Lawmakers in recent days took the first steps in ensuring that veterans receive a cost-of-living boost in their federal benefits later this year, introducing legislation that would guarantee the veterans’ checks see the same increase as Social Security payouts.
The measure was filed by Reps. Elaine Luria, D-Va., and Troy Nehls, R-Texas, late last week and by Sens. Jon Tester, D-Mont., and Jerry Moran, R-Kansas, on Monday. In joint statements, the four called the proposal critical to bolstering veteran’s finances.
“We have a responsibility to take care of our veterans, many of whom rely on VA for financial support,” said Moran, ranking member of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee.
“As rampant inflation is driving up the cost of living, this legislation helps make certain that veterans are able to keep up with our changing economy and receive the benefits they have been promised.”
The legislation linking the two government benefits is largely routine. Typically, lawmakers approve the annual proposal to couple VA benefits increases with Social Security benefits increases by large bipartisan margins.
But it isn’t automatic. Despite efforts by some advocates in the past, an annual cost-of-living increase in veterans benefits requires congressional action. Social Security benefits, on the other hand, are adjusted based on an automatic formula that is triggered whether lawmakers vote on it or not.
Last year, as inflation pressures began to impact the American economy, that increase was 5.9%. Officials have not said what this year’s adjustment may be, but continued rising costs across the economy could drive that figure even higher.
The VA COLA increase legislation would apply to payouts for disability compensation, clothing allowance, dependency and indemnity benefits, and other VA assistance programs.
“Transitioning from active duty to civilian life is not always easy, and a cost-of-living adjustment is the least we can do for the men, women, and families who served our country,” said Luria, herself a Navy veteran.
Tester, who serves as chairman of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee, said the bill will “ensure [veterans] benefits are keeping pace with the changing economy.”
No timetable has been set for when either chamber could vote on the proposal.
Leo covers Congress, Veterans Affairs and the White House for Military Times. He has covered Washington, D.C. since 2004, focusing on military personnel and veterans policies. His work has earned numerous honors, including a 2009 Polk award, a 2010 National Headliner Award, the IAVA Leadership in Journalism award and the VFW News Media award.