Lawmakers on Wednesday finalized plans to boost next year’s veterans benefits by the same cost-of-living increase as Social Security, meaning a 2 percent boost in payouts starting in December.
The move is a routine annual step by lawmakers, but also a critical one. Under current law, annual cost-of-living increases are automatic for Social Security benefits, determined by the executive branch without intervention from Congress. But veterans benefits fall into a different category, one that requires lawmaker to approve a new adjustment every year.
President Donald Trump is expected to sign the latest measure into law in coming days.
The legislation does not affect adjustments for military retirement pay. But those individuals are already included in the Social Security adjustments, meaning they’ll also see the 2 percent bump.
In the last few decades, veterans have only seen their annual adjustment differ from the Social Security COLA one time (in 2000, as a result of a minor rounding difference between the two rates.)
But legislative efforts to make the veterans COLA adjustments automatic have been unsuccessful in recent years. Veterans groups have expressed concerns that requiring lawmakers to take legislative action on the issue annually risks jeopardizing needed benefit increases in cases of political infighting.
The House approved the legislation — which covers disability pay, dependents compensation, clothing allowances and other related veterans benefits — back in May.
At the time, bill sponsor Rep. Mike Bost praised the move as helping to repay “a constant debt to the men and women who have fought for our great nation” by ensuring their benefits keep pace with inflation costs.
The 2.0 percent boost is the largest for Social Security recipients and veterans since 2011, and only the second time in nine years it has been at that level or higher.
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.