The House of Representatives passed H.R. 5948, the Veterans Fiduciary Reform Act of 2012. This legislation was an omnibus bill that included Congressman Jon Runyan’s (R-NJ) bill H.R. 5881, the Access to Veterans Benefits Improvement Act.
Veterans will receive larger benefits checks next year after President Barack Obama signed federal legislation into law Tuesday.
The law, which was authored by Rep. Jon Runyan, provides a 1.7 percent cost-of-living boost to the compensation paid to disabled veterans and the survivors of deceased vets.
The increase will take effect Dec. 1 and will begin appearing in January checks.
The dollar amount paid to Burlington County’s disabled veterans varies greatly, but county officials have said most receive about $1,100 a month. A 1.7 percent increase would amount to about $19 more for those veterans.
More than 40,000 veterans live in Burlington County, according to the latest U.S. Census Bureau estimates.
The increase may seem trivial, but Runyan said the increase is important and sends a message of thanks.
“Our nation’s veterans have sacrificed so much, putting their lives on the line to defend the United States,” he said in a statement. “A simple COLA is the least we can do for them.”
The Mount Laurel Republican, who was re-elected earlier this month to a second term representing New Jersey’s 3rd District, also helped secure a cost-of-living boost for veterans in 2011.
Both increases were equal to the cost-of-living raise automatically awarded to Social Security recipients and retirement pay for federal employees based on the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Consumer Price Index.
Veterans’ benefits increases are not automatic and must be approved by Congress and the president.
The adjustment signed by Obama almost became a victim of congressional gridlock.
Although the House passed Runyan’s bill in July, the measure stalled in the Senate after a “secret hold” was placed on it by an unnamed senator. The hold is a procedural maneuver permitted by the Senate’s rules that allows a legislator, with consent from the majority or minority leader, to block a motion for a vote on the Senate floor.
The hold was lifted after the Veterans Administration warned that if no action was taken by the Senate by Nov. 13, the agency would be unable to guarantee that veterans would receive the increase in their January checks.
The Senate unanimously passed the bill Nov. 13.
Runyan, who is on the House Veterans Affairs Committee, has introduced separate legislation, known as the American Heroes COLA Act, which would make veterans’ cost-of-living adjustments automatic each year that Social Security benefits are changed.
Runyan said making the increase automatic would provide more certainty to veterans, and he promised to continue to push for the bill’s passage in the next Congress.