Abraham’s Veterans Compensation COLA Act becomes law

Courtesy: United States Congress
Courtesy: United States Congress(KNOE)
Published: Jul. 25, 2016 at 12:03 PM CDT
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Disabled veterans are eligible to receive an increase in their benefits next year thanks to a bill by Congressman Ralph Abraham, M.D., R-Alto, that became law over the weekend.

President Obama signed Dr. Abraham’s HR 5588, the Veterans’ Compensation COLA Act of 2016, on Friday, July 22. The new law directs the Department of Veterans Affairs to increase, as of Dec. 1, the rates of veterans’ disability compensation, additional compensation for dependents, the clothing allowance for certain disabled veterans, and dependency and indemnity compensation for surviving spouses.

The amount of the increase will be equivalent to the increase provided under Title II of the Social Security Act. The precise amount of the adjustment will not be known until the end of the calendar year.

“I’m proud to have led the bipartisan effort in Congress to provide for our American heroes. This COLA adjustment will help bring increased financial security to our veterans and their families. Our veterans served our country, and now we have to make sure they receive the benefits they deserve for their sacrifice,” Dr. Abraham said.

Veterans issues have been among Dr. Abraham’s top legislative priorities since he was elected to Congress in 2014 in his first publicly elected office. As a freshman, he chaired the VA Subcommittee on Disability Assistance and Memorial Affairs, and he also serves on the Subcommittee on Health.

Dr. Abraham has also passed legislation in the House – HR 677, the American Heroes COLA Act – that will make veterans’ COLA adjustments automatic each year. The Senate has yet to act on the legislation.

Dr. Abraham has been an avid supporter of the Veterans’ Choice Program, which allows veterans in rural areas to use doctors and local medical care clinics for health care instead of waiting potentially months for an appointment at a VA facility.

Dr. Abraham cosponsored HR 1994, the VA Accountability Act, that passed the House in June 2015. The bill seeks to bring accountability to the VA by giving the department more flexibility to fire, demote or otherwise penalize VA employees who have failed our veterans, such as those responsible in the wait-time scandal that resulted in veteran deaths and disability claims scandals where employees were hiding and shredding claims documents. The Senate has also yet to act on that legislation.

“The VA has failed to provide our veterans with the care they deserve. The House has acted - with my support - to reform the department that, frankly, must be held more accountable to the veterans it’s supposed to be serving. I will continue to fight to make the changes we need in the VA for as long as I am fortunate enough to serve in Congress,” Dr. Abraham said.

Dr. Abraham has also introduced or cosponsored the following legislation pertaining to veterans: HR 2214, the Disabled Veterans’ Access to Medical Exams Improvement Act; HR 5620, the VA Accountability First and Appeals Modernization Act; HR 5149 to assist with reimbursement for emergency ambulance services used by veterans; and HR 352, the Veterans Access to Hearing Health Act.

Dr. Abraham is a veteran of the U.S. Army Reserves and National Guard. He currently volunteers as a pilot for the Coast Guard Auxiliary and the Air Force’s Green Flag division.