Congressional Record Statement of Senator Daniel K. Akaka
Mr. President today, as Chairman of the Senate Committee on Veterans' Affairs, I introduce the Veterans' Compensation Cost-of-Living Adjustment Act of 2008. This measure would direct the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to increase, effective December 1, 2008, the rates of veterans' compensation to keep pace with the rising cost-of-living in this country. The rate adjustment is equal to that provided on an annual basis to Social Security recipients and is based on the Consumer Price Index.
Several of my colleagues on the Committee on Veterans' Affairs, including Ranking Member Burr, and Senators Rockefeller, Murray, Obama, Sanders, Brown, Webb, Tester, Craig, and Isakson join me in introducing this important legislation. I appreciate their continued support of our Nation's veterans.
Congress regularly enacts an annual cost-of-living adjustment for veterans' compensation in order to ensure that inflation does not erode the purchasing power of the veterans and their families who depend upon this income to meet their daily needs. This past year Congress passed, and the President signed into law, Public Law 110-111, which resulted in a COLA increase of 2.3 percent for 2008. The 2009 projected COLA increase is 2.5 percent.
The COLA affects, among other benefits, veterans' disability compensation and dependency and indemnity compensation for surviving spouses and children. Many of the more than 3 million recipients of those benefits depend upon these tax-free payments not only to provide for their own basic needs, but those of their spouses and children as well. Without an annual COLA increase, these veterans and their families would see the value of their hard-earned benefits slowly diminish, and we, as a Congress, would be neglecting our duty to ensure that those who sacrificed so much for this country receive the benefits and services to which they are entitled.
It is important that we view veterans' compensation, including the annual COLA, and indeed all benefits earned by veterans, as a continuing cost of war. It is clear that the ongoing conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan will continue to result in injuries and disabilities that will yield an increase in claims for compensation. Currently, there are more than 2.8 million veterans in receipt of VA disability compensation.
Disbursement of disability compensation to our Nation's veterans constitutes one of the central missions of the Department of Veterans Affairs. It is a necessary measure of appreciation afforded to those veterans whose lives were forever altered by their service to this country.
I urge our colleagues to support passage of this COLA increase. I also ask our colleagues for their continued support for our Nation's veterans.
February 8, 2008