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  • Report: Double-Dipping Strains Veterans’ Safety Net

    A new government accountability report shows that roughly 60,000 veterans on disability bring home three times what their actual military pay would amount to, costing Veterans Affairs $3.5 billion dollars.

    What these veterans do is collect retirement and disability from the VA, and then also file for disability with Social Security. While this setup is not illegal, officials are pointing out that duplicate programs are placing a tremendous amount of strain on an already strained safety net. The government stopped actively cracking down on veterans in 2004.

    The Government Accountability Office (GAO) worked closely with agency officials to mine data from the Department of Defense (DOD), Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), and the Social Security Administration (SSA) to calculate any instances of crossover, where individuals are receiving the same benefits from multiple agencies. Approximately $1.4 billion came from the VA. An additional $937.4 million came from the SSA, and $1.2 billion came from the DOD.

    Over 101 veterans make $150,000 dollars a year. A much higher number of 2,200 bring home between $100,000 and $150,000 dollars.

    The GAO noted the need for drastic modification, given that the Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) fund is slated to run dry by 2016, a date fast approaching.

    “This report shows that, like other government programs, there is little coordination between these overlapping benefits, which increase cost[s] to taxpayers,” said Oklahoma Republican Sen. Tom Coburn. “We should fulfill our promises to the men and women who serve, but we need to streamline these duplicative programs.”

    After extensive lobbying, Congress allowed veterans to collect military retirement pay and VA disability benefits in 2004. Social Security is another matter entirely.

    Regular Americans cannot collect Social Security if their income is over $13,000 dollars a year, but since the formula doesn’t include retirement or VA disability payments as income, some veterans are able to accept all three concurrently. VA disability is also tax exempt.

    While the current arrangement is actually legal, Veterans Affairs generally agreed with the GAO’s conclusions, which were reached after a detailed investigation spanning December 2013 to September 2014.

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