Bill introduced to increase veterans C.O.L.A.

WASHINGTON – A bill to provide disabled veterans and their families an increase in their veterans’ compensation payments has been introduced in the U.S. Senate.

The Veterans’ Compensation Cost-of-Living Adjustment Act directs the secretary of Veterans Affairs to increase the rate of veterans’ payments to keep pace with the rise in expenses for Veterans’ Disability Compensation and Dependency and Indemnity Compensation for surviving spouses and children and certain related benefits, said Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., who was among the senators introducing the legislation.

The C.O.L.A. increase for veterans would match the annual increase provided to Social Security recipients. It is designed to offset inflation and other factors that lead to the rising cost of living over time.

C.O.L.A. is based on the Bureau of Labor Statistics Consumer Price Index.

The legislation with bipartisan support will increase the cost-of-living adjustment starting Dec. 1, Rockefeller, the longest serving member of the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, said.

“Many disabled veterans and their families are on fixed incomes, which makes it particularly important that their benefits reflect the rising cost of living so they can cover essential medications and other everyday expenses,” Rockefeller said.

The C.O.L.A. was last increased in December 2012.

In the House of Representatives, Rep. David McKinley, R-W.Va., introduced the bipartisan Coal Mine Safety and Black Lung Research Grants Bill to fund research grants into for coal mine safety and lung treatment and prevention.

“This legislation provides funding of education and training programs to better identify, avoid, and prevent unsafe working conditions in and around mines,” McKinley said. “It would also specifically fund research into the prevention and treatment for black lung disease of our hard-working miners. It’s only common sense that if a company is fined by MSHA that money should go towards improving the safety and health of miners, rather than Washington.”

The existing Brookwood-Sago Mine Safety Grants are competitively distributed by the Mine Safety and Health Administration of an amount is usually under $1.5 million, McKinley said. The bill would increase the funding for the grants to no less than $10 million annually funded from fines collected by the agency and add a for study of black lung disease prevention and treatment, he said.