On Thursday, Social Security Administration officials announced that the cost-of-living adjustment for 2019 for their beneficiaries will be 2.8 percent, the biggest increase since 2012. Last year the increase was 2 percent, and the previous three years were only 2 percent combined.
Under current law, annual cost-of-living increases are automatic for Social Security benefits, meaning the executive branch can enact them without intervention from Congress. Certain other federal benefits, such as military retiree payouts, are also automatically boosted by that decision.
But the Social Security announcement also serves as the baseline for a host of other federal benefits calculations that do require yearly reauthorization, including Department of Veterans Affairs payouts.
Congress finalized work on the veterans benefits cost-of-living issue late last month. On Tuesday, President Donald Trump signed the measure into law.
The end result is a boost in disability pay, dependents compensation, clothing allowances and a handful of other veterans benefits, set to start at the beginning of January.
Earlier this week, House Veterans’ Affairs Committee Chairman Phil Roe, R-Tenn., praised his colleagues and the White House for ensuring that veterans would not be left without the extra assistance.
“So many veterans rely on disability compensation payments to make ends meet, and this cost-of-living adjustment means that they will be able to continue to do so,” he said in a statement.
Veterans advocates have pushed for years to make the veterans COLA adjustments automatic like the military retiree payouts, but have found little legislative success.
Social Security Administration officials said more than 67 million Americans are affected by the change. The cost-of-living increases are based on current and anticipated rates of inflation.
For a veteran or military retiree receiving $1,500 a month in benefits payouts, the COLA increase equates to more than $500 extra over the course of a year.
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.