100%? Really?

Is John McCaingaming the system?

Sen. John McCain has long said he is in robust health and is strong enough to hike the Grand Canyon, but he also is receiving what his staff Monday termed a “disability pension” from the Navy.

When McCain released his tax return for 2007 on Friday, he separately disclosed that he received a pension of $58,358 that was not listed as income on his return.

On Monday, McCain’s staff identified the retirement benefit as a “disability pension” and said that McCain “was retired as disabled because of his limited body movements due to injuries as a POW.”


Certain types of military and veterans pensions are either partially or completely tax-exempt, depending on the seriousness of the disability. In McCain’s case, the exemption is 100%.

100% disabled? Here’s the relevant section of theCode of Federal Regulations, does McCain meet this standard?




          Subpart A_General Policy in Rating

Sec. 4.15 Total disability ratings.

Total disability will be considered to exist when there is present any
impairment of mind or body which is sufficient to render it impossible
for the average person to follow a substantially gainful occupation;
Provided, That permanent total disability shall be taken to exist when
the impairment is reasonably certain to continue throughout the life of
the disabled person. The following will be considered to be permanent
total disability: the permanent loss of the use of both hands, or of
both feet, or of one hand and one foot, or of the sight of both eyes, or
becoming permanently helpless or permanently bedridden.

22 thoughts on “100%? Really?

  1. I suspect that 100% tax exempt and 100% disabled have different thresholds.
    Besides, it’s not his physical deficiencies I’m concerned with.

  2. Well, I think he is permanently disabled and unable to hold a job. To his benefit, he has tried to hold a job, but has proven himself to be unable to perform the duties of that job in an acceptable manner.

  3. You are confusing VA and Dept. of Navy. Title 38 covers Veteran’s benefits from the Veteran’s Affairs Dept. , and the section quoted above deals with “total disability due to unemployability. Disability ratings in the armed forces is done through Physical Evaluation Boards and if the service member is found “Physically unable to perform the duties of his grade,” he/she can be awarded a disability per cent ranging from 10 to 75 percent, since the percent is the per cent of pay from his/her active duty pay (and the max retirement pay is 75% of active pay). One would need at least 30% rating to be retired. Either a 10% or 20% ratings would reduce in separation from service with pay.
    If the award is 30 per cent or more the service member is placed on the retired list. “McCain was probably rated by a board of the Navy and found disabled at a certain percentage of disability. In addition he may have also spent enough time in the Navy to retire after 20 or more years. So the portion that is for disability is tax free, while anything over and above, if any, might be taxable.
    The VA rating is a parallel universe–it is completely separate from the armed forces and uses different standards and pay scale. Under the “total disabled due to unemployable” provision a veteran who is rated with a less than “total” rating, but is disabled severely, can receive disability compensation at the” total” level. If the service member spent less than 20 years in the service, he/she would choose whichever of the military/navy retirement pay or VA compensation is greater.
    So one could receive a VA disability rating of 50% that is 100% tax free or receive a 100% rating that is 100% tax free, whereas in the military retirement system, it would be possible to receive no less than 30% but no more than 75% rating, but that could be 100% tax free. Confusing, I know. Just try navigating these universes trying to get your just due!

  4. My concern is having someone at his age and with his infirmity being near a phone at 3 a.m…will he wake up and get the call? Will he give them the Grampa Howard treatment (“Sixteen Candles”): Are you the little bugger that’s been calling up here all night and then hanging up?
    Truthfully – I don’t need that added anxiety. These last 7 + years have really done me in.

  5. Well I remember reading a profile of him (it was pretty fair), and he got really screwed up in Vietnam. The North Vietnamese never set his broken bones (I think both legs and an arm) so he is pretty well broken. I don’t begrudge him his diability pension so much I begrudge his Iraq policies. All we have to do is keep repeating that if you loved the last eight years, then vote for McCain.

  6. Pansy may be on to something for the campaign. Is McCain double dipping? Welfare Queen?

  7. The North Vietnamese never set his broken bones (I think both legs and an arm) so he is pretty well broken.
    If a few unset broken bones make you “pretty well broken,” I’ve got a few people you need to meet. One of them has no legs and runs his own business. McCain is a hell of a lot more able-bodied than a bunch of friends of mine, and he’s older, too.
    This kind of gets on my nerves because Iam a disabled person, except I was born that way, and I’m never going to be any better than I am now.
    I don’t begrudge him his diability pension so much I begrudge his Iraq policies.
    I’m going to begrudge him his disability pension, since he stands for taking away the social safety net for other disabled people who could use government disability pensions and aren’t getting them because of prevailing Reaganism. (Thanks, Bill Clinton, for caving on “welfare reform.” Jesus, with friends like that, who needs enemies?) It’s not that he’s getting it that bothers me so much as the inherent hypocrisy: He takes all kinds of benefits from the government that give him extra security (that he really doesn’t need), and advocates taking those things away from people who actually do legitimately need them.

