Thanks to Congressman Ralph Abraham of Louisiana, disabled veterans may see an increase in benefits at the end of the year. Dr. Abraham’s HR 5588, the Veterans’ Compensation COLA Act of 2016 was signed into law this summer and takes effect on December 1, 2016.
The bill quickly made its way through the House and Senate and was signed into law by the president in under a month. The bill itself is quite simple:
(Sec. 2) This bill directs the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to increase, as of December 1, 2016, the rates of veterans’ disability compensation, additional compensation for dependents, the clothing allowance for certain disabled veterans, and dependency and indemnity compensation for surviving spouses and children.
Each such increase shall be the same percentage as the increase in benefits provided under title II (Old Age, Survivors, and Disability Insurance [OASDI]) of the Social Security Act, on the same effective date.
In short, each year legislation has to be drafted to approve an increase in cost of living allowance (COLA) for disabled veterans. The increase will match that of social security. While social security automatically increases each year as the cost of living does, the Veterans’ Compensation COLA Act does not have a stipulation for automatic adjustment.
To me, this seems to be an outdated way of doing things. If social security can automatically increase with the cost of living, then why doesn’t the Veterans’ Compensation COLA Act?
Abraham looked at this process and introduced HR 677, the American Heroes COLA Act. This bill would enable the veterans’ COLA adjustments to be automatic each year freeing up the House to work on other bills and saving veterans and their families the frustration of waiting to see what will happen with their pay each year. The House quickly passed this bill, but the Senate has not done anything with it.
For now, disabled veterans can plan their finances for the short term knowing the Veterans’ Compensation COLA Act of 2016 was signed into law.
They will have to wait for the politicians in Washington to decide if they will pass the American Heroes COLA Act and make it an automatic adjustment each year.
Note however, while the Veterans’ Compensation COLA Act of 2016 has been signed into law, it does not mean that an increase in pay is guaranteed.
The amount that disabled veterans may see as an increase will be the same increase as social security. The last time social security did not increase was in 2000.
It won’t be until the end of the year that the exact amount of an increase will be known. It will only be increased if there is an increase in the Consumer Price Index for Urban Wage Earners and Clerical Workers (CPI-W).
The compensation programs for disabled veterans were originally put into place to help relieve the financial burden disabled veterans face by not being able to earn wages due to injuries sustained during military service. The amount of benefits disabled veterans receive is based on the degree of disability they qualify for.
Abraham, a veteran of the Army Reserves and National Guard, has been working to get disabled veterans better benefits. These 2 bills are not his only accomplishments in regards to veterans’ issues since being elected to office.
He has also chaired the VA Subcommittee on Disability Assistance and Memorial Affairs. He has worked toward getting disabled veterans the help they need when they need it and at locations convenient to them through the Veterans’ Choice Program. This program would make it easier for veterans who live in remote areas to seek medical treatment from doctors near them, rather than wait for an appointment at a VA facility.
Last year Abraham also cosponsored HR 1994, the VA Accountability Act. This bill passed the House but the Senate has yet to consider it. If the VA Accountability Act were to become law, the VA would become accountable for its actions. They would finally be able to fire or demote employees that have failed to do their job.
Thanks to Abraham, disabled veterans might be getting better benefits in the future.