WASHINGTON, DC – House Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer (MD) released the following statement today after House Democrats succeeded in collecting 200 signatures on a “discharge petition” on the “Retired Pay Restoration Act of 2003" (H.R. 303). One Republican, Rep. Tom Tancredo (CO), and 199 Democrats have now signed the discharge petition in an effort led by Rep. Jim Marshall (D-GA). A discharge petition is a procedural device that allows House Members to force a vote on legislation – usually over the objection of the House leadership – when they collect the signatures of 218 Members (a majority of House Members):
“With 200 Members of this House signing this discharge petition, we have now reached a very important marker in trying to force the Republican leadership to schedule a vote on this legislation.
“This bill on concurrent receipt has 344 House co-sponsors – both Democrats and Republicans. And still the Republican leadership refuses to schedule it for a vote. We really need to ask: Why are Republicans, who thought enough of this legislation to co-sponsor it, now withholding their signatures from a petition that would simply allow the House to vote on it?
“Currently, veterans who retire with 20 years of honorable service, and who also have a service-related disability, are not permitted to collect both retirement and disability pay concurrently. This legislation would authorize full payment of both retirement pay and disability compensation to half a million disabled military retirees.
“Let’s be clear, giving our disabled veterans the ability to collect both retirement and disability pay is not unfair or double-dipping. It’s a fundamental recognition that our nation owes our disabled veterans a deep debt of gratitude for the fact that they have become disabled during their service and that their service continued to the point where they could collect retirement benefits.
“Last year, President Bush threatened to veto the Defense Authorization bill because of a concurrent receipt provision. But earlier this month, the Senate adopted an amendment to the Fiscal Year 2004 Defense Authorization Act to restore full retirement benefits for disabled military retirees. Clearly, there is overwhelming support in this Congress for this measure, and the Republican leadership has no excuse for refusing to allow the Members to vote on it without delay.”