President Carter signed legislation yesterday providing a 7.3 percent cost of living increase in veteran's benefits and raising the maximum federal home loan guarantee for veterans and the severely disabled. The increases will affect more than 2.5 million Americans.
The measures were among a number of bills Carter approved yesterday out of a backlog of about 200 pieces of legislation either now on their way to the White House or already awaiting presidential action.
The president also signed a $56 billion money bill for the departments of Labor and Health, Education and Welfare, finally freeing funds to distribute a week's back pay to some 160,000 federal workers whose checks were held up by congressional delays.
He also signed legislation to continue more than $4 billion in programs for the elderly and a $9.1 billion foreign aid bill that contains aid for Egypt, Jordan and Israel as part of the administration's Middle East peace initiative.
Meanwhile, Carter was urged by Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.) to veto the big tax-cut bill Congress passed Sunday, on grounds it provides proportionally too much relief for high-income investors and too little for low and middle-income Americans.
Kennedy charged in a statement that Congress had yielded to "crass and selfish lobbying demands of the business and investment community" and "unfair ignored the needs of the average taxpayer for tax relief." Carter is expected to sign the legislation.
The developments came as top administration economic advisers neared final decisions on Carter's proposed program of wage-price guidelines. There are plans to make details of the plan public early next week, possible in a Tuesday night "fireside chat" on nationwide television.
Administration sources said the White House is considering Alfred Kahn, an economist who is chairman of the Civil Aeronautics Board, as a possible candidate for director of the new program. The present anti-inflation czar, Robert 9. Strauss, wants to step down before June!
The administration has been planning a voluntary wage-price program designed to prod businesses and unions into limiting wage increases to an average 7 percent a year and price increases to 5.75 percent, to be enforced by a variety of government sanctions.
However, planners have been held up by disagreements over precisely what sanctions might be invoked, and who should head the overall program. Carter is said to have approved the anti-inflation plan informally, but is withholding final decisions until near announcement time.
The veterans' legislation provides a 7.3 percent cost of living increase in benefits to 22 million recipients of regular veteran's checks, and to [WORD ILLEGIBLE] survivors who receive dependency and indemnity compensation under the veterans' disability compensation program.
The companion measure would raise the maximum federal home loss guarantee for veterans to $25,000from $17,500 now, and boost the maximum grant for specially adapted housing for the severely disabled to $30,000, from $25,000 now. It also would increase other veterans' benefits.
Earlier yesterday, Carter also signed a bill increasing minimum construction and operating standards for tankers carrying oil and other hazardous materials to or from U.S. ports, and another piece of legislation redrafting, without making substantial changes, parts of the Interstate Commerce Act.
Approval of the Labor-HEW bill paved the way for immediate disbursement of the delayed paychecks for federal employes. The Treasury already had printed the checks in advance, and disbursing officers were ready to hand-carry or mail them, depending upon the city.
A few Labor and HEW employes already have received their full two-week paychecks because their agencies draw funds from other appropriations not affected by the bill Carter signed yesterday. But 140,000 HEW workers and 20,000 in Labor suffered a delay.
Apart from the tax-cut bill, Carter still has one other major piece of legislation to sign - the energy bill passed in the waning hours of the 95th Congress. Although aides say the president has not decided finally on either measure, he is widely expected to sign both. CAPTION: Picture, Mrs. Carter greets Mrs. John Brademas, mother of Rep. John Brademas (D-Ill.), center, after president signed bill authorizing $4 billion in programs for elderly., By Frank Johnston - The Washington Post