  8. Back in the early ’70s there was a football player (from Appleton, WI) named Rocky Blier, team captain running back at Notre Dame, drafted by the Pittsburg Steelers. But also drafted to go to Viet Nam, where he was wounded, pretty badly, in his feet and ankles.
    When he was discharged, he was rated something like 75% disabled. Which at that point, he was. But he got treatment, worked hard on his physical recovery, and slowly over a couple years got back to the point where he was able to just barely make the Steelers, playing on special teams. A couple more years, lots more hard work, and he found himself playing more regularly in the backfield, blocking for Franco Harris.
    A couple more years, he and Harris both gained 1,000 rushing, behind a great offensive line, playing on the Super Bowl winning “Steel Curtain” teams.
    And all while being rated 75% ‘disabled’. As for McCain…there is no issue here.

  9. LAT: “Many of the Vietnam POWs are receiving payment under a program known as “combat-related special compensation,” which provides benefits and tax exemptions under a complex system, based on such factors as the type of injury and the years of service.”
    I wouldn’t be suprised if McCain qualifies for the 100% payment based on the lengthy of his time as a POW. I wouldn’t touch this issue with a 10-ft pole in the general election. Old and wrong is fair game but any POW compensation John McCain gets I think he deserves.

  10. Its not the fact that he gets 100% disability pension – its the question of whether he is fit and healthy. That is the question people are asking.
    Why is he getting 100% disability if he is as fit and healthy as he would like everyone to think… I think that is the issue for most people. I am sure ‘ol straight talk express could just clear that up for everyone and it would be no problem… unless he has something to hide here.
    If he wasn’t running for president it would be none of our business, but since he is…
    While he’s at it… about those tax returns…???

  11. The requirements for qualifying for disability from military service are NOT the same as those for disability under VA or Social Security. For military disability the determination is based on the degree to which the injuries preclude the service member from performing the duties commensurate with the indidual’s rank and qualifications.
    All service members are evaluated for military disability when retiring and given a disability ratings from 0% to 100%, in 10% increments. Each increment must be determined as “service related” or “not service related.” A service member is eligible for tax-free disability pay if they have at least 30% service-related disability.
    The tax free disability pay is basically equal to the disability percentage times the retirement pay. The disability pay replaces an identical amount of retired pay; i.e., the service member cannot get full retirement pay plus disability pay.
    So, someone eligible for 30% tax-free disability gets the same retirement pay as someone of the same rank and years of service with no disability, except that 30% of the pay is tax free.
    At the time of his retirement, then-Capt. McCain suffered from post-traumatic osteoarthritis and a number of other diseases and ailments which were determined to preclude continued full service. By law, for former POW’s any disability due to those medical problems or diseases MUST be identified as service-related and entitle the service member to tax free disability pay.
    When he retired as a Navy Captain in 1981 after more than 22 years of service Sen. McCain was entitled to retirement pay equal to 55% of a Captain’s base pay. The initial retirement pay was about $20,493, based on 1981 military pay tables. Since then it is been increased nearly annually by the same percentage amount as active duty pay has increased resulting in a current retirement pay of about $57,000. Sen. McCain’s 100% military disability rating simply makes the pay tax free.
    (Technically I believe that under the law he gets that amount as disability compensation and it offsets against his retirement pay, reducing the retirement pay to zero. Under the law service members cannot receive both military retirement pay and military disability compensation for the same period of service.)

