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2012 Cost of Living Adjustment for Veterans and Beneficiaries

Author: COLA

Published: 2012-01-28

Synopsis:

Cost of living adjustments apply to disability and death pension recipients survivors receiving Dependency and Indemnity Compensation disabled Veterans receiving automobile and clothing allowances and other benefits.

Main Digest

Veterans, their families, and survivors receiving benefits from the Department of Veterans Affairs saw a 3.6 percent increase in their compensation and pension benefits beginning January 1.

Cost of Living Adjustment (COLA) - U.S. Social Security and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits are adjusted to reflect the increase, if any, in the cost of living as measured by the Consumer Price Index for Urban Wage Earners and Clerical Workers (CPI-W) prepared by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). The purpose of the cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) is to ensure that the purchasing power of Social Security and SSI benefits is not eroded by inflation. For purposes of determining the COLA, the average CPI-W for the third calendar quarter of the last year a COLA was determined is compared to the average CPI-W for the third calendar quarter of the current year. The resulting percentage increase, if any, represents the percentage that will be used to increase Social Security benefits beginning for December of the current year. SSI benefits increase by the same percentage the following month (January). If the increase in the CPI-W is at least one-tenth of one percent (0.1 percent), there will be a COLA. However, if the CPI-W increases by less than 0.05 percent, or if the CPI-W decreases, there will not be a COLA.

"Veterans, their families and their survivors are entitled to benefits that keep pace with the cost of living," said Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K. Shinseki. "VA is also using the latest technology to provide Veterans and their families with access to current information about their benefits."

The new compensation rates will range from $127 monthly for a disability rated at 10 percent to $2,769 monthly for 100 percent. The cost of living adjustments ( COLAs ) also apply to disability and death pension recipients, survivors receiving Dependency and Indemnity Compensation, disabled Veterans receiving automobile and clothing allowances, and other benefits. The full rates are available on the Internet at www.vba.va.gov/bln/21/Rates/#BM01.

Under federal law, COLAs for VA's compensation and pension rates are the same percentage as for Social Security benefits. The last COLA for VA benefits was in 2008 when the last Social Security increase occurred.

"Veterans receiving VA disability and pension payments can now check their new 2012 COLA increase online," said Under Secretary for Benefits Allison A. Hickey. "I encourage all Veterans, their dependents and survivors to sign up for eBenefits, VA's popular website that recently crossed the one million mark in registrations."

In close collaboration, the Department of Defense (DoD) and VA jointly developed the eBenefits portal ( https://www.ebenefits.va.gov ) as a single secure point of access for online benefit information and tools to perform multiple self-service functions, such as checking monthly benefit rates, filing a claim, or checking its status.

Veterans may enroll in eBenefits and obtain a Premium account by verifying their identity in-person at the nearest regional office or online depending on their status, or calling VA's toll free number at 1-800-827-1000.

Service members may also enroll in eBenefits using their Common Access Card at any time during their military service, or before they leave during their Transition Assistance Program briefings.

VA is enhancing its online eBenefits services with newer features such as online selection of Veterans organizations or other advocates to represent applicants for benefits where representation is desired.

Another new feature automates messages sent to Veterans and Service members to notify them of benefits that they may be eligible to receive based on recent life events, such as military separation or marriage.

The site also continues to consolidate access to other VA and DoD systems through the portal, recently incorporating a gateway to vocational rehabilitation benefits under VA's VetSuccess program.

Web access to information and benefits management tools for Service members, Veterans and their families is part of VA and DoD's lifetime engagement strategy from an individual's entry into the military through the twilight years in civilian life as a Veteran.

VA provides non-taxable compensation and pension benefits to over four million Veterans, family members, and survivors. Disability compensation is a non-taxable monetary benefit paid to Veterans who are disabled as a result of an injury or illness that was incurred or aggravated during active military service.

For more information about VA benefits or new payment rates, visit www.vba.va.gov or call 1-800-827-1000.

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