Congressional Record Statement of Senator Daniel K. Akaka
As chairman of the Senate Committee on Veterans' Affairs, I note my strong support for Senate passage of S. 2617, the proposed Veterans' Compensation Cost -of -Living Adjustment Act of 2008 . This measure, which I introduced earlier this year and which the Committee on Veterans' Affairs reported on July 24, would direct the Secretary of Veterans' Affairs to increase, effective December 1, 2008 , the rates of veterans' disability compensation to keep pace with the rising cost of living . The rate adjustment would be equal to that provided to Social Security recipients, based on the Bureau of Labor Statistics' Consumer Price Index.
Congress regularly enacts an annual cost -of -living adjustment , COLA, 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 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 . At this time, the Congressional Budget Office estimates that the cost -of -living adjustment for 2009 will be 2.8 percent.
The COLA affects, among other benefits, veterans' disability compensation and dependency and indemnity compensation for surviving spouses and children. According to the latest figures from VA, there are 2.8 million veterans currently receiving compensation for disabilities incurred in the line of duty, as well as over 316,000 surviving spouses of veterans receiving dependency and indemnity compensation . Current U.S. military deployments in Iraq and Afghanistan will ensure that there will be new recipients of these benefits in the coming years. The brave men and women who voluntarily put themselves in harm's way to keep our country safe need to be certain that we will fulfill our responsibility to ensure that those who are injured during service are provided with the help they need to provide for their families' economic security.
Many of the more than 3 million recipients of these VA benefits depend upon these tax-free payments not only to provide for their own basic needs but those of their spouses, children and parents as well. Without an annual COLA increase, these veterans and their families would see the value of their hard-earned benefits slowly dwindle, and we, as a Congress, would have neglected our duty to ensure that those who sacrificed so much for this country receive the benefits and services to which they are entitled.
I urge all of our colleagues to support passage of this COLA increase and for their continued support for our Nation's veterans .
July 30, 2008