The recent rise in prices triggered the Social Security Administration (SSA) to hike its annual cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) by 5.9 percent, meaning retired military and disabled veterans can expect the largest boost to their benefit checks since 1983.
The decision affects approximately 70 million Americans, including Social Security recipients and other federal retirees.
Payment jumps by the numbers
Starting in 2022, retired military members can expect a $59 increase for every $1,000 they receive per month. Those who are enrolled in the CSB/Redux retirement plan will collect a 4.9 percent increase, or an additional $49 per $1,000 payment.
Pay raises for those who receive disability compensation through the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) can expect an additional $8.50 a month at a 10 percent disability rating, up to $185.64 more a month if they carry a 100 percent rating. (These figures are estimates until officially announced.)
Other VA payouts subject to COLA include compensation for dependents, surviving spouses and children, and clothing allowances.
How the Social Security COLA is calculated
The annual Social Security COLA is based on the change in prices of a market basket of goods. To measure these changes, SSA uses the Consumer Price Index for Urban Wage Earners and Clerical Workers (CPI-W).
For the 2022 COLA, SSA measured the change in the average CPI-W index from July, August and September of 2020 to the average CPI-W index for the same three-month span in 2021. The percentage change between the two quarterly averages is the COLA starting in January 2022.
The 2022 COLA was so large because prices of goods and services have significantly increased in the past year, due in part to extreme weather and COVID-19 outbreaks, which have driven up energy prices and strained the world’s supply chains.
Since Congress initiated automatic annual COLAs in 1975, there have been three years in which benefits didn't increase at all: 2010, 2011 and 2016. The single biggest increase, 14.3 percent, went into effect in January 1981.
Aaron Kassraie writes about issues important to military veterans and their families for AARP. He also serves as a general assignment reporter. Kassraie previously covered U.S. foreign policy as a correspondent for the Kuwait News Agency's Washington bureau and worked in news gathering for USA Today and Al Jazeera English.