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Public Statements

Statements On Introduced Bills and Joint Resolutions

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

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Mr. SANDERS. Mr. President, as Chairman of the Committee on Veterans' Affairs, I am proud to introduce the Veterans' Compensation Cost-of-Living Adjustment Act of 2013. I am also pleased to be joined by Ranking Member Burr and all of my colleagues on the Committee on Veterans' Affairs in introducing this important legislation. I look forward to our continued work together to improve the lives of our Nation's veterans.

Effective December 1, 2013, this measure would direct the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to increase the rates of veterans' compensation to keep pace with a rise in the cost-of-living, should an adjustment be prompted by an increase in the Consumer Price Index, CPI. Referred to as the COLA, this important legislation would make an increase available to veterans at the same level as the increase provided to recipients of Social Security benefits.

Last year, I was proud to cosponsor the Veterans' Compensation Cost-of-Living Adjustment Act of 2012, which provided a 1.7 percent increase in veterans' compensation. The annual COLA legislation is so important because it impacts vital benefits, including veterans' disability compensation and dependency and indemnity compensation for surviving spouses and children. In fiscal year 2014, it is projected that over 4.2 million veterans and survivors will receive compensation benefits.

As a longstanding advocate of our Nation's veterans, I understand the critical nature of these benefits as many recipients depend upon these tax-free payments to feed their families,heat their homes, pay for prescription drugs, and to provide for the needs of spouses and children. We have an obligation to the men and women who have sacrificed so much to serve our country and who now deserve nothing less than the full support of a grateful Nation. The COLA brings us one step closer to fulfilling our Nation's promise to care for our brave veterans and their families.

We also must continue to ensure that these benefits are not diminished by the effects of inflation. For this reason, I strongly oppose the President's proposal to adopt the chained CPI. I am joined in opposition by nearly every major veterans' organization in America. The Gold Star Wives, The American Legion, Veterans of Foreign Wars, Disabled American Veterans and many, many more all oppose the chained CPI.

I will do everything within my power as Chairman of the Veterans' Affairs Committee to ensure we honor the promise we made to veterans and survivors. It is important that this country address our budget deficit, but there are fairer ways to do it than on the backs of disabled veterans--men and women who have already sacrificed so much for their country.

I ask my colleagues to join with me in honoring the promise that has been made to our Nation's veterans. We cannot allow this misguided attempt to balance the budget on the backs of those who have so proudly served our Nation diminish the benefits provided to veterans and their survivors.

Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent that the text of the bill be printed in the Record.

There being no objection, the text of the bill was ordered to be printed in the RECORD, as follows:

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Mr. SANDERS. Mr. President, as the Chairman of the Veterans' Affairs Committee, I am committed to ensuring we provide our Nation's veterans the opportunities they need to successfully transition back to civilian life. One of the programs afforded to veterans to assist them during this difficult time is the Department of Veterans Affairs' work-study program.

VA's work-study program provides veterans participating in several VA educational, vocational, and rehabilitation programs the opportunity to work alongside school certifying officials and State and Federal employees to assist veterans with VA benefits and services. In fiscal year 2012, this program assisted more than 10,000 veterans, who received approximately $25.7 million in work study payments. Under current law, this program is set to expire this year.

I am proud to introduce legislation that would extend VA's work-study program for three more years. This legislation would allow veterans to continue doing such important activities as conducting outreach programs with State Approving Agencies; working with a National Cemetery or a State Veteran's Cemetery; assisting in caring for veterans in State Homes; and working with school certifying officials, claims processors, and other state and federal employees to provide much needed benefits and services to our Nation's heroes.

VA has determined work-study participants do not have the authority to work in congressional offices, despite their successful service in such offices in the past. These veterans were critical to Congress' efforts to understand the needs of our Nation's veterans. They used congressional resources and personal experience to help veterans access earned benefits and services. This legislation would allow veterans to work in congressional offices to assist other veterans with casework issues, help congressional staff address the unique challenges facing our newest generation of veterans, and develop the knowledge and experience needed to successfully transition into the civilian workforce.

Our veterans have sacrificed so much in defense of this country. They deserve a seamless transition when they look to return to civilian life. This legislation would expand a program that has been so vital in preparing veterans to succeed in the civilian workforce.

Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent that the text of the bill be printed in the Record.

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