New Bill to Benefit Disabled Veterans Awaiting Presidential Signature
Veterans’ Compensation Cost-of-Living Adjustment (COLA) Act of 2020
Legislation aimed at increasing benefits for disabled veterans passed through the Senate and is now awaiting President Trump to sign it into law.
Bi-Partisan Bill Introduced and Championed by Veterans, Elaine Luria and Mike Bost
H.R. 6168, Veterans’ Compensation Cost-of-Living Adjustment (COLA) Act of 2020, was first introduced to the House on March 10th, championed by Democratic Representative Elaine Luria, retired Navy commander, and co-sponsored by Republican Representative Mike Bost, a Marine veteran.
The bill passed through the House on May 28th and the Senate followed suit on September 24th. The bipartisan bill centers around growing American veterans’ wallets by directing the Department of Veterans Affairs to increase COLA and COLA-related benefits.
COLA Increases in Recent Years
The COLA increase for both veterans and Social Security recipients in 2018 was 2% and in 2019 was 2.8%. The increase for 2020 was 1.6%, but due to the state of the economy during the pandemic, it’s hard to project what 2021 will look like.
However, if the increase reflects the trend of previous years – which is based on the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Consumer Price Index for Urban Wage Earners and Clerical Workers – as of August, the projected increase is around 1.3%.
COLA Increase for Both Veterans and Social Security Recipients
Unlike Social Security, Veteran COLA Increases Are Not Guaranteed
While Social Security COLA increases have been guaranteed by law since 1975, veteran COLA increases can only take place with approved bills. This connection between veteran and Social Security COLA increases is a long-standing issue for many veterans, who feel it should be tied into military pay raises instead.
The rate increases proposed by Reps. Luria and Bost would impact:
- veterans’ disability compensation
- additional compensation for dependents
- clothing allowances for certain disabled veterans
- dependency and indemnity compensation (DIC) for surviving spouses and children
Changes Would Take Place December 1st
The changes would take effect December 1 if signed into law by the president. Of the bill, Luria said, by making sure benefits are staying in line with inflation, it “will provide a cost of living adjustment to disabled veterans who depend on their benefits to pay for necessities… As a 20-year Navy veteran, I understand how important it is to ensure that veterans’ benefits reflect the rising costs of living.”
Once the bill began its move to the president’s desk, Rep. Luria expressed her gratitude, “I’m pleased that my colleagues in the Senate passed this critical bill… Through this legislation, Congress is honoring its commitment to the heroes who sacrificed for our nation to preserve the freedoms we enjoy at home.”
Normally, bill passage through the Senate and onto the president would be a relatively expedient formality. The delays faced thus far can mainly be attributed to the irregular, disrupted schedules of Congress in the face of the pandemic.
Not the 1st Time Luria Has Advocated For Veterans
This is the second time Rep. Luria has advocated for veterans through such a vital bill. Last year, she introduced the Veterans’ Compensation Cost of Living Act of 2019, which became law with overwhelming bipartisan support.
Congresswoman Elaine Luria represents Virginia’s 2nd Congressional District. She serves on the House Armed Services Committee, where she is the Vice Chair of the Seapower and Projection Forces Subcommittee, and the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, where she serves as Chair of the Disability Assistance and Memorial Affairs Subcommittee.
Congressman Mike Bost represents Illinois’s 12th Congressional District. He serves on the House Committee on Agriculture, the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, and the House Committee on Veteran’s Affairs, where he is the ranking member of the Disability Assistance and Memorial Affairs Subcommittee.
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