An Assembly panel released legislation on Monday sponsored by Assembly Democrats Troy Singleton, Cleopatra Tucker, Annette Quijano, Gilbert “Whip” Wilson and Joseph Danielsen to increase the annual allowance the state pays to veterans with certain wartime service-connected disabilities.
“A state allowance such as this, that supports veterans and their families, is unacceptable without an annual adjustment for cost of living,” said Singleton (D-Burlington). “New Jersey’s veterans have earned our support for their sacrifice. We must do all that we can to help them provide for themselves and their families in the current economy.”
Currently, the state pays an annual allowance in soldiers and veterans with certain disabilities. A blind veteran, under current law, receives $750 annually under the Blind Veterans’ Allowance Program; this amount has not been changed since 1971. A veteran with certain other described disabilities also receives $750 annually under the Paraplegic and Hemiplegic Veterans’ Allowance Program; this amount has not been changed since 1981. This bill increases these annual payments to $1,500.
“The cost of living never stays exactly the same from year to year, so neither should the amount veterans have earned in allowance for their sacrifice and service,” said Tucker (D-Essex). “This legislation ensures that the allowance veterans receive is aligned with the current cost of living, not one from twenty years ago.”
“The world and the price of living in it have changed considerably since 1971 and 1981,” said Quijano (D-Union). “This increase is way overdue and well-deserved for disabled veterans who have given so much in their lifetimes to ensure our protection here and overseas. It’s time to update our laws to better provide for our disabled veterans today.”
The legislation (A-3909) also provides for an annual adjustment in this allowance in direct proportion to the percent change in the Consumer Price Index over each 12-month period beginning November 1 and ending October 31. Under the bill, the adjustment is to be made only if the percent change in the Consumer Price Index results in an increase in the allowance; the allowance will not be reduced if the index experiences a decline.
“The veterans aided by this program have made some of the ultimate sacrifices,” said Wilson (D-Camden/Gloucester), a U.S. Air Force veteran who served in Vietnam “The assistance they’re receiving at this point is practically an insult and needs to be updated to reflect 21st century costs of living.”
“Across the board, we should be doing more for veterans, but especially those who have been permanently disabled because of their sacrifices,” said Danielsen (D-Middlesex/Somerset). “This assistance needs to be brought in line with current costs of living, and annually adjusted, so that it can have a substantive impact on a veteran’s life.”
The sponsors note in the bill that the purpose of the adjustment is to provide a mechanism for ensuring that, for the benefit of these disabled soldiers and veterans, the amount of this allowance keeps pace with cost-of-living increases.
The bill was approved by the Assembly Appropriations Committee and now awaits consideration by the full Assembly.