The Major Richard Star Act has reached a milestone goal of 290 co-sponsors in the House – the threshold for it to be placed on the chamber’s consensus calendar. This significant accomplishment, along with ongoing efforts in the Senate, show clear progress in MOAA’s focused efforts and teamwork with fellow service organizations through The Military Coalition, to expand concurrent receipt to more than 50,000 combat-injured veterans who lose a dollar of retirement pay for every dollar of VA benefits they receive.
The consensus calendar was created in 2019 to ensure widely supported legislation could reach the floor of the House if not supported at the committee level. Bill sponsor Rep. Gus Bilirakis (R-Fla.), filed a motion Aug. 12 to add the bill (H.R. 1282) to the consensus calendar. The House version of the bill had more than 295 co-sponsors in the House as of Aug. 17, with the Senate version (S. 344) at 61.
The bill is listed as the eighth motion on the consensus calendar. Per House rules, the chamber must bring one motion from the calendar to a floor vote each week it is in session from now through Sept. 30. Although there are only a few days left that the House will be in session, making it onto the consensus calendar remains a significant milestone.
“On behalf of the combat-injured servicemembers who partially fund their VA disability by surrendering some or even all of their service-earned retirement, we are encouraged by this show of support for The Major Richard Star Act,” said Lt. Gen. Dana T. Atkins, MOAA’s president and CEO, in a press release from Bilirakis’ office announcing the calendar placement. “MOAA and other ardent supporters have diligently carried this torch to garner support and make way for those injured in combat to be eligible for their retirement pay. We encourage the 117th Congress to solve this injustice this year – we still have time to get it done.”
Making the consensus calendar doesn’t guarantee a win for the Star Act. Veteran advocates who worked successfully to repeal the Survivor Benefit Plan-Dependency and Indemnity Compensation offset, better known as the “widows tax,” will recall that legislation was removed from the consensus calendar to make a deal to waive the so-called “PAYGO” rule. The Star Act will also need senior leaders to waive the budgetary rules for it to proceed and receive a vote on the floor.
The path forward for the legislation remains the same: Keep growing co-sponsors through grassroots advocacy. Lawmakers are in their home states and districts preparing for midterm elections, and some MOAA chapters already have used this opportunity to secure in-person meetings and press members who have yet to co-sponsor the bill. Local members from Virginia, for example, recently met with Rep. Bob Good, a Republican from the state’s fifth district, and convinced him to co-sponsor H.R. 1282.
The Way Ahead in the Senate
Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.), chair of the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, will submit the Star Act as an amendment to the chamber’s version of the FY 2023 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) when the Senate returns to session in September. The Star Act is his top priority for amendments to this year’s NDAA.
More than 50,300 combat-injured veterans would benefit from long-sought changes to unjust compensation practices if the Star Act becomes law, either as a standalone measure or as an NDAA amendment.
The Star Act was the lead topic for MOAA’s 2022 spring advocacy campaign, resulting in thousands of letters from MOAA members reaching members of Congress; your continued letters and phone calls to local district and state offices are still making an impact. When reaching out to the local offices over the next few weeks, consider asking for an in-person meeting with the state or district director for your senators or representative.
However you connect, be sure to make the case clear: At present, tens of thousands of combat-injured veterans lose a dollar of retirement pay for every dollar of VA disability received. These are two different payments for two different purposes. To reduce retirement pay because of a disability is an injustice, and MOAA will continue to build support for this long-term campaign to ensure concurrent receipt for all who’ve earned it.
More Members Mean More Influence Over Retirement Pay, Health Care, and Family Programs
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