House lawmakers on Thursday easily passed legislation ensuring veterans will see a cost-of-living boost next year if Social Security officials approve one for their recipients.
The legislation linking the two government benefits is largely routine, but faces extra obstacles this year because of disruptions to congressional operations stemming from the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
More than 100,000 Americans have died from the fast-spreading virus in the last three months. In an effort to limit the chance of transmitting the virus, most House and Senate floor votes have been stalled or cancelled in recent weeks, and most committee work shifted to online forums.
The boost is below the 2.8 percent increase beneficiaries saw last year.
But the veterans COLA bill — sponsored by Rep. Elaine Luria, D-Va. — was approved by a voice vote Thursday morning by the full House, without objection. She is hopeful the Senate can take up the measure quickly as well.
“I haven’t heard of any problems or hold ups with the bill,” she said. “This wouldn’t go into effect until December, so we’re well ahead of schedule. But I don’t anticipate any problems.”
Veterans benefits covered include disability compensation, compensation for dependents, clothing allowances, and dependency and indemnity compensation checks.
The measure is typically just a formality — it passed Congress last year with no opposition — but is required annual work for lawmakers because federal statute does not guarantee annual COLA increases for the veterans benefits, as it does for Social Security.
Telephone town halls, some employee remote work will likely continue even when the virus restrictions lift.
Legislative efforts in recent years to make the increases automatic for veterans have proven unsuccessful. Luria said she has discussed the issue with leadership, but has not found any traction thus far.
House leaders hailed the bill’s passage as a step in keeping the country’s promise to care for veterans well after their military service has finished. Senate leaders have not indicated when the measure could be considered there.
Earlier this year, veterans and Social Security recipients received a 1.6 percent COLA boost, based on inflation and consumer spending calculations over the last few months of 2019.