Veterans benefits

Benefits for veterans could see a big rise in the cost of living later this year

Veterans could be in line for a steep cost-of-living increase in their benefit payments starting in December thanks to legislation finalized by Congress on Monday.

The Veterans Compensation Cost-of-Living Adjustment Act passed unanimously in the House on Monday and without objection in the Senate earlier this summer. It is now heading to the White House, where President Joe Biden is expected to sign it into law in the coming days.

The legislation ties the increase in the cost of living for veterans’ benefits to the planned increase in Social Security benefits. Although the increase in Social Security is automatic each year, lawmakers must approve the annual increase in veterans’ benefits.

The magnitude of this boost next year is still uncertain. The Social Security Administration is expected to announce the COLA rate for 2022 next month, based on economic trends in recent months.

This increase will come into effect for benefit checks sent from December.

The increase in the cost of living has not exceeded 3.0% since 2011 and has averaged less than 1.3% over the past six years.

But last month, Senior Citizens League officials predicted next year’s rise could reach 6.2%, based on recent inflation and wage data released by federal economists. If so, it would be the biggest increase since 1983 for Social Security and VA recipients.

Lawmakers hailed Monday’s passage of the bill as much-needed support for American veterans.

“The Veterans Benefit cost-of-living adjustment is much more than an inflation-linked rate adjustment,” Rep. Mark Takano, D-California, said in a statement. “It’s a guarantee of quality of life in the retirement years for veterans with service-related disabilities and illnesses.”

Ranking committee member Mike Bost, R-Ill., said the increase is essential for veterans and families who depend on disability benefits as their primary source of income.

“Many veterans rely on disability awards to make ends meet; this has been especially true during the pandemic,” he said in a statement. “For millions of veterans and their families, this adjustment is more important than ever.”

The increased VA COLA applies to disability, clothing allowance, dependency and indemnity benefits and other VA assistance program payments.

Leo covers Congress, Veterans Affairs and the White House for Military Times. He has covered Washington, DC since 2004, focusing on military personnel and veterans policies. His work has earned him numerous accolades, including a 2009 Polk Award, a 2010 National Headliner Award, the IAVA Leadership in Journalism Award, and the VFW News Media Award.