  12. holden,
    Building on what Phil had to say…
    Lemme address this to help clarify what’s happening here, as I receive a similar, if lesser, Disability Pension. First, the article doesn’t come out and say he’s 100% Disabled… that is only inferred. Nor does it say HOW he retired– via the VA or via the Navy. Big difference between the two programs. I went through the VA, and because my Disability percentage was over 40%, and deemed “Service Connected,” my Disability is also Tax-Free and Off-Book.
    I was “Medically Retired” of the Navy in 1996, for Seizure Disorder (caused by OJT exposure to Toluene)– that’s 40% Disability, I fell in my first seizure, onto the steel weather-decks and broke my back in three places– 30%, and in a second seizure, I dislocated my right shoulder– 10%.
    I’m already at 70% from two seizures in as many weeks. Ad hearing loss– 10%, and a bunk knee– 5%, and I’m considered 85% Disabled.
    That is how it works– every injury is assigned a percentage, and it gets added up to a total Disability. In the case of 100% Disability, a secondary %-age comes into play, and this one assesses one’s ability for future work. ove 100%(50%), one can claim TOTAL Disability, and live off of one’s Disability Pension and Social Security, but never, ever take a paid job where a W-2 is generated.
    Under that, one can work, under medical limitations. I doubt that ol’ Johnny has lifted a 40-pound bag of anything in a long time. He’s probably restricted to 20-pounds or less– as I am. But, I am a working man anyhow, and I keep trying to build myself, instead of giving in to the Disability. I keep on having seizures, and injuring myself every year.
    I was a Petty Officer 3rd Class (E-4) when I was retired, and my Disability Pension is about $1000 per month– NOT taxed, and off-book, because I retired through the VA. I usually put that cash to work supporting smaller bloggers and Progressive ideas, and expanding my gardens.
    McSame was an Officer, and he served longer than I did, and so, his Disability Pension is higher.
    There really isn’t much of a story there, except that he’s announced his AltGI Bill, which totally fucks the Troops, while he slurps the big tit.
    THAT is the story. Not that he’s Disabled. I’d bet Jim Webb or any of the other Veteran Senate and Congresscritters are getting similar Disability payments.
    I hope that this helped clarify the situation.

  13. Yeah but I see guys getting out of Iraq who won’t be doing any type of job and they get suckered into taking 20% disability. That’s just not right.

  14. I’d just like to know how McCain got from LtCom to Captain – was he ever Commander?

  15. You would think that someone could address the real issue. Why is Senator McCain getting a $58000 disability pension. I dont question that he qualifies for a pension as an 06 with 22 years of service but why the disability status. The injuries that support his disability presumably came during his time in Vietnam. When he returned from Vietnam a Navy Flight Surgeon apparantly certified that he was 100 percent capable of returning to active flight status. So how and when did he go from being 100 percent capable of flying military aircraft to being 100 percent disabled in his pension status? Was there some kind of additional injury that occurred (did he hurt himself chasing tall blondes around odeur tables in Hawaii).
    Only one of two (possibly three) things can be true.
    One or more Flight Surgeons certified him to return to flight status when he was not physically fit (which means they lied).
    Somebody certified him to qualify for a 100 percent disability status on his Navy Pension when he had previously been fit enough to fly multi-million dollar military aircraft after returning from Vietnam (which means they lied)
    Or he sustained some additional injury during the last three years of Service that qualified him for a disability status on his pension income.

  16. There is a difference between being rated at 100% and being rated as Total Disabled. I will not get into an online E-Peen argument as it serves no purpose for me. I am rated at 100% from injuries sustained in Iraq. I deal with those everyday but it does not preclude me from working or living my life. I think the common misconception is that 100% = crippled or completely immobile. In some cases it is. In others, as I suspect it is for Senator McCain, it is a rating based off of several individual ratings that equate to 100%.
    Again, you can be rated at 100% and still be anything you want and do anything you are able to do. It does not equate to employability or capability.

  17. I can’t believe the sacrifices I’ve made over the years in the military fighting for your freedoms to verbally express yourself in threads like these. I doubt any of you would last 1 day, let alone 5 years in a POW camp as John McCain did. He didn’t have to spend 5 years there, which is a testament to his character-obviously meaningless to you. As for disability, it’s automatically determined when you leave service and have your final physical exam. VA can then re-evaluate and award a different amount, then followup with periodic updates. 100% disabled doesn’t literally mean that you are a vegetable lying around all day long-although some choose to do just that. There are just some people who are able to overcome obstacles in life-should that be punished? I respect the man for not only his military service but for continuing to serve his country, despite the pain he is in on a daily basis. Maybe he wouldn’t be in pain if he was laying around all day. I would defend anyone who has made these kind of sacrifices, Democrat, Republican alike. Have some respect and show some humanity.

  18. Obviously, many of the commentors have never served in the military and are very partisan. This is not a political matter. This man served his country with greater honor and distinction than 95% of Americans. And your thoughtless comments are repulsive. He should be admired, honored, respected, and held in highest regards. I dare say that if any of you morons had endured what Senator McCain did you would have either died, capitulated, or hung your heads in shame. But, this brave man didn’t give up, he came home in horrible physical shape, still bears many scars and disabilities, and has never asked for your sympathies just like most of us who have actually served in Vietnam. And your off-colored remarks are as repulsive as they can get. But, you have John McCain and the rest of us vets to thank, that you have the freedom to be so repulsive. A proud VietNam Veteran.

  19. NO! Absolutely not double dipping! He’s a War hero and great leader. He’s earned respect. I am a registered Demo and voted for President Obama. Sen. McCain deserves that penion and more!

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