A bill, branded by the Democratic leadership as a top-priority bill, increasing benefits and improving medical services to veterans will cost the United States about $7.64 billion over the next 10 years, according to a Congressional Budget Office estimate.
The bill, introduced by Sen. Bernard Sanders, I-Vt., has garnered the most attention for its effort to reverse reductions in cost-of-living adjustments for veterans under the age of 62.
The repeal of COLA restrictions will cost about $141 million by 2016 and take up about $5.7 billion of total bill cost by 2023.
The bill will also expand the Yellow Ribbon G.I. Education Enhancement Program, expand work-study programs and improve the Department of Veterans Affairs’ claims system.
The bill’s expenditures would not reach $1 billion until 2019, according to CBO. The initial cost of the bill for 2014 will be about $220 million.
CBO reports are only educated estimates of what a bill could cost, according to Philip G. Joyce, a former CBO employee and professor at the University of Maryland, College Park.
CBO reports tend to be less accurate as the estimates move further into the future, he said.
The bill has attracted support from a large number of veterans associations. The Veterans of Foreign Wars and the Military Officers Association of America have both signaled their support for the bill.
“This legislation, based primarily on the bipartisan Senate Veterans Benefits Omnibus, S. 944, offers comprehensive and much needed solutions for our returning warriors, veterans, survivors and family members,” said Vice Adm. Norb Ryan, president of MOAA.
It remains to be seen how the fiscally conservative Tea Party will react to the price of the bill.