What Is Congress Doing to Guarantee a COLA Increase for Vets?

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July 19, 2022 •  The Estate & Elder Law Center of Southside Virginia, PLLC
Lawmakers in recent days took the first steps in ensuring that veterans receive a cost-of-living boost in their federal benefits later this year, introducing legislation that would guarantee the veterans’ checks see the same increase as Social Security payouts.

The legislation was filed by Reps. Elaine Luria, D-Va., and Troy Nehls, R-Texas, late last week and by Sens. Jon Tester, D-Mont., and Jerry Moran, R-Kansas. In joint statements, the four called the proposal critical to bolstering veteran’s finances, reports Military Times’ recent article entitled “Lawmakers move to guarantee cost-of-living boost for veterans benefits.”

“We have a responsibility to take care of our veterans, many of whom rely on VA for financial support,” said Moran, ranking member of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee.

“As rampant inflation is driving up the cost of living, this legislation helps make certain that veterans are able to keep up with our changing economy and receive the benefits they have been promised.”

The cost-of-living increase will fully benefit retirees under the Civil Service Retirement System. However, it will have a lesser impact on Federal Employee Retirement System recipients.

The legislation linking the two government benefits is largely routine.  Lawmakers usually approve the annual proposal to couple VA benefits increases with Social Security benefits increases by large bipartisan margins.

However, it’s not automatic. Despite efforts by some advocates in the past, an annual cost-of-living increase in veterans benefits requires congressional action. Social Security benefits, on the other hand, are adjusted based on an automatic formula that is triggered whether lawmakers vote on it or not.

In 2021, as inflation pressures began to impact the American economy, that increase was 5.9%. Officials have not given this year’s adjustment but continued rising costs across the economy could drive that figure even higher.

The VA COLA increase bill would apply to payouts for disability compensation, clothing allowance, dependency and indemnity benefits and other VA assistance programs.

“Transitioning from active duty to civilian life is not always easy, and a cost-of-living adjustment is the least we can do for the men, women and families who served our country,” said Luria, herself a Navy veteran.

No schedule has been set for when either chamber could vote on the bill.

Reference: Military Times (May 23, 2022) “Lawmakers move to guarantee cost-of-living boost for veterans benefits”

Suggested Key Terms: Estate Planning Lawyer, Retirement Planning, VA Benefits, Veterans, Military, Legislation

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