Senate Unanimously Approves Bill to Guarantee Payments to Wounded Warriors
Senators Jeff Sessions (R-AL), Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-NY) and Robert Casey (D-PA) hailed unanimous Senate approval of their legislation that guarantees full payment of bonuses and incentives to veterans wounded in combat. The bipartisan effort came in response to recent reports of wounded troops being asked to repay their enlistment bonuses. The legislation also requires the Pentagon to conduct an audit to identify former servicemembers who may have been affected by this practice dating back to 2001 and to restore their rightful payments. Senators John McCain (R-AZ), Bernard Sanders (I-VT), Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ), Byron Dorgan (D-ND), Mel Martinez (R-FL), and Jim Webb (D-VA) were cosponsors of the bill.
"The passage of this legislation sends a clear message to both current service personnel and potential recruits that the United States government will honor its commitments to those that volunteer to serve our country," said Senator Sessions.
"By approving this bipartisan legislation the Senate has stood by our wounded veterans and struck a blow for fairness and common sense. Guaranteeing our troops receive their entire bonus is the least we can do for these heroes," Senator Clinton said. "I am proud to be a part of the solution for our veterans."
"I'm pleased that the Senate supported this bill that would allow soldiers who have been medically discharged due to combat related injuries to keep their bonuses," said Senator Casey. "Today we showed our troops that we aren't going to leave them at the shoreline. Congressman Altmire has worked tirelessly on this issue and I am looking forward to working with him to ensure this bill gets signed into law."
The "Restoring Guaranteed Bonuses for Wounded Veterans Act of 2007" ends a practice identified by the Dole-Shalala commission. The legislation includes these provisions:
requires payment of remaining bonus entitlement to servicemembers within 90 days of retirement or separation due to a combat-related injury;
defines 32 types of bonuses and special pay that would be covered under this legislation;
defines combat-related injury for these purposes;
include a provision that would direct the Department of Defense to immediately stop collection actions on portions of bonuses already paid out;
provides a September 11, 2001 retroactive period for the payment or repayment of bonuses that were stopped or not completely paid;
and directs that DoD or another entity performs a financial audit that identifies former servicemembers to be paid and the amount money owed to each former servicemember.
Congressman Jason Altmire (PA-4) introduced similar legislation to protect the bonuses of wounded veterans in the U.S. House of Representatives in October. It is now cosponsored by 270 members of Congress.
"Our nation's wounded veterans have fought and sacrificed so much for us. It is time to fight for them to ensure that they receive every penny that they were promised and have rightfully earned and deserve. I am pleased my colleagues in the Senate have passed this important legislation. The House is expected to pass this bill next week, and I look forward to resolving this issue as quickly as possible," said Congressman Altmire.
The Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA) praised Senate passage of the Sessions-Clinton-Casey legislation.
"IAVA is thrilled that the Senate demonstrated bi-partisan support for S.2400, the Wounded Warrior Bonus Equity Act, and rapidly passed this important legislation. Ensuring that wounded service members receive their full enlistment bonuses is a critical way to honor their enormous sacrifice. We are grateful to Senators Sessions and Clinton for their leadership on this important issue and we urge the House of Representatives to expedite the passage of this legislation," said Paul Rieckhoff, Executive Director of IAVA.