Disabled military retirees now eligible for special pay

By Kathy Helms-Hughes
STAR STAFF
khelms@starhq.com

   Disabled veterans who have retired from the military after 20 or more years of service may now be eligible to receive Combat-Related Special Compensation.
   According to Randy Lingerfelt, Carter County veterans service officer, the special compensation took effect June 1 and is part of the Concurrent Receipt Program.
   There are basically two eligibility groups, according to Lingerfelt.
   "If you are 10 percent or more disabled, with a Purple Heart, you can receive your disability check separate from your 20-year retirement check from the military. But you have to be a 20-year-plus retiree," he said.
   They also must include a copy of their Purple Heart award certificate or their DD 214 reflecting the award.
   "Veterans who are 60 percent disabled and can relate it to a combat experience or combat-oriented training -- if they were injured during a training exercise even though it wasn't combat -- can still apply," Lingerfelt said, and are eligible to receive their 60 percent disability in addition to their retirement check.
   Applications for the Combat-Related Special Compensation are available at Lingerfelt's office. "I will assist anyone who needs help in filling out the forms. If they feel they are eligible, come in and let's do it," he said.
   The amount of money a disabled retiree will receive is based on the percentage of disability. "If you are 60 percent disabled, you will get $801 for a single person, and you'll get your retirement check restored," Lingerfelt said.
   "Let's say you have a $1,000 a month retirement, $801 comes out of your retirement check, and for your retirement you get $200. Now, instead of taking that out of your $1,000 retirement check, you're going to get a separate check for $801 and you'll get your $1,000 retirement check restored. It's a great program," he said.
   Of course, some disabled retirees could experience obstacles in collecting compensation. According to an article in Navy Times, planning guidance places the burden of proving that a disability is combat-related on the retiree.
   Veterans who retired with fewer than 20 years of service or who waived their military retirement pay for credit toward civil service retirement are not eligible to receive the compensation.
   Retirees with more than one disability must determine what percentage of their disability is combat-related and will be compensated only for that portion.
   According to the Department of Defense, of approximately 700,000 disabled retirees, only about 35,000 will be eligible for the special compensation.
   The special pay was mandated by Congress for disabled retirees whose military retired pay is reduced dollar-for-dollar by the amount they receive in veterans' disability compensation. For those who qualify, the new compensation will make up for the offset.