On Sept. 26, President Barack Obama signed into law P.L. 113-181, the Veterans’ Compensation Cost-of-Living Adjustment (COLA) Act. The legislation increases the COLA for veterans with service-connected disabilities starting Dec. 1, 2014 and the rates of dependency and indemnity compensation for the survivors of certain disabled veterans. The rate of the increase will be the same as the cost-of-living adjustment for Social Security recipients. That rate will not be determined until later this year.
On Sept. 19, the president signed into law P.L. 113-164, the Continuing Appropriations Resolution 2015, which keeps the federal government operating after the regular appropriations acts expire on Sept. 30. The law continues funding for government programs and services capped at the current annual rate of more than $1 trillion until Dec. 11, 2014.
On Sept. 26, the president signed into law P.L. 113-175, the Department of Veterans Affairs Expiring Authorities Act. This bill would extend some 30 Department of Veterans Affairs programs in the areas of health care, rehabilitation, housing, transportation, education and other benefits.
On Sept. 17, the House passed two veteran-related bills that await consideration by the Senate:
H.R. 3593: Would direct the inclusion of an outside entity – the Army Corps of Engineers – to assist in the management of VA’s major facility construction efforts.
H.R. 4276: Would require VA to provide reports to Congress on the pilot program for assisted living services for veterans with traumatic brain injury.
On September 17, the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee approved H.R. 5229, Wounded Warriors Federal Leave Act of 2014, which would give disabled veterans hired as federal employees access to their full year’s sick leave immediately upon starting their jobs. Full-time federal workers in their first year on the job have no sick leave when they start and accrue four hours of sick leave per pay period. That amounts to a balance of 104 hours at the end of their first year. But disabled veterans, who must attend regular medical appointments to take care of their health and to continue to receive their benefits, quickly use up their sick leave. Many veterans also have to travel to reach the nearest VA facility to receive treatment, which can eat up leave time.
The 2014 Wounded Warriors Federal Leave Act would apply to first-year federal employees with a service-connected disability rating of at least 30 percent. During their first year on the job, the veteran would still accumulate their normal sick leave. The employees would only be able to use their extra sick leave for treatments directly related to their service and would not be able to carry over the one-time “wounded warrior leave” after the first 12 months on the job.