VETERANS' COMPENSATION COST-OF-LIVING ADJUSTMENT ACT OF 2008 -- (House of Representatives - May 20, 2008)
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Mr. FILNER. Madam Speaker, I yield myself such time as I may consume.
This bill is called the Veterans' Compensation Cost-of-Living Adjustment Act, which was introduced by myself and Mr. Rodriguez of Texas. And I want to thank our ranking member, Mr. Buyer, who, of course, supported this legislation and helped us to get here with unanimous support from our committee.
The fact that we were able to get this bill to the floor only a month after its introduction shows the House leadership's commitment to our Nation's veterans and their survivors.
Since 1976 Congress has passed a measure to direct the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to increase the rates of basic compensation for disabled veterans and the rates of dependency and indemnity compensation, so-called DIC, to their survivors and dependents, along with other benefits, in order to keep pace with the rising cost of living. The disability COLA here would be effective on December 1 of this year and will be equal to that provided on an annual basis to Social Security recipients.
Madam Speaker, this bill will provide over 3 million disabled veterans from the World War I era through the current conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan that VA estimates will be receiving disability compensation for the coming fiscal year. It will help over 300,000 of their survivors during the same period.
Many of the nearly 3.5 million recipients of these benefits depend on these tax-free payments not only to provide for their own basic needs but those of their spouses, children, and parents as well. Without an annual COLA increase, these veterans and their families would see the value of their hard-earned benefits slowly erode.
We would be derelict in our duty if we failed to guarantee that those who sacrifice so much for this country receive benefits and services that don't keep pace with their necessities. I know we have had some disagreement over the past weeks over what, and how, our priorities for veterans should be funded. But on this bill, there is no disagreement. The veterans compensation COLA is included in the CBO baseline. In layman's terms, that means we have already paid for this.
Regardless of whether or not you agree or disagree with the funding of the war in Iraq, our young men and women who have served in our Armed Forces deserve to be adequately compensated for injuries due to their military service. We fund the war, we must fund the warrior, and their families and their survivors, by ensuring their benefits will keep pace with their living expenses. Let's ensure that these benefits make ends meet at the end of the month.
Madam Speaker, as we approach our country's 140th Memorial Day commemoration, I ask all my colleagues to support this bill and send a clear message of support to our troops: You will be taken care of when you return, and we will not forget your sacrifice.
No action by a Member of Congress is more irritating to many Americans than those who say they support the troops but then turn a cold shoulder when those same troops come home, become veterans, and need our help to become whole again. That costs money; money we should not hesitate to spend, just like our military men and women did not hesitate to offer to lay down their lives to defend our freedom and the way of life that we cherish.
I ask my colleagues to consider these facts when voting on the full portfolio of veterans' legislation that is under consideration on the floor today, and of course to support passage of this bill, the Veterans' Compensation Cost-of-Living Adjustment Act of 2008.
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