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McCain Introduces Armed Forces Retirees Bill

Location: Washington, DC

Mr. McCAIN. Madam President, I first introduced legislation on this issue all the way back in 1992. Then again in 1993, then again in 1994, then again in 1995. In 1999, I drafted legislation that became law—as a compromise measure that paid special compensation pay for severely disabled military retirees with disabilities greater than 50 percent. Here we are in 2003 with an opportunity to finally rectify a problem that has plagued our veterans and to rectify it, once and for all, for all military retirees who have become disabled during their military service.

I know personally the character of Americans who take up arms to defend our Nation's interests and to advance our democratic values. I know of all the battles, all the grim tests of courage and character, that have made a legend of the Army, Navy, Marine Corps and Air Forces devotion to duty.

Let me remind this body of the grave sacrifice that our men and women who risk their lives for their country must endure. The United States has exerted military force more than 280 times since the end of World Ward II. We are even now engaged in an epic struggle against a new and hidden enemy that involves the men and women of our armed forces.

Once again our young men and women are defiantly heading into harms way with the understanding that we, as the lawmakers of this great Nation, will ensure they are taken care of as citizens and as veterans for their actions above and beyond the call of duty.

We now have an opportunity to show a measure of our gratitude to these brave men and women, and for the future men and women who continue to serve in this time of trial.

The existing law as it stands is simply discriminatory and wrong. "Concurrent receipt" is, at its core, a fairness issue, and present law simply discriminates against career military people who have been injured or disabled while in conduct of their duties while in defense of this great Nation. Retired veterans are the only group of federal retirees who are required to waive their retirement pay in order to receive VA disability compensation.

In my view, the two pays are for very different purposes; one for loyal and selfless service to our country. The other for physical or mental 'pain and suffering' occurred in that service to country.

The Retired Pay Restoration Act has received strong bipartisan support in Congress for several years.

The Military Coalition, an organization of 33 prominent veterans' and retirees' advocacy groups, supports this legislation, as do many other veterans' service organizations, including the Veterans of Foreign Wars, American Legion and Disabled American Veterans.

For the brave men and women who have selected to make their career in the U.S. military, they face an unknown risk. If they are injured, they will be forced to forego their earned retired pay in order to receive their VA disability compensation. In effect, they will be paying for their own disability benefits from their retirement checks.

It is long overdue for us to redress the unfair practice of requiring disabled military retirees to fund their own disability compensation. Sixty percent is not enough! We need full funding for all military retirees. It is time to show our appreciation to the men and women who have sacrificed so much for our great Nation.

Therefore, I am proud to rise today with Mr. Reid, to introduce the "Retired Pay Restoration Act of 2003", along with our colleagues Mr. Akaka, Mr. Baucus, Mr. Bayh, Mr. Biden, Mr. Bingaman, Ms. BOXER, Mr. Breaux, Ms. Cantwell, Mr. COCHRAN, Mrs. CLINTON, MR. Corzine, Mr. Daschle, Mr. Dayton, Mr. Dorgan, Mr. Durbin, Ms. FEINSTEIN, Mr. Inouye, Mr. Johnson, Ms. Landrieu, Mr. Leahy, Mr. Levin, Mr. Lieberman, Ms. LINCOLN, Mr. Miller, Mr. Nelson of Nebraska, Mr. Nelson of Florida, Mr. Rockefeller, Mr. Sarbanes, Mr. Allard, Mr. Allen, Mr. Brownback, Mr. Campbell, Mr. Grassley, Mr. Hagel, Mr. Roberts, Mr. Smith, and Ms. Snowe, to correct this inequity for veterans who have retired from our Armed Forces with a service-connected disability.

I am thankful for the Senate's action to address this important issue today and I urge the Chairman and Ranking Member to carry this legislative provision through Conference and final passage.

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