March 2011 Newsletter


Ever Wonder How VA Math Works? March 6,2011

Veterans frequently ask how VA math determines their compensation percentages. A quick way to understand this process is described below. A veteran begins at 100% or the equivalent of a “whole” healthy person equaling 100. Let’s say that the veteran receives 40% disability for service connected back problems and 30% for each knee. If you add 40% + 30% + 30% you will calculate that the veteran is at 100%; however, that does not take into account that each disability percentage affects the overall whole (100) at different stages. So, consider the following: The highest value disability is calculated first; therefore, the 40% disability is calculated first: 100 X .60 = 60 or 60% of the whole. The veteran has decreased from 100% to 60% of the whole healthy person. Now the 60% is used below. If the next largest disability is rated at 30%, multiply .60 (from the 60% above) by .30 (or 30%): 60 X .30 = 18 Then subtract 18 from 60 as follows: 60 – 18 = 42 or 42% of the whole. The veteran has decreased from 100% to 60% to 42 % of the whole healthy person. Now the 42% is used below. Next calculate the third largest disability. In this case let’s use 30% disability. 42 X .30 = 12.6 or 12.6% of the whole Then subtract 12.6 from 42 as follows: 42 – 12.6 = 29 or 29% of the whole. The veteran has decreased from 100% to 60% to 29% of the whole healthy person. Now the 29% is used below. We originally started at 100% of the whole and must subtract 29% as the remnant of the procedure above and that leaves 71%… 100 – 29 = 71% Since the VA calculates in whole amounts, the veteran is now considered to have a 70% service connected disability by rounding to the nearest percentage.

by Chaplain Kathie

Americans have always made it part of national voice to honor the men and women serving this country. Talk is cheap when it comes to politicians even thinking about cutting funds to veterans after they have served. When they risk their lives for this country, that is a debt we owe them. If the wars they are sent to fight are important enough to ask them to go, then we owe them for whatever happens to them afterwards. If they get hurt/wounded on the job, they would expect nothing less from a civilian employer and Workman’s Comp. Since when did any elected official decide that what we owe them is fair game in a budget battle?

We’ve been behind for decades on fully funding the VA to take care of all the wounded veterans. A lot has been done in the last few years and now these people are talking about cutting funding for them. The reason is clear. Serving in the military does not matter as much to these politicians as their own lives.

Do they ever say they should do without healthcare funded by tax payers when we have too much debt? Do they even talk about the fact US tax payers cover their medical insurance? Do they ever say that their paychecks should be cut?

Salaries and Benefits of US Congress Members

A cost-of-living-adjustment (COLA) increase takes effect annually unless Congress votes to not accept it.

Senate Leadership
Majority Party Leader – $193,400
Minority Party Leader – $193,400

House Leadership
Speaker of the House – $223,500
Majority Leader – $193,400
Minority Leader – $193,400
The current salary (2011) for rank-and-file members of the House and Senate is $174,000 per year.

Members of Congress receive retirement and health benefits under the same plans available to other federal employees. They become vested after five years of full participation.

Members elected since 1984 are covered by the Federal Employees’ Retirement System (FERS). Those elected prior to 1984 were covered by the Civil Service Retirement System (CSRS). In 1984 all members were given the option of remaining with CSRS or switching to FERS.

As it is for all other federal employees, congressional retirement is funded through taxes and the participants’ contributions. Members of Congress under FERS contribute 1.3 percent of their salary into the FERS retirement plan and pay 6.2 percent of their salary in Social Security taxes.

Members of Congress are not eligible for a pension until they reach the age of 50, but only if they’ve completed 20 years of service. Members are eligible at any age after completing 25 years of service or after they reach the age of 62.
Please also note that Members of Congress have to serve at least 5 years to even receive a pension

The amount of a congressperson’s pension depends on the years of service and the average of the highest 3 years of his or her salary. By law, the starting amount of a Member’s retirement annuity may not exceed 80% of his or her final salary.

According to the Congressional Research Service, 413 retired Members of Congress were receiving federal pensions based fully or in part on their congressional service as of Oct. 1, 2006. Of this number, 290 had retired under CSRS and were receiving an average annual pension of $60,972. A total of 123 Members had retired with service under both CSRS and FERS or with service under FERS only. Their average annual pension was $35,952 in 2006.
read more here

Salaries and Benefits of US Congress Members

Do they feel like their own budgets should be cut or they should go after retired members because there is a budget mess they had a hand in creating in the first place? No, they feel their service was valuable and they were promised their packages when they decided to give lip service instead of risking their lives. Veterans on the other hand are fair game. The debt congress owes them is subject to debate but their own benefits are sacred.

