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It’s a shame, but this Veterans Day, we have to consider how broken the fiscal stewardship of the U.S. federal government has become by the way that approximately 60,000 disabled veterans have gamed the system to triple dip into government-provided benefits.
One veteran on disability collected nearly $210,000 in benefits in 2013, while another earned more than $122,000 — nearly three times what his actual military pay would have been — according to a watchdog report being released Thursday that found tens of thousands of veterans are triple-dipping on disability.
Tens of thousands of veterans collect their military retirement pay and disability benefits from the Veterans Administration and disability checks from Social Security too, according to a new report from the Government Accountability Office. All told, nearly 60,000 triple dippers collected $3.5 billion in benefits.
By our math, splitting $3.5 billion among the 60,000 government disability recipients who are triple-dipping the system would put an average of $58,333 in the pockets of each.
To put that number in context, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, in 2013, the median income earned by individuals who worked in full time jobs for at least 50 weeks during the year was $44,348.
What makes this breakdown of federal fiscal stewardship particularly troubling is that Social Security’s disability insurance trust fund will run out of money in less than two years, which under current law, will force disability benefits to be slashed.
So what makes possible the triple dipping that is depleting Social Security’s disability trust fund at such an accelerated pace?
Most Americans aren’t able to collect Social Security disability payments if their income is at least $13,000 a year. But Social Security rules don’t treat military retirement or VA disability payments as regular income, which means veterans can collect tens of thousands of dollars from the Pentagon and VA and still get money from Social Security….
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.
To be clear, the real problem here is the rules, which, thanks to the unconstrained growing complexity of the rules over time and the knowing neglect of those who write and enforce them, have reached the point where they are directly causing the accelerated fiscal deterioration of a federal government program intended to aid the disabled.
But when the inevitable budget crisis arrives, at least we know that it will not have been allowed to happen by chance.