VA benefits set to slightly increase in 2014

Wednesday - 12/4/2013, 11:41am EST

When veterans and their families, who receive disability compensation and retirement benefits from the Veterans Affairs Department, receive their annual cost-of-living increase next month, for the first time ever, it won't be rounded down to the nearest dollar.

Overall, the COLA for veterans benefits will increase 1.5 percent. That's the same increase announced by the Social Security Administration in late October for all Social Security beneficiaries. Under annual legislation approved by Congress late last month, the two must match.

However, until this year, the COLA for veterans' benefits was rounded down to the nearest dollar. That will change with payments beginning in January, since Congress left that provision out of its legislation.

"We're pleased there will be another cost-of-living increase for Veterans, their families and their survivors," Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki said in a statement. "The increase expresses in a tangible way our nation's gratitude for the sacrifices made by our service-disabled and wartime Veterans."

The COLA hike affects a host of VA benefits, including disability payments, death pension recipients, survivor benefits, and car and clothing allowances for veterans with disabilities.

Under the increase, veterans with no dependents, will receive between about $130 a month for a 10 percent disability and as much as $2,858 for a 100 percent disability.

Last year, some 4 million veterans and survivors received compensation benefits, while more than 515,000 received pension benefits.

The increase is among the smallest since the COLA formula was adopted in 1975 — putting aside those years when retirees received no adjustment.

Veterans and Social Security beneficiaries last year received a 1.7 percent COLA hike.

VA said it encourages veterans and service members who plan to file a disability claim to use the Defense Department-VA operated eBenefits portal.

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