House lawmakers this week finalized plans to guarantee a cost-of-living boost in veterans benefits next year, sending legislation to the White House to be signed into law in coming days.
The move guarantees that veterans’ support payments will keep pace with increases in Social Security checks and other federal stipends. It’s a non-controversial annual procedure for Congress, but one that needs to be finished before the end of the year to ensure that veterans benefits keep pace with inflation costs.
Despite ongoing partisan fights on Capitol Hill over federal spending, the Veterans’ Compensation Cost-of-Living Adjustment Act was adopted by both chambers without any opposition.
The legislation promises that VA benefits — including disability compensation, clothing allowances, and survivors’ support — will see a cost-of-living hike in 2024 equal to that of Social Security payouts. The Social Security hikes are automatic each year, set under federal law. But Congress must re-approve the veterans hikes each year.
In January, the Social Security cost-of-living increase (and the veterans benefits hike) was 8.7%, the highest in 40 years. That reflected higher than expected costs for things like housing costs, groceries and fuel purchases over the last year.
The Senior Citizens League, a nonpartisan advocacy group focused on the rights of older Americans, has predicted the 2024 hike will be around 3.1%.
Lawmakers said they worked to finish the veterans cost-of-living guarantee earlier than usual this year to signal financial stability for veterans.
“Our veterans put their lives on the line to defend our freedoms, and they deserve certainty when it comes to providing for their families,” said Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont., who chairs the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee and sponsored the Senate version of the legislation.
Similarly, the chairman of the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee — Rep. Mike Bost, R-Ill. — said before the House vote on Monday that “veterans should not have to worry whether their earned benefits can cover their basic needs. They should not have to choose between gas to get to work or groceries for their family.”
The White House has not expressed any concerns about this year’s version of the legislation and has supported the move annually. Officials did not say when the measure may be signed into law.
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.