Pay & Benefits

Veterans, military retirees to see a 1.6 percent cost-of-living boost in benefits

Military retirees and veterans benefits recipients will see a 1.6 percent cost-of-living boost in their payouts starting in December, nearly half of the increase they received last year.

Officials from the Social Security Administration announced the COLA boost on Thursday, based on inflation and consumer spending calculations over the last few months. The increase will go into effect for about 69 million Social Security beneficiaries in coming months, most in January 2020.

But individuals receiving certain military and veterans payouts will see that money arrive a month sooner due to differing payroll schedules for federal agencies. Under legislation signed into law last month, the cost-of-living boost for those benefits is tied to the Social Security calculations.

The adjustment is likely to upset many beneficiaries, however, because of the drop from last year’s COLA calculation. That boost was 2.8 percent, the second year in a row that individuals saw an increase of more than 2.0 percent.

For a 100-percent disabled veteran who is married, the new boost will amount to about $49 a month. A retired E-7 with 20 years service will see about $38 more with the increase, while a retired O-4 with 20 years will get about $65 extra a month.

The cost-of-living boost is well behind the pay raise military members are anticipating for 2020. Lawmakers in the House and Senate in recent months have advanced measures (but have not finalized them) to raise active-duty salaries by 3.1 percent next year, the largest boost troops have seen in a decade.

The calculation for that increase is based on civilian section wage growth, rather than the consumer cost data used for the Social Security bump.

However, even a smaller COLA this year than last is above what beneficiaries received in 2017, when the boost was 0.3 percent, and 2016, when Social Security payouts were held without any adjustment.

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