Veterans with the highest ratings will see an almost $100 bump in disability pay each month starting in 2019, the largest increase since 2012.
That 2.8 percent cost-of-living adjustment (COLA), which kicks in Jan. 1, was made official Monday by the Department of Veterans Affairs. Military retirement, other VA disability benefits, Social Security and federal civilian retirement will see that same increase.
For veterans with a 10 percent disability rating, that bump brings monthly compensation from $136.24 to $140.05 each month, while a veteran entitled to 100 percent disability will go from $2,973.86 to $3,057.13 monthly.
Veterans with a 30 percent disability ranking or higher are entitled to greater amounts if they have dependents. A 100 percent-disabled veteran with spouse and two children will see their monthly payment increase to $3,437.10. Veterans can also get increased payments if they have a child over 18 attending school, or if they have a disabled spouse.
Special Monthly Compensation (SMC) will also see a 2.8 percent raise in 2019. SMC is paid in addition to regular disability compensation to a veteran who suffered the loss or loss of use of specific organs or extremities as a result of their service.
Like most federal benefits, disability compensation rate increases are tied to the Consumer Price Index (CPI), which measures a broad sampling of the cost of consumer goods and expenses.
The CPI is compared to the previous year's numbers. If there is an increase, a cost-of-living adjustment is made. If there is no increase, there is no COLA.
In 2018, the COLA was 2.0 percent; in 2017, retirees saw a 0.3 percent increase. There was no increase at all in 2016. The last time COLA increased by more than 2.8 percent was 2012, when compensation rates got a 3.6 percent hike.
Federal benefits have been calculated this way since 1975.
Maj. Matthew Golsteyn in Afghanistan. (Photo courtesy of Philip Stackhouse.)
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