News Reports Blast Veterans for Triple-Dipping Benefits

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Military and veterans benefits are often seen as overly generous by those who don’t understand what it takes to earn them. While it is true that some military benefits are generous, servicemembers have to go through a lot to earn them. Take military retirement, for example. A military member can retire after 20 years on…

Military and veterans benefits are often seen as overly generous by those who don’t understand what it takes to earn them. While it is true that some military benefits are generous, servicemembers have to go through a lot to earn them.

Veterans Triple-Dipping BenefitsTake military retirement, for example. A military member can retire after 20 years on active duty, and pull down 50% of their base pay for the rest of their life. There aren’t many similar retirement programs anywhere in the U.S. But there is a reason it is so generous – it is incredibly difficult to achieve. Only about 17% of servicemembers remain on active duty long enough to earn a military pension. The job is difficult, and attrition is high.

Injuries sustained in the line of duty contribute to the low-percentage of military members reaching retirement. As military members, we work in hazardous conditions, both in and off the battlefield. Congress and the Department of Veterans Affairs recognize this. That is why they award veterans service-connected disability compensation benefits for injuries or illnesses that occurred or were made worse while they served on active duty. The disability compensation is awarded to servicemembers due to their reduced capacity to work. I don’t think anyone has a reasonable argument that this benefit isn’t earned.

So why write this article?

Because these are two of the three benefits that the Washington Times recently bashed in an article entitled, “Veterans caught triple-dipping on benefits.”

The third benefit? Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits. This benefit is only awarded to severely disabled individuals who are unable to work. Individuals must have paid into the Social Security system to be able to receive this benefit. Because military members pay into the Social security system*, they are eligible to receive Social Security benefits, including SSDI. (Note: some military members may be eligible to receive Social Security Disability benefits for Wounded Warriors, which is a variation of the SSDI benefit specifically tailored to military members).

*Military members used to be exempt from Social Security contributions, but that changed years ago; military veterans who are eligible for Social Security may be eligible for increased benefits depending on when they served.

Is There an Issue with Triple-Dipping?

The Washington Times article is written as though veterans are scamming the American taxpayer. Just look at the title – Veterans caught triple-dipping on benefits.

Caught, as in they were doing something wrong. But they aren’t. Everything is within the scope of the law.

Let’s look at the three benefits again:

  • Military retirement: Is this an earned benefit? Absolutely. And I don’t think we need to go into any deep discussions about what it takes to earn a military pension. Fewer than one in five active duty members remain in the service long enough to earn it.
  • VA Disability Compensation: Is this an earned benefit? Sadly, yes. The VA wouldn’t award this benefit if it wasn’t “earned” through the injuries or illnesses sustained during the servicemember’s time on active duty. There are checks and balances in place to review the veteran’s claims, and the award is given based on medical evidence and decreased quality of life. No benefit is awarded as a hand out.
  • Social Security Disability: Is this an earned benefit? Sadly, yes. Similar to the VA disability compensation, the Social Security Administration has checks and balances to ensure someone is qualified to receive the benefit. People receiving SSDI don’t choose to get injured to the point of being unable to work.

The “Problem” with Triple-Dipping

The reason these veterans are receiving extra attention is because most people aren’t eligible to receive two forms of disability compensation. For example, there is a clause that prohibits people from receiving SSDI if they earn more than $13,000 a year. But Social Security rules don’t count income from military pensions or VA disability compensation. So some veterans who are receiving both a military pension and VA disability compensation may also be eligible to receive SSDI, even if they have income over the $13,000 threshold.

A Deeper Look at Triple-Dipping

The article went on to state, “nearly 60,000 triple dippers collected $3.5 billion in benefits,” and, “Of the $3.5 billion spent in 2013 on the triple dippers, $1.4 billion came from the VA, $1.2 billion came from the Pentagon, and $937.4 million came from Social Security.”

On the surface, that is a huge number. But the article went on to quote two specific examples:

Veteran 1: A 54-year-old who retired in 1997 after 20 years in the military, who had lung disease, vascular disease and lost use of his feet, collected $122,887 in benefits in 2013 — nearly three times the $43,808 someone of his pay grade would have made in the military.

