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Lawmakers push for cost-of-living boost in veterans benefits next year

A pair of Senate leaders introduced plans Monday to guarantee a cost-of-living boost in veterans benefits next year that equals what Social Security beneficiaries will receive, in a routine legislative step that aims to help veterans payouts keep pace with inflation increases.

The measure from Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee Chairman Jon Tester, D-Mont., and ranking member Jerry Moran, R-Kan., would increase the rates of compensation for veterans with service-connected disabilities and survivors of former service members in 2025.

In a statement, Tester said the move is needed “to make sure the men and women who served this country have benefits that meet their needs each year.”

Similar legislation is introduced in the House and Senate annually and is generally noncontroversial. However, unlike Social Security benefits — which must include a cost-of-living boost each year — veterans benefits do not, making annual passage of a matching raise a key focus for advocates.

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The Social Security increase last year was 3.2%, down from 8.7% in 2023 — the highest such raise in 40 years. Federal officials won’t announce the size of the 2025 increase until this fall, but the Senior Citizens League last month estimated that the figure is likely to be around 2.4%.

In a statement, Moran said that however large the cost-of-living increase is, veterans deserve to have that same adjustment.

“Many of these veterans rely on the VA for financial support, especially with ongoing rising costs and inflation,” he said. “Making certain veterans benefits stay on pace with rising prices will help provide disabled veterans, certain surviving spouses and their children with peace of mind and continued support.”

About 5 million veterans and 2 million military retirees receive benefits checks each month through the Department of Veterans Affairs. The COLA-increase legislation would apply to payouts for disability compensation, clothing allowances, and dependency and indemnity benefits, as well as some other VA assistance programs.

At least 12 senators — a mix of Republicans and Democrats — have already signed onto the bill. Companion legislation is expected to be introduced in the House in the coming weeks.

Leaders from the House and Senate have not said when they expect the legislation to be considered. Both chambers are expected to recess in the early summer for an extended break ahead of the November presidential and congressional elections.

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