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The VA Takes Back Millions In Benefits From Disabled Vets And Can't Explain Why
In a surprising turn, the Department of Veteran Affairs — which took away nearly half a billion dollars in military separation pay from disabled veterans in a single five-year period — now tells Task & Purpose that it has no rationale for the practice and sees no reason why it couldn’t be changed by Congress.
At least 24,998 veterans were hit with the financial penalties from 2010 to 2015, a result of a federal law going back to the 1980s that bans the duplication of government benefits, Task & Purpose previously reported. Under the U.S. code meant to prevent "double dipping" for government benefits, service members who accept military separation pay will have that money recouped by the VA if they later apply for disability compensation; only after their severance is fully repaid, usually through monthly withholdings, can a veteran collect his or her full disability payments. For many vets, that process can take as long as repaying a mortgage — and wreck personal finances.
In an email to T&P; Wednesday, the VA’s Office of General Counsel offered little defense of that long-standing practice.
“Unfortunately, we cannot provide an authoritative answer to this question regarding the purpose of the statutory provision,” that letter stated. “Neither the statutory text nor the legislative history… provides clear insight into the ‘why’ behind the requirement that separation pay must be recouped from VA disability benefits.
“Congress may well have considered the prohibition on multiple payments from multiple parts of the government based on a single period of service to be self-explanatory,” the letter stated, but if so, Congress’s rationale was no longer so self-evident.
That leaves the onus on Congress to clarify the practice’s value, or to rip it up. In 2003, the VA letter noted, Congress changed the federal codes "to remove the prohibition on concurrent receipt" only with respect to Department of Defense retirement pay.
“While this does not explain the basis on which Congress has determined VA and DoD payments to be duplicative, it reflects that Congress has evaluated whether the historical prohibition on receipt of such benefits should be lifted as to certain types of payments,” the VA concluded. In other words: Congress can change the rule if it wants, just as it already has done to benefit military lifers with retirement pay.
Lawmakers, however, have to yet to propose a significant and lasting legislative fix to this problem, even though some in Congress have vocally opposed the rules for payback of military separation benefits.
“It seems to me — whether intended or not, or whether it was a bureaucratic snafu — to be a bait and switch,” Democratic Rep. Mark DeSaulnier of California told T&P; of the double-dip catch-22 last week. “There is a promise between the American public, the American taxpayer, and military service members, when they go in, when they serve and when they get out, they’ll have this support, and in my view, the federal government and the Congress are violating this contractual obligation.”
DeSaulnier would like to pass legislation to stop the recoupments, but finding funds to pay for it has stalled those plans in Congress.
“When you’re trying to appropriate money and still dealing with the issues of the federal deficit and federal debt, then you get a situation where everybody who is currently receiving money doesn’t want that money cut,” he said.
The USS Eagle 56 was only five miles off the coast of Maine when it exploded.
The World War I-era patrol boat split in half, then slipped beneath the surface of the North Atlantic. The Eagle 56 had been carrying a crew of 62. Rescuers pulled 13 survivors from the water that day. It was April 23, 1945, just two weeks before the surrender of Nazi Germany.
The U.S. Navy classified the disaster as an accident, attributing the sinking to a blast in the boiler room. In 2001, that ruling was changed to reflect the sinking as a deliberate act of war, perpetuated by German submarine U-853, a u-boat belonging to Nazi Germany's Kriegsmarine.
Still, despite the Navy's effort to clarify the circumstances surrounding the sinking, the Eagle 56 lingered as a mystery. The ship had sunk relatively close to shore, but efforts to locate the wreck were futile for decades. No one could find the Eagle 56, a small patrol ship that had come so close to making it back home.
Then, a group of friends and amateur divers decided to try to find the wreck in 2014. After years of fruitless dives and intensive research, New England-based Nomad Exploration Team successfully located the Eagle 56 in June 2018.
Business Insider spoke to two crew members — meat truck driver Jeff Goodreau and Massachusetts Department of Corrections officer Donald Ferrara — about their discovery.
These CIA officers were the first US boots on the ground in Afghanistan after 9/11 — and one was 'Marine Todd'
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The last time the world saw Marine veteran Austin Tice, he had been taken prisoner by armed men. It was unclear whether his captors were jihadists or allies of Syrian dictator Bashar al Assad who were disguised as Islamic radicals.
Blindfolded and nearly out of breath, Tice spoke in Arabic before breaking into English:"Oh Jesus. Oh Jesus."
That was from a video posted on YouTube on Sept. 26, 2012, several weeks after Tice went missing near Damascus, Syria, while working as a freelance journalist for McClatchy and the Washington Post.
Now that Tice has been held in captivity for more than seven years, reporters who have regular access to President Donald Trump need to start asking him how he is going to bring Tice home.
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Sometimes a joke just doesn't work.
For example, the Defense Visual Information Distribution Service tweeted and subsequently deleted a Gilbert Gottfried-esque misfire about the "Storm Area 51" movement.
On Friday DVIDSHUB tweeted a picture of a B-2 bomber on the flight line with a formation of airmen in front of it along with the caption: "The last thing #Millenials will see if they attempt the #area51raid today."