April 14, 2015

Sgt. Shaft caricatureDear Sgt. Shaft,
I copied a post from the FRA website that relates to my situation. I was medically retired from the military with less than 20 years active duty because of a service-connected disability. The complete severance of medical retirees from CRDP, 10 USC 1414 has angered me because I would have gladly done 20+ years and been eligible for the benefit. I loved being active duty in the Coast Guard and regret that my career was cut short… frozen in time… by a debilitating disease. An 80% DAV, I am faced with this painful reminder every 1st of the month when I receive my VA disability pay and a small fraction of what I would get it I had served 20 years. I know the FRA is an advocate for this situation. Can you please tell me more of when this issue may hit Congress again and exactly what change the FRA is advocating for?

I am now a federal civilian and have encountered another discriminatory law that baffles me. Although the CRDP law doesn’t give me full consideration as a military retiree, OPM’s policy for Creditable Service for Leave Accrual does. This is detrimental because I am only authorized 4 hrs of leave a pay period for being retired vice 6 hrs a pay period if I had just been separated at 11 yrs. So I am being punished again for leaving the military not on my own terms. Out of anyone, I NEED the leave because of my disability. It would be medically helpful for me to take a day of annual leave regularly to minimize my symptoms. Has the FRA addressed this at all?

Also, do you know when the government is going to update their list of Campaigns and Expeditions creditable for leave accrual? Will they consider Natural Disaster Response periods such as Hurricane Katrina or Deepwater Horizon oil spill operations? Thanks again.

Sincerely,
Jaime B
Via the internet

Dear Jamie,
This answer comes courtesy of the Military Officers Association of America. Concurrent receipt programs (the receipt of both retired pay and VA disability compensation) have been incomplete since they were first established back in 2003.

As it stands now, a person with combat-related illnesses or disabilities has full concurrent receipt regardless of years of service or VA disability rating. The combat-related program is known as Combat-Related Special Compensation (CRSC). Here is the USCG CRSC site (http://www.uscg.mil/ppc/ras/CRDP-CRSC-News.asp) for info.

Non-combat-related situations do not have full concurrent receipt. This program is Concurrent Retirement and Disability Pay (CRDP). CRDP requires both 20 or more years of service and a VA rating of 50% or more. Two-thirds of retirees with eligibility for retired pay and VA compensation are not eligible for concurrent receipt due to the CRDP eligibility limitations.

Eliminating the CRDP eligibility limitations has been an initiative on our part up on Capitol Hill ever since the limitations were put in place. Everyone fighting for the elimination of CRDP restrictions understands the wrongheaded logic of docking a retiree’s earned retired pay due to a disability condition and payment—two pays for two completely different reasons.

We could use your support by contacting your elected representatives. In principal, the elected members get it. The problem comes down to money. They are looking to cut the budget and this CRDP initiative costs more money. With the DOD facing massive sequestration budget cuts over the next six years, there are many high priority causes in the DOD fighting for their lives. CRDP is not a priority to the Services or the elected officials so it is an uphill battle being fought by some military associations.

We have these bills working on the Hill. Reference these bills when contacting your elected officials. Senate 271, House 333 and 303.

Thank you for your service.

Shaft Notes
In order to expand eligibility for the Veterans Choice Program, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) today announced that it will change the calculation used to determine the distance between a Veteran’s residence and the nearest VA medical facility from a straight line distance to driving distance. The policy change will be made through regulatory action in the coming weeks. The Veterans Choice Program was authorized by the Veterans Access, Choice, and Accountability Act of 2014 (VACAA).

“VA has worked very quickly to implement the Veterans Choice Program and we appreciate the constructive feedback shared by Veterans and our partners to help us improve service to Veterans,” said Secretary Robert McDonald. “We’ve determined that changing the distance calculation will help ensure more Veterans have access to care when and where they want it. VA looks forward to the ongoing support of our partners as we continue to make improvements to this new program.”

The method of determining driving distance will be through distance as calculated by using a commercial product. The change is expected to roughly double the number of eligible Veterans.

The Veterans Choice Program is a new, temporary benefit that allows eligible Veterans to receive health care in their communities rather than waiting for a VA appointment or traveling to a VA facility. Veterans seeking to use the Veterans Choice Program should call 1-866-606-8198 to confirm their eligibility and to schedule an appointment. Since the Choice Program went into effect on November 5, 2014, more than 45,000 medical appointments have been scheduled.

Using expanded authorities from VACAA, VA continues to expand access to care through increased staffing and enhanced collaboration with both the Indian Health Service and Native Hawaiian Health Care Systems. See the VACAA progress fact sheet here:

VA is enhancing its health care system and improving service delivery to better serve Veterans and set the course for long-term excellence and reform. VA has made significant progress in various areas of the legislation, such as extending the Assisted Living/Traumatic Brain Injury Pilot program and Project Arch, to expand timely access to high-quality health care for Veterans.

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