Veterans and retirees will see an 8.7% cost-of-living increase in their Social Security benefits starting in December, the largest increase in 42 years, federal officials announced on Thursday.
The big boost reflects the rising cost of inflation throughout the last year. In a statement, acting Social Security Administration Commissioner Kilolo Kijakazi said the move will give beneficiaries “more peace of mind and breathing room.”
The move will directly affect about 65 million Americans receiving Social Security benefits. Administration officials said the average beneficiary will see an increase of about $140 in their monthly payouts.
The announcement also impacts veterans and military retirees, whose benefits increases are tied to the Social Security figure. Last month, Congress approved legislation linking veterans payouts to the Social Security mark, a non-controversial but annual requirement for lawmakers. President Joe Biden signed the measure into law this week.
Although the increase is for 2023, some veterans and retirees will see their first increase in their December checks.
The 2022 cost-of-living adjustment was 5.9%. The 8.7% figure is the highest announced since 1981, when the COLA adjustment was more than 11%.
For a veteran receiving about $1,500 in monthly payouts, the 8.7% increase will mean about $130 extra each month.
Whether that will be enough to counter higher grocery and fuel costs is unclear. Advocacy groups in recent months have pushed for more assistance for veterans and retirees dependent on the payouts as inflation costs have risen.
Federal officials on Thursday announced that the Consumer Price Index, a formula which measures the average change in the price of consumer goods, was at 8.2% in September, higher than many outside analysts had expected. That could be a sign of continued high costs for consumers for months to come.
About 5 million veterans and 2 million military retirees receive benefits checks each month. The COLA increase legislation would apply to payouts for disability compensation, clothing allowance, dependency and indemnity benefits, as well as other VA assistance programs.
In a statement, Rep. Elaine Luria, D-Va. and the sponsor of House legislation linking veterans benefits to the Social Security boost, called Thursday’s announcement “critical financial help to our veterans and their families during these challenging times.”
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.