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 2010.
This measure would direct the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to increase, effective December 1, 2010, the rates of veterans' compensation to keep pace with the rising cost of living in this country, if such an adjustment is triggered by an increase in the Consumer Price Index. This legislation, commonly referred to as the COLA, would make an increase available to veterans at the same level as a cost-of-living increase, if provided to those who receive Social Security benefits.
My colleagues on the Committee on Veterans' Affairs, including Senators Burr, Rockefeller, Murray, Sanders, Brown of Ohio, Tester, Begich, Burris, Specter, Isakson, and Graham join me in introducing this important legislation. I appreciate their continued support of the Nation's veterans .
Congress regularly enacts a cost-of-living adjustment for veterans' compensation in order to ensure that inflation does not erode the purchasing power of those veterans and survivors who depend upon this income to meet their daily needs. Last year, Congress passed, and the President signed into law, Public Law 111-37. While there was no cost-of-living increase in 2010 due to a decline in the Consumer Price Index, the 2011 adjustment has not yet been determined.
The COLA affects, among other benefits, veterans' disability compensation and dependency and indemnity compensation for surviving spouses and children. It is projected that over 3.5 million veterans and survivors will be in receipt of compensation benefits in fiscal year 2011. Many of these recipients depend upon these tax-free payments not only to provide for their own basic needs, but those of their spouses and children as well.
It is important that we view veterans' compensation, including the 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.
Payment of disability compensation to those of our Nation's veterans who have an illness or disability related to their service 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 work together to ensure this benefit remains available and is not diminished by the effects of inflation. I also ask our colleagues for their continued support for the Nation's veterans .
Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent that the text of the bill be printed in the Record.
March 11, 2010