USA – -(AmmoLand.com)- Tommy and Billy are K-12 school friends and after graduating high school they decide to enlist for four years in the Air Force together, to include going into the same career field.
In a freak accident, both Airmen lose the pinky finger on their non-dominant hand. After four years Billy decides to leave active duty but manages to get a civilian job with the Air Force working in the same career field he had on active duty.
Billy files for disability with the Veterans Administration / VA and receives a 30 percent disability claim. For the next sixteen years (and beyond) every month the VA sends him his disability check.
Airman Tommy stays on active duty and at twenty years retires as a Master Sergeant. While Billy was getting a VA check for sixteen years for his severed finger, active duty Airman Tommy only got his regular Air Force pay. Sometimes civilian Billy and active duty Sergeant Tommy even worked together on projects in the same career field they both enlisted in all those years back when they were young Airmen.
After retiring Master Sergeant Tommy applies to the VA for disability compensation for the loss of his pinky finger while on active duty. And of course, the VA recognizes the injury and grants Tommy a 30 percent disability for the loss of his pinky finger, just like Billy’s loss of his finger.
Now here is where the legal stealing starts. Under Federal law, a veteran cannot be paid a retirement and collect disability from the VA. So the Air Force sends $417.15 (current VA 30% disability for 2019) for Sergeant Tommy’s earned retirement to the VA. Then, the VA sends Tommy a check for $417.15 like they are doing Tommy a great big favor, when in fact they are only sending him the money he earned for his retirement after serving the nation for 20 years.
In the meantime, Billy is getting the same $417.15 every month and it is not coming out of his civilian paycheck. Also when Billy retires as a civilian employee of the Air Force the VA will not take any money out of his retirement. The VA does not go after anyone else’s retirement. Even if they left all the disabled veteran’s civilian paychecks and retirement checks alone, what about all the Federal civilian employees out there?
All the US Post Office employees, FBI agents, the VA employees, all the other Federal law enforcement employees or the Park Rangers at the national parks, the VA does not steal from their retirement–how come? So, I ask why do they steal from a retired member of the active-duty Department of Defense pension?
There is no other job in the US other than going on active duty in the military that when a person agrees to enlist they are betting their life. You are agreeing to die for your job and your nation. Nobody else has to make that ultimate commitment to their employer in order to get employment. And that is the ones who volunteer. What about all the ones who got drafted against their will to serve the nation?
So the question you may be asking is what does this have to do with the author of this column, a person who writes for a firearms-related web site?
I am retired Air Force and rated at 40% disability with the VA. Every month the Air Force takes $600.90 out of my earned military pension and sends it to the VA. They happily send it to me as if it is their money they took out of their budget to compensate me for my injuries. You see the VA established my disability but they get to wiggle out of paying me and there is no incentive on the VA’s part to get this changed. Why should they, it would then come out of their operating budget.
As for the firearms part, if I can get to the magic 50% disabled, then the VA would have to stop taking money out of my Air Force pension. I would get a pay raise of $600.90 each month (even though I already earned that money) and the VA would now have to pay me out of their budget $879.36. You add the two together and that is quite a monthly raise in money.
The problem is I cannot (after many tries) get my disability rating raised to 50%. I do have it to 46% but that does not count. The VA will round down six points, but they will not round up four points to get me to 50%.
All I need is 10% more to get me over the line. Now it has been suggested to me a couple of times (unofficially) that there is always the PTSD route. The VA gets beat up in the press all the time about not helping the emotionally distressed veteran and are very sympathetic to veterans with mental health issues. If I were to allegedly have some type of emotional problems because of all the death I had to deal with on active duty perhaps that might be brought to the attention of the VA, and who knows it may garner 10% or more for PTSD problems.
However, there is that firearms owner problem that might suffer if a veteran were to become officially recognized in the VA system has having PTSD / mental health issues on their “permanent record.”
There is no privacy in the world when your life history goes on-line.
And of course, everyone knows all about those whacked-out, gun-owning disabled veterans. Especially those guys from the Vietnam era. You have seen those Hollywood movies. If you believe them then perhaps no veteran should own a firearm. Do you really want to go there?
In order to get a few dollars more each month does it make sense for a veteran to open up their personal problems to the VA and then the world…. I think not.
If you have PTSD and are suffering from mental trauma due to your time in the military then I strongly suggest you get all the help you can. Always remember you are opening a can of worms that the lid will never go back on. Anti-2nd-Amenders love to punish the veteran who has mental health issues. Do you self-present your PTSD problems only to lose your right to own a firearm?
The better part of valor here is for the Federal government to change the law that allows the VA to steal from the retirement /pension of an honorably serving career veteran who retired in good faith from the Department of Defense, but was also injured on active duty and the VA has an obligation by law to provide compensation. The entire earned retirement and the VA disability must come out of two separate pots of money and not co-mingled to the disadvantage of the veteran community.
This is not about double-dipping and getting paid twice for something you earned only once. It is in fact just the opposite. It is about being penalized for serving your nation not just for one enlistment, but for a career in the military. A large chunk of your life committed so that you met and fulfilled all the requirements to qualify for an earned retirement. Of course, during all that time you were continually betting your life, you will get to come home alive.
I do not want anything I did not earn, but I am really tired of the VA putting its hand in my wallet and taking my retirement money from me. Then, with a smile giving it back to me as if they are truly compensating me for my injuries. I am however also not prepared to open the PTSD Pandora’s Box for either a fist full of dollars or a few dollars more.
We have not used the draft since 1973. This nation so far has not forced anyone into the military since that time. This has limited the pool of those who served the nation in times of peace and crisis. Compensation, fair compensation is one of the tools that helps attract the few who volunteer to bet their lives as they serve this nation.
Remember the rest did not even show up. They just tweet about the next crisis they see on TV. You cannot tweet a war. Someone has to serve and some who serve get hurt and deserve all the nation can do for them.
About Major Van Harl USAF Ret.:
Major Van E. Harl USAF Ret., a career Police Officer in the U.S. Air Force, was born in Burlington, Iowa, USA, in 1955. He was the Deputy Chief of police at two Air Force Bases and the Commander of Law Enforcement Operations at another. He is a graduate of the U.S. Army Infantry School. A retired Colorado Ranger and currently is an Auxiliary Police Officer with the Cudahy PD in Milwaukee County, WI. His efforts now are directed at church campus safely and security training. He believes “evil hates organization.” [email protected]