Tester praises Senate for boosting benefits for vets, families

Nearly 17,000 Montanans will see 2.3% increase

(WASHINGTON, D.C.) – Nearly 17,000 Montanans who rely on VA disability or survivor benefits will get a much-needed boost later this year, Senator Jon Tester announced today.

Tester praised the Senate for unanimously agreeing to a measure that increases annual compensation rates for vets with service-connected disabilities by 2.3%.  The Cost-of-Living Adjustment (COLA) also applies to vets with certain severe disabilities, as well as disabled vets with spouses and children. Surviving spouses and children of vets who died from service-connected injuries will also see an increase in benefits.

Veterans who receive VA disability or survivor benefits always receive the same COLA that applies to Social Security benefits.  This year's increase will affect more than 2.8 million disabled vets across the country and more than 340,000 spouses, children and needy parents of vets who have died from their injuries.

"This increase is just a small step forward in living up to the promises we made to our men and women in uniform," said Tester, a member of the Senate VA Committee.  "But boosting vets' benefits so that they're on par with the cost of living shouldn't be a decision we have to make every year."

That's why Tester cosponsored legislation that will make the annual COLA for disabled vets and survivors permanent.

"Anyone who got hurt while defending our country should never have to beg for the benefits they were promised and deserve," Tester said. "A permanent cost-of-living increase is just one of the things we can do to better serve the folks who served us."

The measure increasing benefits is H.R. 1284.  It now goes to President Bush to sign into law.