Senators seek pension hike for Medal of Honor recipients

The country’s 72 living Medal of Honor recipients could see a huge bump in their pensions should legislation proposed by a bipartisan group of Senators pass.

According to a report by MilitaryTimes.com, Senator Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), a retired Air Force Reserve colonel who made multiple deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan, introduced the legislation in order to not only more than double the pensions, but to also provide a travel stipend to allow recipients to tell their stories. Congress.gov notes that the legislation, S. 1209, was introduced on May 23, 2017, but no text was available.

In a May 25, 2017 release, Senator Graham noted that his legislation would increase the pension from $1,303.15 per month to $3,000 per month. These pensions are in addition to other military benefits that these servicemen have earned.

The Medal of Honor is the highest military decoration awarded by the United States government. It is bestowed on a member of the United States armed forces who distinguishes himself “conspicuously by gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty while engaged in an action against an enemy of the United States.” Because of the nature of its criteria, the medal is often awarded posthumously.

“Medal of Honor recipients represent the best among us. These heroes have served our country with distinction, and this modest increase is the least we can do to convey our gratitude for their sacrifices. I urge my colleagues to support this bill so that we can do right by our Medal of Honor recipients,” Graham said in the statement.

Senator Tom Cotton (R-Ark.), an Iraq War veteran and an original co-sponsor of S.1209, added, “We can never repay our Medal of Honor recipients for everything they’ve done for our country. But we can and should support them on behalf of a grateful nation.”

Many of the Medal of Honor recipients have often traveled to tell their stories at their own expense. The last stipend increase was passed in 2002, according to the release issued by Senator Graham’s office.

Col. Lindsey Graham, a Senior Senator from South Carolina, chats with Command Chief Master Sgt. Thomas Narofsky, 386th Air Expeditionary Wing Command Chief, during a briefing int the wing conference room April 9, 2007. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Ian Carrier)

S. 1209 is expected to cost about $1.5 million per year over the next ten years, according to Senator Graham’s office, and was referred to the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs.

Senators Ed Markey (D-Mass.) and Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) are also original cosponsors of the legislation. Blumenthal was caught up in a stolen valor controversy during his 2010 campaign for the Senate after his claims of service in the Vietnam War were disproven. The controversy re-surfaced this past February.