14 Nov Some in Congress Seek to Change Veterans’ Benefits
Changes may be coming after it was discovered thousands of veterans are “triple-dipping” on disability and retirement benefits. The Washington Times reported on one veteran who collected nearly $210,000 in benefits in one year, while another collected over $120,000 in benefits – three times what his military pay would have been. These and thousands of other veterans are able to receive such large payments by receiving checks for their military retirement pay and disability pay from the Veterans Administration while also collecting Social Security disability benefits as well. Nearly 60,000 veterans are thought to have collected a total of $3.5 billion in “triple-dipped” benefits.
How Triple-Dipping Became Legal
In 2004, Congress altered the law so that veterans were able (albeit gradually) to collect both veterans’ disability benefits and Social Security disability benefits. Normally, Social Security disability benefits are not available to those individuals who have more than $13,000 in yearly income. But because the Social Security rules do not count VA disability benefits or military retirement pay as income, veterans are able to collect benefits from both sources.
To illustrate the situation, suppose Ann and Marie would both be entitled to disability benefits. Suppose, however, that Ann is a retired military veteran who was injured in combat; Marie, however, is not. Ann would be entitled to both her VA retirement benefits and VA disability benefits. Not only this, but so long as Ann’s other income (not counting her VA benefits) does not exceed the $13,000 income limit, she can receive Social Security benefits as well. But Marie would only be entitled to Social Security benefits and, if her income goes over $13,000 per year, even these benefits would be subject to termination.
Are Changes on the Horizon?
In a recent hearing on the matter, Oklahoma Republican Representative Tom Coburn was less-than-pleased about the revelation (which was detailed in a Government Accountability Office report). While the rules which allow “triple-dipping” to occur have always been under threat of change since their adoption in 2004, Mr. Coburn and others have renewed calls to amend the rules and put a stop to the practice which, they claim, is prematurely draining the Social Security trust fund. Although no specific bills or measures have been introduced, Mr. Coburn and others would like to see a change to the rules in order to prevent veterans from “triple-dipping.”
Contact The Klok Law Firm, LLC
As the Times’ story illustrates, the law governing veterans’ benefits can change with little or no notice. The attorneys at The Klok Law Firm, LLC keep abreast of the current state of veterans’ disability law and work to get our clients the maximum amount of benefits to which they are entitled. We also keep our clients advised of changes in the law, ensuring our clients understand how legislation passed in Washington, D.C. impacts their benefits checks.
If you have already applied for benefits and have questions or are thinking of applying for disability benefits, contact us at (843) 216-8860 for a free consultation.