By Rick Maze
Congress acted Wednesday to make certain veterans do not miss out on the 3.6 percent cost-of-living adjustment that is already coming Dec. 1 for Social Security recipients and military retirees.
By voice vote and little debate, the House of Representatives gave final passage to S 894, a bill authorizing the Veterans Affairs Department to make a 3.6 percent hike in veterans' disability compensation, dependency and indemnity compensation for survivors and pensions for low-income veterans. This will be the first increase in those payments since Dec. 1, 2008.
The original bill in the House was sponsored by freshman Rep. Jon Runyan, R-N.J., as H.R. 1407.
About 2.9 million people will be affected by the bill. The Senate passed the bill earlier this year, so the measure now goes to President Barack Obama for his signature.
Social Security, military and federal civilian retired pay and other federal entitlements are automatically tied to the Consumer Price Index, a measurement of the cost of goods and services, but veterans' benefits are adjusted only if Congress acts.
Increases take effect Dec. 1 but will first appear in January checks.
There were no cost-of-living adjustments, or COLAs, in 2009 and 2010 because consumer prices were flat.
Runyan said the passage of the bill is a vital step in keeping America's promise to its veterans.
"In these very difficult economic times, it is important that the nation remembers the sacrifice our veterans made," Runyan said in a prepared statement. "Even though the economy has been lagging for years, our veterans have not received a COLA since 2009 and this legislation would rectify the situation."
Because the Senate and the House version differed slightly, the rules of Congress require that either the House or the Senate pass the other chamber's version.
"I was extremely pleased to see how quickly the Speaker (John Boehner) moved to bring this legislation to the floor. It is important that the president move just as quickly in signing this bill to ensure that our veterans are provided with the resources they need and deserve," Runyan said.