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Legislation to give DOD greater flexibility in pay recoupment schedules takes major step forward

(Washington, D.C.) - U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen's legislation, which was cosponsored by Senator Judd Gregg, to prevent unnecessary financial hardship for veterans took a major step forward today. Working together, Shaheen and Gregg successfully included the legislation in the final version of the Supplemental Appropriations bill, which was approved by a committee of conference late last night. The legislation was prompted by retired Air Force Sergeant Wayne Merritt of Dover, New Hampshire who lost over half his monthly retirement pension in April due to the unfair repayment formula and faced losing his home due to the decreased pay.

"This legislation will help veterans in New Hampshire and across the country who are facing unfair financial difficulties, and I'm thrilled that this important legislation is moving forward quickly," said Shaheen. "Many of our troops fighting today in Iraq and Afghanistan reenlisted to do so, and they could face the same challenges as Sergeant Merritt unless we fix this unfair repayment formula now. I'm proud we've been able to come together in a bipartisan way to do what's right for Sergeant Merritt and all our veterans."

Gregg stated, "I am pleased that the bipartisan legislation I supported along with Senator Shaheen has led to a permanent fix to a pension issue that was causing significant financial hardships for many New Hampshire veterans. Everyone has felt the stress of these tough economic times, and now more than ever, we must continue to work to ensure that our veterans, who have bravely served our country, have the resources and benefits they deserve. I applaud my colleagues for recognizing the seriousness of this issue and working quickly to allow a fair repayment structure that will result in much needed financial relief for veterans throughout our country."

Shaheen successfully included legislation to prevent the type of financial hardship Merritt and other veterans in his situation are facing in the Supplemental Appropriations bill passed by the Senate. Last night, with Gregg's influence on the joint Senate-House conference committee, the Senators succeeded in keeping that legislation in the final version of the bill, which is expected to be taken up by the House and Senate next week.

When members of the military accept a separation benefit for early retirement but later reenlist and qualify for a pension, the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) is statutorily bound by a rigid formula to recoup the separation benefit by deducting a portion of their pension. After learning of the hardship this rigid formula had caused Sergeant Merritt, Shaheen began working with the DOD to craft a legislative solution that would allow the DOD to consider financial hardship when determining a repayment schedule. Gregg cosponsored the legislation, which was set on a fast track to passage when it was added to the Supplemental Appropriations bill that passed the Senate on May 21. The Supplemental then went to a joint Senate-House conference committee to reconcile the two versions of the bill, where Shaheen and Gregg fought to ensure the legislation remained in the final version of the Supplemental. Today, thanks to the bipartisan efforts of Shaheen and Gregg, the legislation moved another major step forward as the Senators succeeded in including the legislation in the final Senate-House conference report.