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Service still seeking special compensation claimants

RANDOLPH AIR FORCE BASE, Texas (AFRNS) -- The approval rate of claims for Combat-Related Special Compensation is currently running 66 percent, but one-third of the eligible retirees still have not applied for the program.

Air Force Personnel Center officials expected an increase in claims when the benefit was expanded to include all combat or combat-related disabilities rated as service-connected by the Department of Veterans Affairs at 10 percent or higher, but that increase has just not happened.

"When in doubt - apply," said Mr. Rick Castro, Air Force CRSC program manager. "It may be the key to receiving additional tax-free money to which you're entitled. I encourage all who meet the basic eligibility criteria to apply and let our experienced staff make the decision."

The Air Force has processed about 34,000 Air Force claims since the program's inception in 2003; however, this is just a drop in the bucket compared to the number of retirees still possibly eligible, Mr. Castro said. Data shows there are more than 200,000 members receiving Air Force retired pay who also receive 10 percent or greater VA disability compensation today. Even subtracting the 50,000 already under Concurrent Retirement Disability Payments (often called "Concurrent Receipt"), there are still 120,000 retirees who have not applied for CRSC.

Mr. Castro believes the lack of participation could be attributed to two causes; many retired Airmen may not have heard about the program, or perhaps people are confusing the CRSC criteria with that of Concurrent Receipt.

"That said, let our experts make the call," Mr. Castro explained. "That way if you do not qualify and something in the law or Department of Defense CRSC policy changes in the future that could affect the prior decision, we will already have a claim and documentation, and can reassess a claim based on the new eligibility factors."

In determining eligibility, retired members should answer the following questions:

-- Am I retired with 20 (or more) years of active duty, or retired at age 60 from the Guard or Reserve?

-- Am I receiving retired pay?

-- Do I have a compensable VA disability of 10 percent or higher?

-- Is my pay offset by VA disability payments (VA waiver)?

"If you answered 'yes' to those questions and have not submitted your CRSC claim, you must not need the money," Mr. Castro said. "However, the money is tax-free and could go a long way in funding the education of children, grandchildren, or any number of quality-of-life improvements."

Although CRSC specifically addresses "combat-related" disabilities incurred from armed conflict, retirees who developed disabilities from other than combat may also be eligible. Disabilities caused by exposure to Agent Orange, combat training, aircrew duties, simulated war exercises, parachuting and munitions demolition potentially qualify for compensation under this program. But slipping and falling in an exercise or even during combat -- if not caused by something related to combat, combat training, or an instrumentality of war -- normally does not qualify for CRSC.

The CRSC team needs a copy of all copies of a retiree's Department of Defense Form 214 or retirement order, copies of any VA rating decisions addressing the disabilities being claimed, and any other available documentation. Retired members who do not have their rating decisions should let the team know; it will work to get the rating decisions from the VA.

Information and claim forms are available on the AFPC "Ask" Web site http://ask.afpc.randolph.af.mil/; search for "CRSC". You can also get more information through the 24-hour Air Force Contact Center at (800) 616-3775.