On February 6th Congressman Jon Runyan (R-NJ), the Chairman of the House Veterans Affairs Subcommittee on Disability Assistance and Memorial Affairs (DAMA), and Congresswoman Dina Titus (D-NV), the Ranking Member of DAMA, introduced two bills regarding Cost-of-Living Adjustments (COLA) for disabled veterans. The first bill was H.R 569, which would give qualified disabled veterans and their dependents the annual COLA starting December 2013. The second bill, H.R. 570, the American Heroes COLA Act of 2013, would make veterans' COLA permanent, similar to adjustments to Social Security benefits. Congressman Runyan had previously introduced both pieces of legislation in the 112th Congress.
"Our nation's veterans have selflessly defended the United States and our freedoms," said Congressman Runyan. "We must ensure that the benefits they have earned are protected. The first piece of legislation I introduced as a Member of Congress was a yearly COLA increase for veterans and I continue to believe this benefit is deserved annually. This is why I am pleased to be reintroducing legislation to grant veterans a COLA for 2014 and to make the COLA permanent and not subject to yearly Congressional action."
"With the introduction of these important bills, we are working to protect our disabled veterans and their families' financial security," Congresswoman Dina Titus said. "Nevada's veterans have struggled during this tough economic climate, and as the cost of living increases, so do their needs. By permanently adjusting benefits to reflect cost of living increases, we are providing critical peace of mind to those who have bravely served this country."
In the fall of 2012, Congressman Runyan's bill, H.R. 4114, the Veterans Compensation Cost-of-Living Adjustment Act of 2012, was signed into law by President Barack Obama. Before Congressman Runyan introduced legislation in 2011 and 2012, disabled veterans had not received a COLA since 2009. H.R. 569 would do exactly what H.R. 4114 did last year; increase the rates of veterans' disability compensation, compensation for dependents, clothing allowance, and compensation for surviving spouses and children for 2014.
Cost-of-Living Adjustments in veterans' benefits, like Social Security benefits, are based on the Consumer Price Index Urban Wage Earners and Clerical Workers (CPI-W). Unlike Social Security benefit increases, veterans' benefit increases rely upon the Legislative Branch to pass legislation authorizing the increase. H.R. 570 would authorize the Secretary of the VA to automatically increase veterans' benefits yearly at the rate of the CPI-W.