, it never got a committee hearing. Advocates now hope for a different outcome.
Posted at 11:22 AM, Feb 28, 2023

A bipartisan group of lawmakers is reintroducing legislation Tuesday that would extend full military benefits to an estimated 42,000 combat-injured veterans.

This is lawmakers’ second attempt to pass the legislation. The bill was originally introduced in 2021, but the bill failed to get a congressional hearing.

What the bill provides

According to a joint press release, the government would provide full military benefits to combat-injured veterans with less than 20 years of military service. Lawmakers say that only veterans with disability ratings above 50% and more than 20 years of service are currently eligible to receive the full amount of their disability payments.

“The Major Richard Star Act will fix this policy for medically retired combat veterans by providing them with their full VA disability and DoD retirement payments,” lawmakers said in a press release. According to the Wounded Warriors Project,current law “requires a dollar for dollar offset of these two benefits, meaning they have to forfeit a portion of the benefits they earned in service.”

Who supports this legislation?

In the previous Congress, 335 out of the 435 members of the House cosponsored the legislation. To say the least, it would have had broad bipartisan support.

It also has the support of groups like Veterans of Foreign Wars and the Wounded Warriors Project.

"The Veterans of Foreign Wars is urging Congress to pass the Major Richard Star Act to help put money back in the pockets of Veterans who were forced to retire early from military service because of battlefield injury or illness," Steve Kjonaas, Veterans of Foreign Wars Colorado legislative director, said in a statement.

Sens. Jon Tester, D-Mont., and Mike Crapo, D-Del., along with Reps. Gus Bilirakis, R-Fla., and Raul Ruiz, D-Calif., are expected to unveil the legislation at a news conference on Tuesday. Other lawmakers have released statements expressing support for the bill.

“We owe America’s wounded veterans more than just a debt of gratitude — we owe them the benefits they need to live and support their family after serving our nation in combat,” said Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Colo. “This bill makes good on our promise to service members and veterans, and ensures that their retirement payments are not cut as a result of their sacrifices for our country.”

Who is Maj. Richard Star?

U.S. Army Reserve Maj. Richard Star served in Afghanistan and Iraq but was forced to retire before reaching the 20-year mark for service. In 2018, he discovered he had lung cancer.

According to the Military Officers Association of America, Star’s cancer diagnosis may have been caused by exposure to toxic burn pits while overseas.

When he learned that he would not earn full benefits, he advocated to members of Congress for himself and other service members who became disabled while serving.

In February 2021, Star died from Stage 4 lung cancer. Lawmakers have named the benefits bill in his honor.

NOTE: This version fixes the spelling of Sen. Jon Tester's first name.