Cost of Living Adjustment (COLA) Introduced to Increase Veterans’ Benefits
On July 10, 2019, U.S. Senators Johnny Isakson and Jon Tester, introduced the Veterans’ Compensation Cost-of-Living Adjustment (COLA) Act of 2019.
About the Bill
Isakson and Tester are both prominent and influential in the veterans’ community, serving as chairman and ranking member of the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, respectively. The legislation they proposed is aimed towards increasing veterans’ disability benefits from the Department of Veterans Affairs. Specifically, the bill would increase the rates of VA disability compensation, dependency compensation for surviving children and spouses, and the clothing allowance for veterans based on rising costs of living. According to Tester, the Veterans’ Compensation Cost-of-Living Adjustment Act of 2019 “ensures that veterans and their families struggling to keep up with the rising costs of housing, utilities, and food can access the benefits and compensation they earned from a grateful nation.” The bill has gained bipartisan support and has been co-sponsored by every member of the Senate VA Committee.
What is the Cost-of-Living Adjustment (COLA)?
The Cost-of-Living Adjustment (COLA) rates are set forth by the Social Security Administration (SSA). The SSA bases COLA rates off of the percentage increase in the Consumer Price Index for Urban Wage Earnings and Clerical Workers from the third quarter (July, August, September) of the previous year to the third quarter of the current year. The Consumer Price Index for Wage Earnings and Clerical Workers (CPI-W) is a statistical measure of change of the prices of goods and service over time in “major expenditure groups” such as clothing, food, housing, medical care, and other entities that are typically purchased by consumers. The Bureau of Labor Statistics calculates CPI-W on a monthly basis, and the SSA compares the data from the third quarter of the previous year to the third quarter of the current year in order to accurately reflect the change in the cost-of-living in their compensation rates.
Under this legislation, the VA’s COLA would be equal to the amount of the adjustment given to Social Security recipients. Importantly, the cost-of-living adjustment for veterans would go into effect on December 1, 2019.
Senator Isakson Announces Retirement
Senator Johnny Isakson, Chairman of the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, who introduced this Cost of Living Adjustment bill, announced in August 2019 that he is resigning from his congressional seat and chairmanship, effective December 2019. This follows years of health concerns for Isakson, who was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease in 2013. Sen. Isakson has been the Chairman of the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs since 2015 and has played a key role in passing veterans-related legislation, such as the VA MISSION Act and the Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act of 2019.
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