Veteran 2: Meanwhile, a 59-year-old who retired in 2004 after 26 years, who lost his feet, is blind in one eye and has renal problems, collected $152,719 in 2013 — more than twice the $72,824 salary of someone at his final military pay grade. Most of his benefits — $85,958 — came from VA disability, while $46,396 was military retirement, and $20,365 was from Social Security.

These are serious illnesses and injuries.

What the article fails to mention is that Veteran 2 receives the maximum special disability award of $85,958. That is only given to severely disabled veterans who require full aid and attendance in their home. In other words, the money is to be used for home nursing care.

The funds aren’t going into the veteran’s bank account. They are being used to provide health care for service-connected injuries.

Budget Cuts Are Important – But Find them Elsewhere

I know the government is trying to balance the books and cut redundancies. But I think they should look elsewhere. The thing is, veterans rely upon their earned benefits, and in the case of the veterans called out by the Washington Times, these veterans are simply trying to hang on to life.

Are there some veterans who game the system? I’m sure there are. But the vast majority of veterans simply want to receive the benefits they earned. They aren’t getting rich off the fat of the land. They don’t want to be labeled as freeloaders. They simply want to go on with life. And for those who are so severely disabled that they can’t work, or that they require hospice care, I think that is the least we can offer them. Without the vitriol and politics, please. We owe them that much. And a whole lot more.

Story: Washington Times.

Additional Commentary: DisabledVeterans.org.

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About Ryan Guina

Ryan Guina is the founder and editor of The Military Wallet. He is a writer, small business owner, and entrepreneur. He served over 6 years on active duty in the USAF and is a current member of the IL Air National Guard.

Ryan started The Military Wallet in 2007 after separating from active duty military service and has been writing about financial, small business, and military benefits topics since then. He also writes about personal finance and investing at Cash Money Life.

Ryan uses Personal Capital to track and manage his finances. Personal Capital is a free software program that allows him to track his net worth, balance his investment portfolio, track his income and expenses, and much more. You can open a free Personal Capital account here.

Featured In: Ryan's writing has been featured in the following publications: Forbes, Military.com, US News & World Report, Yahoo Finance, Reserve & National Guard Magazine (print and online editions), Military Influencer Magazine, Cash Money Life, The Military Guide, USAA, Go Banking Rates, and many other publications.

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  1. Rob says

    They say “how to scam the system”, but in reality it is only how to expedite. The VA is years behind with initial claims, and we sometimes file to have our claim upgraded or add new conditions. Also, we undergo random re-evaluations to ensure our conditions are still problematic and we are seeking medical treatment to maintain our condition. I am one of the 17% mentioned who did 20 1/2 years. I was immediately granted 90% disability by VA and had it upgraded to 100% UI. I am also SSD, but i’d give my $ back to be able to work! Somalia in 93, iraq in 03-04 then 06-07, 2 ischemic strokes all did a number. I have residual effects from the strokes, PTSD from combat. I see so many drs i have hardly no time. We all have paid our dues and EARNED every penny.

  2. Cheri says

    And thankfully this is not the end of earning potential for these awesome, deserving retired veterans: when these retired veterans apply and accept a federal civilian job (truly awesome when they are retired colonels) they can continue to draw their military retirement pay while being paid their full federal employee salary. If their federal civilian employment is overseas and if they have observed and followed the rules of the Living Quarters Allowance (LQA) requirements, they will be paid: military retirement, federal civilian salary, and LQA. Isn’t our government awesome?

  3. Derrick L Gibson says

    Im a double dipper.

    70% VA compensation and ssdi.

    In my case its 3900 a month all totalled up and tax free.

    What some people dont understand is well, quite frankly…

    Im messed up..

    Im legally deaf, messed up shoulders and right hand and I have meiners disease that make me lose balance periodically…

    Im not 80…Im 37 years old.

    I joined the military 20 years ago as a perfectly healthy young adult.

    At just 22 I was wearing hearing aids. At 24 I was medically discharged from the military.

