Bill to Help Disabled Vets Receive State Retirement Disability Benefits Advances to Legislature

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AUGUSTA, Maine (WABI) - A measure to ensure the state retirement system has the same disability standards as the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs was approved in committee Wednesday.

The bill would make sure disabled vets who are part of the Maine Public Employee Retirement System qualify for disability benefits if they become unable to work.

It was inspired by Scott Couture, a former Marine Patrol Officer who experienced serious post-traumatic stress after serving in Iraq.

When he became unable to work, he was denied disability retirement benefits even though the VA determined he had a service-connected disability.

It took him two years to receive the benefits.

"The process involved a lot of very probing, painful assessments by staff of the Maine State Retirement System that didn't actually have any experience evaluating a PTSD case. So we felt like even though in the end we got his case resolved, the process could really be improved for other families that need to go through the same thing," said Darcie Couture, Scott's wife.

"If the VA has made the determination after multiple painful conversations and psychological exams, we need to honor that. Our priorities should be the veteran and their family," said Rep. Seth Berry, (D) the bill's sponsor.

The bill was voted out of the Appropriations and Financial Affairs Committee on Wednesday.

It goes to the House and Senate for consideration.