On Tuesday, Nov. 27 President Obama signed into law a bill that gives veterans and survivors a 1.7 percent hike for the cost-of-living adjustment (COLA). Effective Dec. 1, the increase will appear on January paychecks—directly deposited on Dec. 31, 2012—and affect about 4 million veterans, military retirees and survivors.
The average increase in income for the year is $500. Dollar amounts will vary on an individual basis depending on disability rating.
A few weeks ago, the Senate passed the cost of living adjustment (COLA) bill for the 1.7 percent increase for military retirees and veterans’ survivors. Those affected by the increase will see the increase in monthly benefit payments in 2013. The House version of the bill that passed unanimously in June also called for a 1.7 percent increase.
The Senate acted swiftly when it returned from the election recess to guarantee January payments reflect the increase.
The COLA will increase pay for Social Security recipients and military retirees who receive disability compensation and pension, as well as veterans’ survivors who receive dependency and indemnity compensation.
Updated by Chris Birk
In July the 2013 cost of living allowance (COLA) increase for veteran disability benefits passed by unanimous vote in the House of Representatives, and now awaits a vote in the Senate. If passed, disabled veterans will receive the same increase in COLA as Social Security and retired military beneficiaries, an expected 1.3 to 1.9 percent bump, with the final calculation to be determined in October.
While unlikely, there is still a chance this year that federal beneficiaries might receive a reduced or no COLA increase at all as the result of upcoming budget cuts.
Congress continues to manually approve these increases every year despite bills such as the American Heroes’ COLA Act, which would make such increases automatic but has yet to be voted on by the House. Despite this, veterans have little cause to worry. COLA legislation typically gets passed like clockwork, and this year is looking to be no exception.
There is concern that the upcoming budget reduction agreement could include stipulations to reduce or remove 2013's COLA increase. Even if the changes aren't implemented in time to alter next year's increase, there could be changes to the way the formula is calculated, resulting in beneficiaries receiving smaller increases in the future.
Still, the fact that lawmakers are passing this legislation early is a positive sign.
“Congress knows that veterans are dependent upon us acting in a timely manner with regards to their needs,” said Rep. Jon Runyan (R-NJ), one of the sponsors of the bill, in a recent news release. “By acting on the yearly COLA this summer instead of waiting until the last minute, we tell America’s veterans that we remain dedicated to ensuring that they are given the benefits they were promised when they signed up to serve.”
For more up-to-date news on veterans' disability benefits, check out The Veterans Blog.