House lawmakers approve veterans COLA

By Rick Maze - Staff writer
Posted : Friday Sep 12, 2008 7:06:39 EDT

The House of Representatives gave final approval Wednesday to a veteransí cost-of-living adjustment bill, sending it to the White House for President Bushís signature and setting the stage for what could be major relief for thousands of service members and veterans who are facing escalating mortgage payments.

The House also passed a bill that would allow some veterans in highly rural areas to get health care from non-VA facilities.

The COLA bill, S 2617, provides for a Dec. 1 increase in disability compensation, dependency and indemnity compensation, and pensions that will match whatever increase is provided in Social Security benefits. The increase, which applies to about 2.8 million veterans and survivors, would first appear in January paychecks.

The Social Security increase wonít be known until mid-October, but is expected to be a minimum of 6 percent. The Social Security COLA automatically applies to military and federal civilian retired pay, but veteransí disability and survivor benefits and pensions increase only through the enactment of new legislation.

The Senate passed the veteransí COLA measure in July.

The House also passed HR 6832, a measure that approves construction and leasing for veterans facilities. It also extends expiring programs and expanded refinancing rules under the veteransí home loan program in a way that could help service members and veterans with adjustable-rate mortgages or other high-interest mortgages.