In recent days, lawmakers have taken the first steps to ensure veterans receive a cost-of-living increase in their federal benefits later this year, introducing legislation that would ensure veterans’ checks see the same increase. than social security payments.
The measure was filed by Reps. Elaine Luria, D-Va., and Troy Nehls, R-Texas, late last week and by Sens. Jon Tester, D-Mont., and Jerry Moran, R-Kansas, on Monday. In joint statements, the four called the proposal key to bolstering veterans’ finances.
“We have a responsibility to take care of our veterans, many of whom rely on VA for financial support,” said Moran, a ranking member of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee.
“As rampant inflation drives up the cost of living, this legislation helps ensure that veterans are able to keep up with our economy and receive the benefits they have been promised.”
Legislation linking the two government benefits is largely routine. Generally, lawmakers approve of the annual proposal to couple increases in VA benefits with increases in Social Security benefits by wide bipartisan margins.
But it’s not automatic. Despite efforts by some advocates in the past, an annual increase in the cost of living for veterans benefits requires congressional action. Social Security benefits, on the other hand, are adjusted according to an automatic formula that is triggered whether or not lawmakers vote for it.
Last year, as inflationary pressures began to affect the US economy, that increase was 5.9%. Officials didn’t say what this year’s adjustment might be, but continued rising costs across the economy could push that figure even higher.
The VA COLA increase legislation would apply to disability, clothing allowance, dependency and severance benefits and other VA assistance program payments.
“The transition from active duty to civilian life is not always easy, and a cost of living adjustment is the least we can do for the men, women and families who have served our country,” said Luria, herself a Navy veteran.
Tester, who is chairman of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee, said the bill “will ensure [veterans] the benefits keep pace with the changing economy.
No timetable has been set for when either chamber could vote on the proposal.
Leo covers Congress, Veterans Affairs and the White House for Military Times. He has covered Washington, DC since 2004, focusing on military personnel and veterans policies. His work has earned him numerous accolades, including a 2009 Polk Award, a 2010 National Headliner Award, the IAVA Leadership in Journalism Award, and the VFW News Media Award.