U.S. Air Force photo

COLA rumors cleared up

E-mails are circulating and rumors are going around through the veterans community that the president currently has legislation on his desk that will provide significant increases to benefits for disabled veterans. The e-mail and rumors refer to the annual cost-of-living, or COLA, increases to veterans disability payments. Like many rumors, they contain a mix of factual and incorrect information.

On Sept. 23, H.R. 4667, The Veterans’ Compensation Cost-of-Living Adjustment Act of 2010, was presented to President Obama for signature. This happens every year, and the text of the legislation is always approximately the same: the rate increase is tied, as is the case with the Social Security COLA, to the CPI or Consumer Price Index.

The current CPI is tracking at an approximate 1.1 percent increase over this time last year. That figure is through August. The figures through September will not be released until October 15 and can be found here. The determination of the amount of increase, if any, is usually not announced until late November or early December.

The rumors and e-mails allude to lists of much greater increases. These amounts are false and should not be taken to be actual amounts in any way, shape or form. If present trends in the CPI continue, any increases are likely to be modest, if at all.

These rumors further prey on veteran dissatisfaction with last year, which was the first year since 1975 that there was no COLA increase to disability benefits. This increase, or lack thereof, is not tied to either VA or to the law passed by Congress, but to the determination of the CPI.

Veterans should know that any increases to disability payments will be announced on the The American Legion Web site, as well as on VA’s own Web site, and that they should check those sources if they hear of any rate increases and wish to know if they are correct.