Legislation to increase veterans’ compensation through a Cost-of-Living Adjustment (COLA) passed the Senate on their first day back in session after the November elections. The Veterans’ Compensation Cost-of- Living Adjustment Act of 2012 will affect several important benefits, including veterans’ disability compensation and dependency and indemnity compensation for surviving spouses and children. It is projected that over 3.5 million veterans and survivors will receive compensation benefits in Fiscal Year 2012.
The House of Representatives version of the bill was passed unanimously by the House last July but the Senate bill had been delayed in September by one or more unknown Republican Senators for unspecified reasons. Due to Senate rules, a Senator may block legislation in a manner which keeps his or her identity secret.
According to the Washington Post, the Department of Veterans Affairs warned when the bill stalled in September that in order for VA to pay the December cost-of-living adjustment as scheduled on Jan. 1, Congress would have to pass the COLA by Nov. 13.
“Should Congress pass the COLA after that date, VA would have to make complex programming changes to the system that could not be accomplished in time to pay the COLA increase on January 1,” the VA said in a statement.
The Senate was able to meet the deadline at the very last minute. “Everything is now on schedule,” a VA spokesman said after the vote was taken.
The Veterans’ COLA Act of 2012 will:
- Give veterans and their families and extra $500 in benefits for the 2013 year;
- Adjust cost-of-living rates for almost 4 million veterans and their families to guarantee that their benefits grow along with inflation;
- Increase disability compensation for veterans
and dependency and indemnity compensation for surviving spouses and children;
- Supplement the previous Act with a 1.7 percent increase; and
- Adjust to allow disabled veterans accepting clothing allotments to use the benefits of Veterans’ COLA.
The COLA rate will match the annual increase provided to Social Security recipients and is based on the Bureau of Labor Statistics Consumer Price Index. It is designed to offset inflation and other factors that lead to the rising cost of living.