Military and Veterans' Benefits:

Observations on the Concurrent Receipt of Military Retirement and VA Disability Compensation

GAO-03-575T: Published: Mar 27, 2003. Publicly Released: Mar 27, 2003.

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Cynthia A. Bascetta
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Because pending legislation would modify current law, which requires that military retirement pay be reduced by the amount of VA disability compensation benefit received, the Subcommittee on Personnel, Senate Committee on Armed Services asked GAO to discuss the treatment of concurrent benefit receipt in other programs. GAO was also asked to discuss its broader work on federal disability programs.

Three factors are important to weigh in deliberations on the merits of modifying the military offset provision. First, many benefit programs use offset provisions when individuals qualify for benefits from more than one program. Generally, the provisions are designed to treat beneficiaries of multiple programs fairly and equitably in relation to all other program beneficiaries, consistent with the program's purpose. Moreover, eliminating the military retirement offset provision could establish a precedent for other federal benefit programs that could prove costly. Second, the proposed modifications to the concurrent receipt provisions in the military retirement system would have implications not only for the Department of Defense's retirement costs but would also increase the demand placed on the Department of Veterans Affairs' (VA) claim processing system. This would come at a time when the system is still struggling to correct problems with quality assurance and timeliness. Third, such increased demand would come at a time when the VA disability program compensation, along with other federal disability programs, is facing the need for more fundamental reform. Modifying the concurrent receipt provisions adds to the current patchwork of federal disability policies and programs at a time when transformation and modernization are needed. While we are not taking a position on whether military retirement should be modified, as the Congress and other policymakers deliberate this issue, it would be appropriate to consider how modifying the offset would affect the pursuit of more fundamental reforms.

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