    Without these benifits I would not be able to work at a decent paying job…

    Its just the way it is…

    Why are people mad when a veteran gets money for disibilities????

    I havent earned it???

    I challange any of these nay sayers to spend just one month with an Army light Infantry unit.

    It takes a very special person with amazing physical fitness and mental toughness to do what I did for 7 years.

    Maybe one out of 4 naysayers could have what it takes.

  4. Todd johanson says

    Did World War 1 & 2 in Korea vets get the same compensation? Is there any fraud with the chance of government money as in the case of welfare for civilians? Serving is called serving. To do something for others I’ve heard of many vets accounts of how to scam the Va by veterans for veterans. There are those truly suffering. I know several that have committed suicide due to PTSD this is sad. But fraud exists and compensation now according to retired Marine commandant The quality of life is the best he has seen it in 30 years. Compared to previous generations

    • Rob says

      They say “how to scam the system”, but in reality it is only how to expedite. The VA is years behind with initial claims, and we sometimes file to have our claim upgraded or add new conditions. Also, we undergo random re-evaluations to ensure our conditions are still problematic and we are seeking medical treatment to maintain our condition. I am one of the 17% mentioned who did 20 1/2 years. I was immediately granted 90% disability by VA and had it upgraded to 100% UI. I am also SSD, but i’d give my $ back to be able to work! Somalia in 93, iraq in 03-04 then 06-07, 2 ischemic strokes all did a number. I have residual effects from the strokes, PTSD from combat. I see so many drs i have hardly no time. We all have paid our dues and EARNED every penny.

  5. Marcus P. Merwin says

    Thank you for all your time and Information!Long time reader.
    Currently 71 yrs old,48 yrs marrird to same saintly woman.
    Physically in Good Health;tis the Mental aspect that is troubling,
    70%PTSD from VA total 80%.Honorably Discharged from USMC 1963-1967 Dominican Republic 1965 Vietnam 1965-1966,WIA
    Sept 13,1966 Ended Vietnam tour 2 OCT 1966.
    Began U.S.P.S Nov 1971 Retired 2002 Full Retirement/Annuity!
    Stuck my nose to the grind and always, always,worked another job
    at times an additional 40 hrs and other times less than 40 but never never 40 HR WEEK.
    Therefor put at least enough to put my quarters in for S/S although fell under the Offset Rule…..
    So after labouring through the above….Am I refered to by some as a TRIPPLE DIPPER?????I will end with the question and will withold My Answer. Thank
    You SemperFi/God Bless America.

    • Ryan Guina says

      Hello Marcus, Thank you for your comment. You aren’t triple dipping in my book. You have earned every penny you receive. Thank you for your service, and enjoy your retirement years with your lovely bride!

  6. Mark says

    The Congress of the United States passes bills into laws, and then they are signed by the President. If disabled veterans are Triple-dipping, it is entirely legal according to the law of the land! Every person who criticizes our veterans should be requried to state how many years they served in uniform, and which branch of service. If the answer is “zero” years, then I would say “Why? Why did you not step forward and serve your nation, and make a contribution to our freedom?”

  7. Edward says

    Tell the media to stay out of grown folks business. The civilian world and the military world are two completely different concepts. They couldn’t begin to grasp the reality of it. As far as I am concerned, it’s none of their business, what benefits a veteran receives. . . .it’s legal, and he earned it.

  8. Mary says

    My husband receives 2. He has earned every penny for his service and what he goes through on a daily basis. It is a shame what this country puts Veterans through to receive these well earned benefits; not all of them can endure what they have to to get them and they give up the fight. Let’s not forget what the family lives through because of the illnesses. Believe me I’d rather have my husband healthy than the money.
    I am appalled that a politician with all of the many benefits they receive would dream of saying such a thing. Haven’t our honorable Veterans been ******* enough?

  9. Semper Fi says

    Wow! I read both of the “Military Members Have it Too Good and Whine Too Much” and “Should Military Members Receive Special Benefits?”, and read all the comments along with this article. I didn’t realize their where people out there that disgrace us veterans and military personnel because of our benefits. Thank you Ryan for bring this to light.

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