The Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee also passed Sinema-backed bills boosting veterans’ benefits and helping veterans’ families access educational services
WASHINGTON – Today, the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee passed Arizona senior Senator Kyrsten Sinema’s bipartisan Ensuring Survivor Benefits During COVID Act—legislation introduced with Republican Senator Thom Tillis (NC) that ensures family members of veterans who passed away due to the coronavirus receive the survivor benefits they’ve earned.
The Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee also approved two bipartisan bills cosponsored by Sinema—the Veterans’ Disability Compensation Automatic COLA Act, which increases veterans’ disability benefits from the Department of Veterans Affairs, and the Colonel John M. McHugh Tuition Fairness for Survivors Act, which helps veterans’ families access educational benefits.
“COVID-19 has taken the lives of too many brave Arizona veterans, and the pandemic made accessing veterans’ benefits and services increasingly difficult. The bipartisan plans approved today with overwhelming support will go a long way in ensuring Arizona veterans and their families receive the care, benefits, and resources they’ve earned through service to our nation,” said Sinema.
Sinema’s bipartisan Ensuring Survivor Benefits During COVID Act was inspired by stories she heard during her regular calls with Arizona veteran serving organizations to discuss coronavirus relief efforts. Currently, veterans who pass away from coronavirus may have their cause of death labeled as “COVID-19” without accounting for service related disabilities that further complicate their coronavirus diagnosis. Sinema’s bill ensures those disabilities are taken into account so family members have access to benefits they’ve earned.
The Sinema-backed Veterans’ Disability Compensation Automatic COLA Act automatically increases the rates of VA disability compensation, dependency compensation for surviving children and spouses, and the clothing allowance for veterans based on rising costs of living, no longer requiring an annual act of Congress to do so. This cost-of-living adjustment is equal to the amount of the adjustment given to Social Security recipients.
The Sinema-backed Colonel John M. McHugh Tuition Fairness for Survivors Act increases the affordability of higher education for survivors and dependents of veterans by expanding in-state tuition eligibility for families of veterans who die from service-connected disabilities.
Sinema has long been a champion for Arizona veterans and servicemembers. Last Congress, Sinema’s LEGION Act, which extends American Legion membership to honorably discharged veterans since World War II, and her Protecting Affordable Mortgages for Veterans Act, which safeguards veterans from predatory loan practices and helps them more easily access their earned homeowner benefits, became law.
Sinema also championed into law the bipartisan Sgt. Daniel Somers Network of Support Act, which was named after Sgt. Daniel Somers—an Arizona Army veteran who lost his life to suicide. Sinema’s bipartisan law requires the Department of Defense to work with the American Red Cross to collect from new servicemembers the names of loved ones they consider to be their networks of support. The Department of Defense will provide those individuals with information about benefits and services available to military members. Last year, Sinema also passed into law her bipartisan Veterans Network of Support Act—legislation that ensures the VA has a similar system in place to help veterans thrive in civilian life.