February 23, 2021

Wyden, Merkley Push to Provide Disabled Veterans Full Military Benefits

Bipartisan Major Richard Star Act would allow 42,000 combat-injured veterans to receive both disability compensation and retired pay

Washington, D.C. – Oregon’s U.S. Senators Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley today joined colleagues to introduce the Major Richard Star Act, bipartisan legislation to provide combat-injured veterans with less than 20 years of military service their full benefits.

I have fought long and hard to ensure that veterans in Oregon and nationwide can receive their full military retirement pay and disability benefits,” Wyden said. “This bill represents an important down payment on that principle and will ensure that these brave veterans, who have sacrificed so much in service to our country, receive the compensation they have earned.

“It’s alarming and unacceptable that veterans who have been injured in combat during their first twenty years of service in our armed forces cannot receive both military retirement pay and VA disability compensation,” said Merkley. “It shouldn’t matter how many decades you’ve worn a military uniform—if you get injured for putting your life on the line for your country, you deserve that support. It’s on us to make sure that each and every one of our veterans receives the help they need to be healthy and thrive when they come home, and the Major Richard Star Act is integral to that effort.”

Currently, 42,000 military retirees with combat-related injuries qualify for retirement pay for their service from the Department of Defense (DoD) and for disability compensation for injuries acquired in combat from the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). However, for retired veterans with less than 20 years of service, their disability pay is deducted from their retirement pay. The Major Richard Star Act would repeal this unfair offset, allowing disabled veterans to receive both their retirement pay and their disability compensation.

The bill is named in honor of Major Richard A. Star—a father, husband, and decorated war veteran who, as a result of his combat-related injuries, was medically retired. Major Star sadly lost his battle with cancer on February 13, 2021. 

The Major Richard Star Act received strong backing from leading Veterans Service Organizations including the Military Coalition, Military Officer Association of America (MOAA), Wounded Warrior Project (WWP), and Disabled American Veterans (DAV).

The bill was co-sponsored by Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee Chairman Jon Tester, D-Mont., Senators Mike Crapo, R-Idaho, Jerry Moran, R-Kan., John Barrasso, R-Wyo., Michael Bennet, D-Colo., Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., Roy Blunt, R-Mo., John Boozman, R-Ark., Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., Robert Casey, D-Penn., Susan Collins, R-Maine, Christopher Coons, D-Del., Catherine Cortez Masto, D-Nev., Kevin Cramer, R-N.D., Steve Daines, R-Mont., Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., Margaret Wood Hassan, D-N.H., Mazie Hirono, D-Hawaii, John Hoeven, R-N.D., Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., Partrick Leahy, D-Vt., Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., Edward Markey, D-Mass., Robert Menendez, D-N.J., Lisa Murkowski, R-Ark., Patty Murray, D-Wash., Gary Peters, D-Mich., Rob Portman, R-Ohio., James Risch, R-Idaho, Mike Rounds, R-S.D., Bernard Sanders, I-Vt., Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., Krysten Sinema, D-Ariz., Tina Smith, D-Minn., Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., Chris Van Hollen, D-Md., Mark Warner, D-Va., Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I., and Roger Wicker, R-Miss.

“It is with much gratitude that I thank Senator Tester for introducing the Major Richard Star Act, and for his continued commitment to helping our American soldiers, veterans, and their families,” said Tonya D. Star, spouse of Major Richard Star. “Before Major Richard Star lost his long-fought battle with cancer just a few days ago after 29 years of service, he made me promise him to continue to work with members of Congress to get this bill passed, and help the 42,000 families that would desperately benefit from it. It is my honor to carry on this effort in his memory.” 

Text of the Major Richard Star Act can be found HERE.