Senator John McCain has long said he is healthy and strong enough to hike the Grand Canyon, but he is also receiving what his staff called a Navy “disability pension” on Monday.
When McCain released his 2007 tax return on Friday, he separately disclosed that he had received a pension of $ 58,358 that was not listed as income on his return.
McCain’s staff on Monday identified the retirement benefit as a “disability pension” and said McCain “retired as disabled due to his limited body movements due to injuries as a prisoner of war.” .
McCain’s campaign strategist Mark Salter said Monday night that McCain was technically disabled. “Tortured for his country, that’s how he acquired his disability,” Salter said.
Certain types of military and veterans pensions are partially or fully tax exempt, depending on the severity of the disability. In the case of McCain, the exemption is 100%.
If McCain had had to pay taxes on the full pension amount, it would have increased his tax bill by about $ 18,000 based on the percentage of his income he paid to the federal government.
McCain spent five and a half years as a prisoner of war in Hanoi. After his release in 1973, he returned home on crutches and began painful physical rehabilitation. He then regained pilot status and commanded a Navy squadron before retiring from service in 1981.
McCain would be the oldest man to enter the White House if elected president, and questions have been raised about his health.
McCain has twice developed melanoma, a potentially fatal form of skin cancer.
The fact that he is legally designated with an invalidity pension may raise other questions.
“That’s a legitimate question to ask about the Commander-in-Chief: is he fit to serve,” said Robert Schriebman, senior Pentagon tax adviser and tax lawyer who recently retired as a judge advocate for a California National Guard unit.
If McCain can walk through the Grand Canyon, then why should he be receiving tax-exempt government disability benefits, Schriebman asked.
McCain broke his knee and broke both arms when he was shot dead in northern Vietnam in 1967.
In his autobiographies, McCain said his knee still bothered him in cold weather and he was unable to lift his hands above his shoulders.
Elmo Baker, a retired colonel and chairman of a group of prisoners of war during the Vietnam War, said many former prisoners of war received some kind of military pension that was partially or fully tax-exempt.
Baker said he was receiving payments that were 70% tax-free, but that he “hadn’t had as many injuries as McCain.”
Many Vietnamese prisoners of war receive payments under a program known as “Special Combat-Related Compensation,” which provides benefits and tax exemptions under a complex, tax-based system. factors such as type of injury and years of service.
Paul Galanti, another former POW in the group, said that even if McCain’s injuries were severe enough to qualify him as a disability, it would not affect his performance as president.
“I don’t know of any physical condition to be commander-in-chief,” Galanti said. “He would have a nice car to get around and a nice plane to fly. “
Times editor Maeve Reston, Alabama, contributed to this report.