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Sunday, December 3, 2023

Some 60,000 vets are triple dipping on benefits

Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla.  (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)
Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla.
(AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

Nearly 60,000 veterans were triple dippers last year, drawing a total of $3.5 billion in military retirement pay plus veterans and Social Security disability benefits at the same time, congressional auditors report.

It’s all legal.

The average payment was about $59,000, but about 2,300 veterans, or 4 percent of the total, received concurrent payments of $100,000 or more, the Government Accountability Office said.

The highest payment was to a veteran who received $208,757 in combined payments in 2013.

Some lawmakers say the report shows the need for better coordination among government programs that are facing severe financial constraints. The Social Security Disability Insurance trust fund could run out of money in as soon as two years, government officials say.

“We should fulfill our promises to the men and women who serve, but we need to streamline these duplicative programs,” said Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., who requested the study.

Veterans groups disagree. They say the retirement money was earned for years of service in the military, while disability payments are compensation for service-related injuries and wounds.

In most cases, veterans who receive a combination of benefits are severely disabled. About 4 in 5 veterans who got triple payments had a disability rating of at least 50 percent, the GAO said. Nearly half of those receiving triple payments were at least 60 percent.

Louis Celli Jr., a Washington representative for the American Legion, said critics of the multiple benefits are “misguided and uninformed.” He said the report “should simply be filed in the category of one of Sen. Coburn’s parting shots to loyal upstanding American patriots who have sacrificed so much for this country.”

Coburn, a longtime critic of government spending, is retiring at the end of the year. He said in an interview that the report raises legitimate questions about whether disability benefits are getting to those who truly need them.

“This is billions of dollars a year in duplicative payments,” Coburn said. “We ought to reassess and say, ‘Are we doing more than take care of people in need?’ I’m not against the military. I don’t think they should be triple dipping.”

Most Americans would find it hard to understand how someone making $86,000 a year in tax-exempt VA income qualifies for Social Security Disability Insurance, when civilian workers are disqualified from the program if they make as little as $13,000 a year, Coburn said.

Only 17 percent of those who received multiple forms of compensation had suffered a combat-related disability, according to the GAO.

Veterans have long been exempted from rules that deny Social Security benefits to anyone with other income exceeding $13,000 a year.

But until the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, veterans were barred from receiving both military retirement pay and Department of Veterans Affairs’ disability benefits. Under a Civil War-era statute, the Pentagon docked retirement pay dollar-for-dollar up to the amount of disability benefits from the VA.

With bipartisan support, Congress changed that law in 2002, gradually restoring military retirement pay to veterans also drawing disability benefits from the VA.

“Our nation’s status as the world’s only superpower is largely due to the sacrifices our veterans made in the last century,” Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., said in March 2002 when the bill was being debated.

“Rather than honoring their commitment and bravery by fulfilling our obligations, the federal government has chosen to perpetuate this longstanding injustice,” Reid said. “Quite simply, this is disgraceful and we must correct it.”

At the time, then-Sen. John Warner, R-Va., a former Navy secretary, posed a question to fellow senators: “How can we ask the men and women who have so faithfully served to sacrifice a portion of their retirement because they are also receiving compensation for an injury suffered while serving their country?”

Warner acknowledged that the change would have “significant cost,” but added; “Is the cost too high? I think not.”

About 3 percent of the nation’s 1.9 million military retirees collect all three benefits, the GAO said.

The report did not recommend changes to the program. The VA said in a response that it “generally agrees” with the report’s conclusions. Social Security officials did not comment.


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7 thoughts on “Some 60,000 vets are triple dipping on benefits”

  1. It is not about how much he’ll receive under FERS or CSRS but that he is calling out Veterans for something he himself is going to receive – multiple checks from the government.

  2. Senator Coburn will get about $31,320 per year for his retirement from the House and Senate. Not very much at all, when you consider he’s probably going to be dead very soon from his cancer.

    Service in the House or Senate only gets you 1% of your salary per year, as long as you served for 5 or more years and have reached normal retirement age. That is a tiny amount for these guys, as most are already millionaires before they get there.

  3. I am a “triple dipper”. For those of you that think that fu*^#ng retiring jackass that has made a career out of screwing up our country is somehow right in screwing over the one percent of the country that has the balls to pick up a rifle and fire it it at our nation’s enemies, consider the fact that that shi% stain was always a yes vote for sending me someplace to get shot at, he will collect his congressional retirement, social security, and all of the millions he made off of congressional insider trading. He will undoubtedly go to work as a lobbyist and collect millions of dollars screwing us over for a special interest group.

    I served 22 years in the Marine Corps during our nation’s longest wars and earned my retirement. I served in Iraq, Afghanistan, Somalia, Rwanda, Burundi, East Timor and several countries that I can’t list.

    I was rated at 100% disabled by the VA by wounds and injuries sustained serving our country in combat and training for combat. If he was injured, he would collect SSDI, workman’s compensation, and sue his employer for damages. I signed away my right to sue the government when I enlisted in the Marine Corps. My inability to work is a direct result of my service in the Marine Corps conducting operations that that asshole voted in favor of.

    I paid into Social Security from age 15 to 45. I was examined by the Social Security Administration’s doctor and found incapable of working. If Senator hypocrite has a problem with my collecting insurance that I paid into for thirty years, he should have sponsored legislation exempting me from paying into Social Security.

  4. So will our dear Senator from Oklahoma also include himself and other retires in the double/triple dipper group.

    Senator Coburn: Retired from the House – Retirement check (?), retire from the Senate – retirement check. Sixty two or older – can receive a Social Security check (from his years in private practice as long as he has 40 quarters). Potentially three checks from the government here: Triple Dipper.

    For civilians, they retire, receive a retirement check from their pension fund, some then become eligible for disability – money from the government, then they reach 62 (if retired early) and they can receive Social Security: potential double dipper

    Just more Republican BS and mis-direction: look, look they are getting this and that, as he sneaks off with his.

    Republicans, boils on the arshole of humanity….

  5. I see both sides, but these folks need to understand how the average working man has a hard time getting by. Wile these people collect huge amount of money from the tax payers.. BUt then the Vets earned their retirement for often time 30 years..

  6. “Veterans have long been exempted from rules that deny Social Security benefits to anyone with other income exceeding $13,000 a year.”

    That statement is false. Earned income counts against Social Securty Retirement benefits. Worker’s Compensation offsets Social Security Disability benefits.

    Social Security does not count other kinds of income, such as income from rental properties or lawsuits. Also exempted are inheritance payments, pensions, investment income, IRA distributions and interest.

  7. People beware, the Harkonens/republicans will never sleep until the gutters are full of the masses and the world is their personal golf course..Hack2e

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