Coming Home Project
9:42 am
Fri January 24, 2014

Senate Bill Would Restore COLA Benefit for Veterans

American Legion Post 96 Commander Ken Hungerford with Sen. Blumenthal and Linda Schwartz on Thursday.
Credit Jaki Lauper
Members of the American Legion Post, West Hartford.
Credit Lucy Nalpathanchil / WNPR

U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal promised to fight for a wide-reaching veterans' bill that includes restoring a cut to cost-of-living adjustments for military retirees.

The legislation, Senate bill 1950, is more than 300 pages. It includes money to help the federal VA eliminate its claims backlog, and extends the number of years that returning veterans can access VA health care. It also expands benefits for caregivers.

But the bill is not a sure thing. It includes the restoration of the cost-of-living adjustment, known as COLA. That part of the bill, sponsored by Vermont U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders, proposes that COLA be paid using funds from the Defense Department.

Blumenthal said he's hopeful the bill will still gather bipartisan support. He said, "I'll be very blunt. Everybody likes to make speeches about veterans. What we need is action, and to put our money where our mouths are. This bill can be paid for by winding down the wars, bringing our troops home as quickly as possible, and other measures to make smart cuts in programs where they should be made, but provide for benefits and services to men and women who have earned them."

The cut to COLA was expected to save the federal government $6 billion over ten years. Senator Sanders said the entire bill, including the restoration of COLA, would cost just $30 billion over the same time period.

The legislation also includes several provisions written by Blumenthal, a member of the Veterans Affairs Committee. They include making it easier for veterans to prove military sexual trauma for the purpose of receiving Department of Veterans Affairs disability compensation, and preventing GI bill fraud.