Panel Advances Bill to Improve Access to Retirement Benefits

The House Armed Services Committee has advanced a bill that, if passed, would substantially increase many disabled veterans’ access to retirement benefits. The “Major Richard Star Act,” as it is called, would allow veterans who medically retire before 20 years in the military to obtain both retirement benefits and Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) disability benefits. This could help as many as 50,000 disabled veterans to obtain more benefits for their service, helping them to live more comfortably in civilian life.

What is the Richard Star Act?

The Richard Star Act is a bill meant to make it easier for veterans with disabilities to obtain full retirement benefits. Right now, veterans with 50% or lower disability who medically retire before reaching 20 years of service will have their retirement benefits penalized on a dollar-for-dollar basis for their disability benefits. This means that many veterans who would otherwise collect both retirement benefits and disability benefits cannot do so.

Why is This Bill Being Advanced?

The bill is meant to address a significant number of disabled veterans who medically retire due to conditions they acquire during, or which are worsened by, their military service. The bill itself is named after a veteran who died as a result of cancer that was caused by exposure to toxic chemicals from a burn pit during his service. Like many other veterans, he struggled to obtain his full benefits, and died in 2021 without ever getting both his full retirement pay and his disability pay.

How Could This Help?

The bill would make it much easier for some veterans by removing the penalty that many disabled veterans get if they are forced to medically retire. This would allow them to get full concurrent benefits as a result of both their retirement and their disability. In total, it is estimated that this would cost about $9.75 billion to bring these benefits to affected veterans.

What Should You Do?

If you are a veteran who was forced to medically retire, you may be entitled to additional disability benefits. However, to know what you may be legally entitled to, you should speak to a lawyer with experience handling VA disability claims. They can help you to write your application, and argue on your behalf in the event of a serious legal dispute.

The attorneys of Sullivan & Kehoe place a special focus on assisting disabled veterans. Our veterans’ disability lawyers are still available for remote consultation on your legal issues. Call our office at (800) 395-7830 to schedule a consultation in our New York City, Garden City, Kings Park, Riverhead, or White Plains office, or visit our contact page.

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