Veterans Will See Same Cost-of-Living Hike As Social Security in 2017
Veterans’ benefits will match the Social Security cost-of-living increase in 2017, thanks to a measure recently finalized by Congress this week. But Veterans’ groups hoping for a more permanent answer to the annual legislative hand-wringing over their benefits boost will have to wait longer for that solution.
Under 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 lawmakers to vote on an adjustment every year.
In the last few decades, Veterans have seen their annual adjustment differ from the Social Security COLA only one time (in 2000, as a result of a minor rounding difference between the two rates). But outside groups have called having the two increases dealt with separately confusing at best and potentially ripe for abuse or mistakes.
The measure finalized by the Senate links the Veterans’ benefits boost to Social Security rates for 2017 alone. Legislation to permanently tie veterans payouts to the Social Security cost-of-living calculations was passed by the House in February, but has languished in the Senate since then. Bill sponsor Rep. Ralph Abraham, R-La., said he is still hopeful that measure can advance through Congress later this year.
The change affects the annual rates of VA disability compensation, dependency compensation for surviving children and spouses, and medical clothing allowances for veterans, among other benefits.
It will not affect adjustments for military retirement pay, which are calculated through other methods.
Social Security and veterans benefits did not see a cost-of-living increase in 2016, due to lower inflation costs and the methodology used by government officials to calculate the raise. No announcements have been made on a possible 2017 social security increase which the veterans benefits are tied to.
Source: Military Times