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Veterans to see cost-of-living boost to their benefits

By Corey Dickstein, Stars and Stripes

Cynthia Verrill, Linda American Legion Post 807 commander, salutes the flag during the playing of the National Anthem during the Yuba-Sutter Stand Down on Aug. 24, 2018, in Marysville, Calif. The Stand Down gives local veterans and their families the opportunity to seek services, such as dental, veteran benefits and Social Security in a single location. (Ramon A. Adelan/U.S. Air Force)

Veterans will get a cost-of-living boost on their benefit payments next year equal to the annual Social Security cost-of-living adjustment now that President Joe Biden signed a bipartisan bill into law Wednesday requiring the raise.

The Veterans’ Compensation Cost-of-Living Adjustment Act of 2023 directs the Department of Veterans Affairs to boost compensation for service-disabled veterans and the families of fallen service members by providing a cost-of-living adjustment equal to the Social Security increase. Biden signed the bill at the White House after it was passed unanimously in the House on May 23 and the Senate on March 30.

The law comes after veterans and Social Security recipients saw the largest COLA boost in decades last year, when the Social Security Administration and VA approved an 8.7% raise for this year due to high inflation rates last year.

Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont., applauded Biden’s signing the bill that he and Sen. Jerry Moran, R-Kan., introduced earlier this year. Tester is the chairman of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee and Moran is the committee’s top Republican. Reps. Chris Pappas, D-N.H., and Morgan Luttrell, R-Texas, introduced the measure in the House.

“At a time when folks are struggling with rising costs, from housing to groceries, veterans deserve absolute certainty when it comes to providing for their families,” Tester said in a statement issued Wednesday after the bill’s signing. “That’s why I’m proud to have worked with my Republican and Democratic colleagues to deliver a cost-of-living increase to millions of disabled veterans and survivors across the country — including 30,000 in Montana.”

It was not immediately clear Wednesday how large a raise veterans would get from the bill. The Social Security Administration is expected to announce its annual cost-of-living adjustment sometime early in the next fiscal year, which begins Oct. 1. The raise is based on the Consumer Price Index for Urban Wage Earners and Clerical Workers, according to the Social Security Administration. It would go into effect Dec. 1, 2023, according to the law.

The raise could be much lower this year. The Senior Citizens League, a nonpartisan senior group, announced Tuesday that it anticipated a 2.7% COLA boost for Social Security this year, after it had predicted last month a 3.2% boost.

The league’s latest projection cited falling inflation rates in the latest Consumer Price Index, the group said in a statement.

On Wednesday, June 14, 2023, the President signed into law:

S. 777, the “Veterans’ Compensation Cost-of-Living Adjustment Act of 2023” or the “Veterans’ COLA Act of 2023,” which provides for a cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) for veterans’ disability compensation and dependency and indemnity compensation beneficiaries equal to the Social Security COLA.

Thank you to Senators Tester and Moran, and Representatives Pappas and Luttrell, for their leadership.

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