The Department of Veterans Affairs recently announced that individuals who receive VA benefits, including VA disability benefits, will see an increase in those benefits in a few months. Called a cost-of-living adjustment, or COLA, this increase that is awarded each year to VA benefits recipients is meant to address the increasing costs of goods and services that veterans need.
Four Things to Know About the COLA Increase
The recently announced cost-of-living increase was widely expected but is still welcome news to veterans who subsist in whole or in part on VA disability benefits. Here are four key things to know about this year’s COLA increase:
- The COLA Increase is Never Guaranteed from Year to Year
There is nothing written in any law that says veterans are automatically entitled to receive a cost-of-living adjustment from year to year. Instead, Congress must pass a bill authorizing the COLA increase and that bill must be signed by the President before it becomes effective. It just so happens that these bills are rarely controversial from one year to the next and receive considerable support from both sides of the political aisle.
- The Amount of the COLA Increase is Tied to the Consumer Price Index
Congress does not set the amount of the increase in benefits arbitrarily. Nor does Congress list a specific dollar figure by which benefits are to increase. Instead, Congress determines the size of the COLA increase by looking to the Consumer Price Index, a measurement tool that looks at the change in goods and services over a period of time. Based on this, the COLA increase is decided upon and expressed as a percentage change.
- This Year’s COLA Increase is Less Than 2023’s Increase
Veterans receiving disability benefits last year experienced one of the most significant COLA increases in recent times. In recognition of the effect that inflation was having on the cost of goods and services, Congress approved a COLA increase of over eight percent last year. This increase went into effect in January of 2023.
This year’s COLA increase is much smaller, only 3.2 percent. This means that a veteran living alone with no children and with a 30 percent disability rate can expect to see their monthly benefit amount jump from $508.05 per month to $523.29 per month. Veterans who are currently receiving VA disability benefits can estimate their new benefit amount by multiplying their current benefit by 3.2 percent.
- Veterans Will Have to Wait to See the Increased Benefit Amount
Although the law authorizing the COLA increase was signed into law in June and the amount of the COLA increase was unveiled earlier this month, beneficiaries will have to wait until January 2024 to start receiving the updated benefit amount.
Contact Unruh Law for Help with Your VA Disability Claim
Ready to apply for VA disability benefits? Or perhaps you have already applied but your claim was denied. In either case, Unruh Law can help. Call us at 833-753-5168 or get in touch with us online to schedule a consultation for us to discuss your needs.