By: Mark Belinsky
Advocates from military and veterans service organizations, including MOAA, pose as part of a Feb. 28 press event on behalf of the Major Richard Star Act. (Photo by Sean Shanahan/for MOAA)
A House bill supporting combat-injured retirees by protecting their earned retirement pay from an unjust offset has been added to the House Consensus Calendar for the second straight year – but this time, the move comes before the annual National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) has taken shape.
This momentum means there’s still time to influence the House Armed Services Committee (HASC) and House leadership and get the Major Richard Star Act (H.R. 1282) into the NDAA, if not onto the floor for a standalone vote. The Star Act had more than 317 co-sponsors as of June 6, while the companion Senate version (S. 344) had 66.
[TAKE ACTION: Ask Your Legislators to Support Combat-Injured Veterans]
The HASC Subcommittee on Military Personnel meets June 13 to complete their NDAA markup. The Star Act – now backed by two-thirds of Congress and championed by MOAA and a coalition of military and veteran service organizations – is directly in their jurisdiction. This is why the Consensus Calendar matters.
The calendar was created in 2019 to ensure widely supported legislation could reach the floor of the House if not supported at the committee level. Per House rules, the chamber must bring one motion from the calendar to a floor vote each week it is in session once the bill is on the calendar, although exclusions and exceptions apply. The Star Act motion on the Consensus Calendar will be considered withdrawn if the Armed Services Committee takes action.
Making the calendar is evidence of the tremendous grassroots support for the legislation shown by MOAA members and others, but it doesn’t guarantee a win for the Star Act. Veteran advocates who worked successfully to repeal the Survivor Benefit Plan-Dependency and Indemnity Compensation offset, better known as the “widows tax,” will recall that legislation was removed from the Consensus Calendar to make a deal to waive budgetary rules. The Star Act will also need senior leaders to waive those rules for it to proceed and receive a vote on the floor or be included in the base text of the NDAA.
The Path Forward
More than 50,300 combat-injured veterans would benefit from long-sought changes to unjust compensation practices if the Star Act becomes law, either as a standalone measure or as part of the NDAA (in the bill itself or as an amendment).
Continued letters and phone calls are still making an impact – the best path to ensure success in the coming weeks as NDAA negotiations heat up will be growing co-sponsors through grassroots advocacy.
When reaching out to local offices, consider asking for an in-person meeting with the state or district director for your senators or representative. Encourage your friends and others in your network to call their legislators’ offices via MOAA’s Capitol Hotline – 866-272-MOAA (6622), a toll-free line to the U.S. Capitol switchboard – and request an appointment with their military legislative assistant or legislative director. You can find out whether your lawmaker sponsors the legislation at these links: House | Senate.
Star Act Talking Points
Stress these details about the Star Act when asking your lawmakers or their staff members to co-sponsor H.R. 1282 or S. 344:
Two Different Pays, Two Different Purposes: Retired pay for those injured in combat and forced to retire is paid by DoD and is calculated for completed years of service and grade achieved. Disability compensation is paid by the VA. Reducing DoD retired pay because of a combat injury, earned through extraordinary sacrifice, is an injustice.
Proven Support: This legislation has the support of two-thirds of Congress for the second year in a row. We need to act now before we run out of time.
Saving Money on the Backs of Combat-Injured Veterans: The purpose of the offset is to save the government money. Achieving savings on the backs of our combat-injured is the wrong approach, especially as services struggle to fill their ranks. What message does this send to potential future servicemembers?
When you engage staff or your elected officials, make the case clear: At present, tens of thousands of combat-injured veterans lose a dollar of retirement pay for every dollar of VA disability received. To reduce retirement pay because of a disability is an injustice, and MOAA will continue to build support for this long-term campaign to ensure concurrent receipt for all who’ve earned it.
Send a message to your lawmakers today, and spread the word to your network – the wider the support, the greater the chance of success.