While the House was busy passing its defense spending bill last week, other members of Congress were introducing other legislation aimed at helping veterans.
Cost of living adjustment
Senators Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., and Jon Tester, D-Mont., chairman and ranking member of the Senate Committee on Veterans Affairs, introduced a bill, the "Veterans Compensation Cost-of-Living Adjustment Act" to increase veteran disability benefits from the Department of Veterans Affairs.
The bill, co-sponsored by all the members of the SVAC, increases the rate of VA disability compensation, dependent compensation for Gold Star families and the clothing allowance for veterans.
The cost-of-living adjustment for veterans matches the increases to Social Security recipients and is decided by the Bureau of Labor Statistics' Consumer Price Index annually. The increase goes into effect Dec. 1, 2019, if the legislation passes the Senate and House and gains a presidential signature.
“My top priority is to ensure that veterans and their families receive the benefits they earned while serving our country,” Isakson said. “I’m proud to introduce this legislation to increase benefits for disabled veterans in keeping with rising costs of living.”
Home loan fee refunds
Tester and Sen. John Boozman, R-Ark., introduced a bill to ensure VA repays the thousands of disabled veterans for home loan fees wrongfully charged.
An Inspector General report revealed that the VA wrongly charged nearly 73,000 disabled veterans $286.4 million in home loan fees and the VA has known it owes those veterans the money since at least 2014.
Care for women veterans
Rep. Lauren Underwood, D-Ill., introduced the Caring for Women Veterans Act, establishing an annual VA report to ensure that women veterans receive quality healthcare from VA hospitals.
The bill specifically directs the VA to submit an annual report to Congress on the gender-specific care available at VA facilities, to provide more information on the care women receive or don't.
Another bill from Boozman and Tester is intended to help state cemeteries meet federal standards for veteran burials.
The bill would improve access to training to ensure cemeteries funded by VA grants maintain the standard necessary for veterans to rest there by allowing VA to cover the cost for employees to travel to that training.
“We owe it to our veterans and their families to ensure that our state and tribal cemeteries are properly looked after,” Tester said. “By helping cemetery personnel get the proper, specialized training they need, we are honoring the courageous role men and women played in preserving our freedom and protecting this country.”