HOUSE PASSES COLA, 'DUTY TO ASSIST' VETERANS BILLS
IMMEDIATE RELEASE CONTACT: Dan Amon
October 17, 2000 (202) 225-3664
'DUTY TO ASSIST' VETERANS, COLA PASS HOUSE, GO TO PRESIDENT FOR SIGNATURE
WASHINGTON, D.C. - The House concluded its veterans' agenda for the 106th
Congress Tuesday by passing final versions of a Cost-of-Living Adjustment
(COLA) and a measure directing the VA secretary to help veterans obtain
evidence for their disability claims.
Both the COLA (H.R. 4850) and the Veterans Claims Assistance Act of 2000
(H.R. 4864) passed unanimously, and now go to the White House, where the
President is expected to sign them into law.
The COLA, effective December 1, 2000, would increase the rates of disability
compensation for veterans with service-connected disabilities and the rates
of dependency and indemnity compensation for survivors. The increases would
match the COLA granted to Social Security recipients. The increase is
expected to be between three and four percent.
The Veterans Claims Assistance Act of 2000 eliminates the requirement that a
claimant first submit a "well-grounded" claim before receiving
from the VA, and clarifies the claimant's and VA's duties with respect to
obtaining evidence in support of claims for veterans' benefits. The measure
requires VA to obtain any relevant records in VA's possession, or within any
other federal agency, at no cost to the veteran. The bill mandates the VA
Secretary to make several efforts to obtain relevant evidence identified by
the claimant, along with notifying the claimant and his or her
representative of those efforts. The VA would also be required to provide a
medical examination if warranted. Under H.R. 4864, veterans would have two
years to ask the VA to reopen a claim if it had been denied as not
well-grounded subsequent to the Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims July
14, 1999, Morton v. West decision.
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