Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., on Thursday introduced a bill that would boost disability compensation to veterans based on the annual cost-of-living adjustment paid to Social Security recipients. The legislation also would increase dependency and indemnity benefits distributed to surviving spouses and children. The increase would take effect on Dec. 1 and could affect as many as 3.5 million veterans and surviving family members in fiscal 2012, according to Murray.
"It's been two years since our veterans saw an increase in their benefits through a COLA, and those have been two difficult years," Murray said in a statement. "In a still challenging economy so many of our veterans depend upon the benefits they receive in order to meet their most basic needs, as well as those of their spouses and children," she said. "We have an obligation to the men and women who have sacrificed so much to serve our country and who now deserve nothing less than the full support of a grateful nation."
Based on a formula that takes into account increases in the Consumer Price Index for Urban Wage Earners and Clerical Workers, COLAs are designed to offset inflation and other factors that contribute to a rise in the cost of living.
If there is no CPI increase, a COLA will not take effect, said David Autry, spokesman for Disabled American Veterans, noting that this has been the case for the past two fiscal years. Measures introduced in the past that would have given veterans and Social Security recipients a one-time payout when no COLA is warranted have not been enacted, he added.
According to a Murray spokesman, the legislation would authorize an adjustment to veterans' benefits only if the CPI were to increase.
A bipartisan group of 14 senators has signed on to co-sponsor the bill.