Veterans could see their benefits boosted by the biggest margin in four decades after Congress on Thursday finalized plans to guarantee that veterans’ checks see the same cost-of-living boost as Social Security payouts.
Federal officials aren’t expected to announce the Social Security benefits adjustment until mid-October. Earlier this week, the nonprofit Senior Citizens League predicted a cost-of-living increase of about 8.7% for 2023, based on inflation data through the first eight months of the year.
If that estimate is correct, it would be the highest annual increase since 1981. The 2022 cost-of-living adjustment was 5.9%.
For a veteran receiving about $1,500 in monthly payouts, that level of increase would mean about $130 extra each month.
Social Security and some other federal benefits are adjusted each year, to reflect increases in basic family costs like rent, groceries and utilities. But for veterans benefits, that process isn’t automatic. Lawmakers must pass legislation annually to link the two sets of benefits to ensure that veterans’ payouts keep pace with those increasing costs.
The House passed the legislation on Sept. 15 and the Senate followed suit this week. Lawmakers called it a simple but significant move.
“With the global supply chain crisis continuing to impact Americans, disabled veterans, and military families, [this legislation] will ensure that the needs of our disabled veterans are being met,” bill sponsor Rep. Elaine Luria, D-Va., said in a statement.
Senate leaders echoed that sentiment.
“We have a responsibility to ensure veterans’ benefits are keeping pace with a changing economy,” said Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee Chairman Jon Tester, D-Mont. “That’s why I’m glad the Senate unanimously passed this bipartisan bill that’ll do just that — providing veterans and their families from every corner of the country with the support they need and earned.”
The VA COLA increase legislation would apply to payouts for disability compensation, clothing allowance, dependency and indemnity benefits, as well as other VA assistance programs.
Advocates have pushed in the past to permanently link the veterans benefits and Social Security cost-of-living adjustments, but thus far have not been successful.
President Joe Biden is expected to sign the measure into law in coming days.
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.