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After delay, Senate passes veterans' COLA

Nov. 13, 2012 - 03:49PM   |   Last Updated: Nov. 13, 2012 - 03:49PM  |  
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By voice vote and with no apologies for unnecessary hand-wringing, the Senate passed a bill that provides 4 million veterans and survivors a 1.7 percent cost-of-living increase effective Dec. 1.

The measure now goes to the White House for President Obama's signature.

The bill providing the COLA, HR 4114, had been left at the side of the legislative road in September when Congress took a break for the elections because of a still unexplained objection to the measure, which simply provides the same increase in disability and survivor benefits that automatically would occur for Social Security recipients and military retirees.

When Congress failed to pass the COLA bill Sept. 22, there was pre-election squabbling over the risk that the bill might not pass in time for the increase to first appear in January paychecks, as is customary.

That talk was fueled by a statement from the Veterans Affairs Department that if Congress didn't act by Nov. 13, VA might not have time to adjust its payroll mechanism. VA later revised the processing time, saying veterans would be paid as long as Congress acted by early December and as long as it was an across-the-board increase.

Congress has resisted making the veterans' COLA automatic because passing the measure each year gives lawmakers a way to tout their support for veterans in their re-election campaigns.

A freshman lawmaker, Rep. Jon Runyan, R-N.J., House Veterans' Affairs Committee's disability assistance panel, has proposed legislation to make veterans' compensation automatically increase at the same time as Social Security, without the need for congressional involvement. His proposal passed the veterans' committee this year but has not passed the full House and seems unlikely to become law before the current session of Congress ends.

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