Veterans may be in line for a big cost-of-living boost in their benefits payouts 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 in the summer. It now heads to the White House, where President Joe Biden is expected to sign it into law in coming days.
The legislation ties the cost-of-living boost for veterans benefits to the planned increase in Social Security benefits. Although the Social Security boost is automatic each year, lawmakers must approve the veterans benefits increase annually.
How much that boost will be next year is still not certain. The Social Security Administration is expected to announce the COLA rate for 2022 next month, based on economic trends over the last few months.
That increase will go into effect for benefits checks sent out starting this December.
The cost-of-living bump hasn’t been above 3.0 percent since 2011, and has averaged less than 1.3 percent over the last six years.
But last month, officials from the Senior Citizens League predicted that next year’s rise could top 6.2 percent, based on recent inflation and wage data released by federal economists. If so, it would be the largest increase since 1983 for Social Security and VA benefits recipients.
Lawmakers praised Monday’s bill passage as needed support for American veterans.
“The cost-of-living adjustment to veterans’ benefits is so much more than a rate adjustment tied to inflation,” said Rep. Mark Takano, D-Calif., in a statement. “It is a quality-of-life guarantee in the retirement years for veterans suffering with service-connected disabilities and ailments.”
Committee ranking member Mike Bost, R-Ill., said the increase is critical for veterans and families who rely on disability benefits as a primary source of income.
“Many veterans rely on disability compensation payments to make ends meet; this was especially true during the pandemic,” he said in a statement. “For millions of veterans and their families, this adjustment is more important now than ever before.”
The VA COLA increase applies to payouts for disability compensation, clothing allowance, dependency and indemnity benefits, and other VA assistance programs.
Leo covers Congress, Veterans Affairs and the White House for Military Times. He has covered Washington, D.C. since 2004, focusing on military personnel and veterans policies. His work has earned numerous honors, including a 2009 Polk award, a 2010 National Headliner Award, the IAVA Leadership in Journalism award and the VFW News Media award.