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Veterans Law

VA Cost-of-Living Adjustment (COLA) and 2019 Compensation Rates

November 20, 2018
Updated: October 30, 2020
Dollar bills compensation

VA adjusts monthly compensation amounts based on the yearly change in the cost of living as determined by the Social Security Administration.  These periodic changes made to VA compensation rates allow for VA benefit amounts to increase with the rate of inflation.

Looking for 2020 Cost of Living Adjustments? Check out our blog VA 2020 Compensation Rates and Cost of Living Adjustment (COLA).

How is COLA determined?

VA COLA rates are based on the COLA rates set forth by the Social Security Administration (SSA).  The SSA bases COLA rates off of the percentage increase in the Consumer Price Index for Urban Wage Earnings and Clerical Workers from the third quarter (July, August, September) of the previous year to the third quarter of the current year.

The Consumer Price Index for Wage Earnings and Clerical Workers (CPI-W) is a statistical measure of change of the prices of goods and services over time in “major expenditure group” such as clothing, food, housing, medical care, and other entities that are typically purchased by consumers.  The Bureau of Labor Statistics calculates CPI-W on a monthly basis, and the SSA compares the data from the third quarter of the previous year to the third quarter of the current year in order to accurately reflect the change in the cost of living in their compensation rates.  VA uses the COLA rate from the SSA to make adjustments to veterans’ monthly disability compensation.

2019 COLA

The 2019 COLA is set for a 2.8 percent increase based on the above-mentioned calculations.  The SSA confirmed this in an October 11, 2018 statement: “The 2.8 percent cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) will begin with benefits payable to more than 62 million Social Security beneficiaries in January 2019”.  Notably, this will be the largest COLA increase since 2011 when it was 3.6 percent.  It is also a significant jump from the 2 percent COLA rate increase of 2018.  For 2019, VA compensation rates are scheduled to go into effect on December 1, 2018 and will be reflected in veterans’ benefit checks starting December 31, 2018.  Disabled veterans and surviving family members of veterans will receive the COLA increase, along with recipients of VA pension and retired military veterans. The following 2019 VA disability compensation rates for veterans without dependents are compared to the previous year:

Combined Disability Rating2018 VA Compensation Rates2019 VA Compensation Rates

Veterans with a combined rating of 30 percent or higher may be eligible for additional compensation for eligible dependents including spouses, minor children, or dependent parents.  The monthly compensation amounts for veterans based on dependent status can be found using our VA Disability Pay Chart.