Senate passes COLA bill for veterans at deadline

A bill to provide a cost-of-living adjustment for disabled veterans and survivors that stalled amidst partisan strife in late September passed the Senate on Tuesday, meaning that the 1.7 percent increase is expected to be included in checks to be sent in January.

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More than 3.9 million veterans and survivors are expected to receive compensation benefits in 2013, including veterans’ disability compensation and dependency and indemnity compensation for surviving spouses and children.

The increase would mean an additional $500 in benefits for veterans and their families next year, according to the bill sponsor, Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.).

“Particularly in this difficult economy, our veterans deserve a boost in their benefits to help make ends meet,” Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.), chairman of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee, said in a statement. “I am so glad we were finally able to move forward with passage of this bill. Caring for our nation’s veterans should never be a partisan issue.”

Murray charged in September that the traditionally non-controversial bill had been blocked by an unnamed Senate Republican. Under Senate rules requiring unanimous consent, a single senator can block legislation by privately placing a hold on the bill.

After Murray complained Sept. 27, Senate Republicans reported the bill had been cleared. But by then, the Senate had gone into recess until its return this week following the election.

The Department of Veterans Affairs warned at the time that in order for VA to pay the December cost-of-living adjustment as scheduled on Jan. 1, Congress would have to pass the COLA by Nov. 13.

“Should Congress pass the COLA after that date, VA would have to make complex programming changes to the system that could not be accomplished in time to pay the COLA increase on January 1,” the VA said in a statement.

With the deadline met by Tuesday’s vote. “Everything is now on schedule,” a VA spokesman said Tuesday evening.

“Compensation from the Department of Veterans Affairs is a major source of income for many veterans and their families, so adjusting those payments for inflation is absolutely necessary,” Disabled American Veterans National Commander Larry A. Polzin said in a statement released by Tester’s office.

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Melissa Bell · November 13, 2012

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