Reprinted with permission from The Huntsville Item. Written by Eric Scicchitano.
A bill proposing an increase to supplemental pensions for veterans who are blind, paralyzed or amputees as a result of their military service was recommended by a subcommittee Tuesday, May 9, to advance through the Pennsylvania House.
House Bill 1091 would raise the monthly payments to $270, up from the current rate of $150 — an 80% increase. The rate would rise every other year, when applicable, based on changes to the regional Consumer Price Index, or CPI, which is a measurement of the cost of consumer goods.
The payments, which haven’t been adjusted since 1999, are in addition to any other compensation paid by the state or federal government. Rep. Dan Williams, D-Chester, the bill’s primary sponsor, said that a combined 2,110 Pennsylvania veterans received the pensions in 2019-2020.
The proposed adjustment would cost Pennsylvania an additional estimated $253,000 annually.
“We want this and we appreciate you for raising the stakes even further,” Rep. Craig Williams, R-Delaware/Chester, told the bill’s sponsor.
What stood out aside from the bill’s intent is that it was voted out of the House unanimously in each of the past two legislative sessions but received no further consideration when reaching the Senate.
The House Veterans Affairs & Emergency Preparedness’s Subcommittee on Military and Veterans Facilities recommended the bill pass through onto the House floor. It did the same for six bills altogether including at least four with unanimous House support in past sessions but no movement in the Senate.
“I met with our Senate counterpart and I’ve been assured there will be movement of the bills that pass the House. It’s not acceptable that something passes continually, repeatedly, out of the House of Representatives and does not receive Senate consideration, so I’m hoping there will be a change there,” said Rep. Mark Gillen, R-Berks, the committee’s minority chair.
That counterpart now being Sen. Doug Mastriano, R-Adams/Franklin, who is the new chair this session of the Senate’s committee on Veteran Affairs & Emergency Preparedness. Gillen noted new leadership atop his own committee, as well, along with institutional knowledge in politics and military service with two retired colonels on the subcommittee in Rep. Joe Webster, D-Montgomery, an Air Force veteran, and the aforementioned Rep. Craig Williams, a veteran of the Marine Corps.
“I’m actually very optimistic,” Gillen said following the meeting about veteran-related measures advancing this session through both chambers of Pennsylvania’s General Assembly.