— By JIM VINES
The Department of Veterans Affairs announced Dec. 4th that families and survivors receiving disability compensation and pension benefits will receive a 1.5 percent cost-of-living increase in their monthly payments beginning Jan. 1.
The increase expresses in a tangible way our Nation’s gratitude for the sacrifices made by our service-disabled and wartime veterans.
For the first time, payments will not be rounded down to the nearest dollar. Until this year that was required by law. Veterans and survivors will see additional cents included in their monthly compensation benefit payment.
For veterans without dependents, the new compensation rates will range from $130.94 monthly for a disability rated at 10 percent to $2,858.24 monthly for 100 percent. The full rates are available on the Internet at www.benefits.va.gov/compensatin/rates-index.asp.
The COLA increase also applies to disability and depth pension recipients, survivors receiving dependency and indemnity compensation, disabled veterans receiving automobile and clothing allowances, and other benefits.
Under federal law, cost-of-living adjustments for VA’s compensation and pension must match those for Social Security benefits. The last adjustment was in January 2013 when the Social Security benefits rate increased 1.7 percent.
In fiscal year 2013, VA provided more than $59 billion in compensation benefits to nearly 4 million veterans and survivors, and more than $5 billion in pension benefits to more than 515,000 veterans and survivors.
The VA urges veterans and separating service members who plan to file an electronic disability claim, to use the joint DoD/VA online portal, e-benefits. Registered e-benefits users with a premium account can file a claim online, track the status, and access a variety of other benefits, including pensions, education, health care, home loan eligibility, vocational rehabilitation and employment programs.
For more information referencing VA benefits, visit www.benefits.va.gov or call 1-800-827-1000.
Christmas at the Wall
Dec. 21 will mark the Fourth Annual “Christmas at the Wall” event, located at the National Vietnam War Museum located on U.S. Highway 180 East, just east of Mineral Wells.
This year’s honored veteran is Lance Cpl. Homer Lee Hodges Jr., United States Marine Corps, and a 1964 Mineral Wells High School graduate.
Lance Cpl. Hodges lost his life Sept. 9,1968, in Quang Tri Province, courageously saving the lives of fellow Marines while engaged in an assault with a large enemy force. Lance Cpl. Hodges was presented the Silver Star posthumously for his gallantry.
The ceremony will begin at 5 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 21. The program will include speakers, caroling, rifle salute/taps and the lighting of the Christmas tree, commencing with a candlelight walk along the path of the museum’s replica of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial wall.
The public is invited to attend and the museum will accept any donations in the name of Lance Cpl. Hodges. Shotgun’s restaurant will provide hot coffee, tea and cider for free. Please bring a lawn chair for seating. See you there.
Speak to you again next week.
Jim Vines is commander of AmVets Post 133.