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Cost-of-living increase for veterans' benefits

Veterans in California and across the country may be relieved to learn that their military retirement and disability benefits will see a 2.8 increase in December 2018. The cost-of-living increase is the largest boost veterans have seen to their pay in the past six years. The adjustment was announced by federal Social Security Administration officials in October 2018. This follows a 2 percent increase that came last year; in the prior three years, increases sat at only 2 percent when combined.

Annual cost-of-living adjustments are automatic for Social Security benefits; they are carried out by the executive branch without Congressional approval. Other federal benefits like military retiree pay receive an automatic increase alongside that of Social Security. However, even those benefits that do require annual reauthorization, like those from the Department of Veterans Affairs, are affected by Social Security's calculations. In fact, Congress passed a bill on a cost-of-living increase for veterans in September, which has already been signed into law. As a result, in January 2019, veterans' benefits like disability pay, clothing allowances and dependents' compensation will also receive an increase.

If a veteran or retiree receives around $1,500 monthly in benefits, he or she will receive around $500 more each year as a result of the increase. Veterans advocates have urged that cost-of-living adjustments to these benefits be made automatic as they are for Social Security and retiree payments. While Congress generally approves the bills for these increases, legislators have not shown enthusiasm for a blanket bill.

Dealing with veterans' benefits might mean dealing with confusing bureaucracy. A disability lawyer may help veterans and their spouses to apply for benefits and receive the assistance they deserve. In addition, a lawyer might help people to prepare for the future by integrating veterans' benefits into plans for home care or assisted living as well as estate plans.

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