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Veterans' benefits to increase in 2013

Many veterans and their families in Pittsburgh will be happy to hear that Congress passed a cost of living increase in veterans' benefits on Nov. 13. The small increase, which is meant to match the rate of inflation, is modest, but was nevertheless delayed for months, reportedly by an anonymous senator.

The increase in benefits is described as a cost-of-living adjustment, or COLA. It will bump up payments 1.7 percent, or about $500 for 2013. The COLA applies to veterans' disability benefits as well as dependency and indemnity compensation for surviving spouses and children. With more than 3.9 million people expected to receive some form of veterans' benefits next year, the increase will provide a small but significant financial boost.

The bill was first introduced in September. Normally, Congress passes the COLA bill for veterans' benefits with little debate, but this year one senator blocked the bill by putting a hold. Senate rules did not require the senator to identify him- or herself to place the hold, though it appears to have been a Republican. Finally, after the chair of the Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee protested on Sep. 27, Senate Republicans persuaded the anonymous senator to remove the hold.

But the Senate was in recess until after the election, so it did not have the chance to pass the bill until now. In fact, Nov. 13 was the final day the bill could pass with enough time for the Veterans' Administration to include the COLA adjustment in time for the Jan. 1 payments.

Source: Washington Post, "Senate passes COLA bill for veterans at deadline," Steve Vogel, Nov. 14, 2012

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