Take a look at what servicemen and women make.

1) Basic pay for an O-7 to O-10 is limited by Level II of the Executive Schedule which is $14,975.10. Basic pay for O-6 and below is limited by Level V of the Executive Schedule which is $12,141.60.

2) While serving as Chairman, Joint Chief/Vice Chairman, Joint Chief of Staff, Chief of Navy Operations, Commandant of the Marine Corps, Army/Air Force Chief of Staff, Commander of a unified or specified combatant command, basic pay is $20,263.50. (See note 1 above).

3) Applicable to O-1 to O-3 with at least 4 years and 1 day of active duty or more than 1460 points as a warrant and/or enlisted member. See Department of Defense Financial Management Regulations for more detailed explanation on who is eligible for this special basic pay rate.

4) For the Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy, Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force, Sergeant Major of the Army or Marine Corps or Senior Enlisted Advisor of the JCS, basic pay is $7,489.80. Combat Zone Tax Exclusion for O-1 and above is based on this basic pay rate plus Hostile Fire Pay/Imminent Danger Pay which is $225.00.

5) Applicable to E-1 with 4 months or more active duty. Basic pay for an E-1 with less than 4 months of active duty is $1,357.20.

6) Basic pay rate for Academy Cadets/Midshipmen and ROTC members/applicants is $974.40.

As you can see they make a lot less than members of congress but they put their bodies on the line instead of their next campaign to keep their “important” jobs for the country.

According to the VA the compensation rate for disabled veterans, the ones they want to cut, the ones injured serving the country, is:

For a veteran alone
10% $123.00
20% $243.00
30% $376.00
40% $541.00
50% $770.00
60% $974.00
70% $1,228.00
80% $1,427.00
90% $1,604.00
100% $2,673.00

Considering that when a veteran reaches the point of 70%, they are usually unable to work, so this is what they have to live off of. Food, rent or mortgages, clothing, utilities, transportation and every other bill we all have to pay are paid by disabled veterans.

But with all of this there are members of congress saying veterans should never be fair game and they are willing to put up a fight.

Pryor tells vets all will be hit by U.S. budget cuts

By the Voice Staff
Thursday, March 3, 2011 10:12 AM CST

The federal budget needs to be balanced and the deficit reduced, but not at the expense of the nation’s active-duty soldiers and veterans, U.S. Sen. Mark Pryor said Friday. He made the remarks at a meeting of the Arkansas Veterans Coalition at the Sherwood VFW Hall.

“The national debt is beyond politics,” he said. “We need to work together to work through this.”

The problem is so severe, he said, that it won’t be possible to balance the budget for a decade, providing Congress acts now. And, he said, that’s just to balance the budget. Paying off the national debt will be another story.

To accomplish a balanced budget, he said, “everything is going to get a cut.”

However, he said, he planned to fight to maintain funding for military and veterans programs. “I’ll be fighting for you all,” he said.
read more here
Pryor tells vets all will be hit by U.S. budget cuts

We’ve read over and over again that the country is in trouble financially but we have been before and we didn’t get here overnight. Most of the people suddenly whining about the debt were responsible for creating it. Most of them were sticking their fingers in their ears when wiser voices were saying invading Iraq was the wrong thing to do. They held their hands over their eyes when the wounded were coming back from Iraq and Afghanistan so they wouldn’t have to look at them waiting in long lines at the VA without incomes because no one planed for them. At the same time they cupped their hands around their mouths to shout the words “support the troops” they whispered they were not worth the price when they came home. Now we have proof they are not as valuable as members of congress think their own service is.

Would they like it if they arrived in congress and discovered they would not be paid the way they were promised? Would they like it if they were told they would have to pay their own insurance? What about finding out that after years of service their retirement package was gone? Do they ever consider what it would be like for them to risk their lives on a daily basis, get wounded on the job and then be left to take care of themselves without what they were promised? Would they be willing to wait months or years to have a claim honored and have their wounds taken care of? Would they be willing to wait months for an appointment at the VA?

Where is your congressman/woman in this fight? Are they saying their own service to the people in their area is worth more than a soldier serving the entire nation risking his/her life on a daily basis? Are they saying that the debt we owe veterans is less worthy of honoring than the debt they feel they owe retired politicians? Is their healthcare coverage worth more than taking care of veterans wounded fighting the wars they sent them to fight?