2024 Military Retiree COLA: What You Need to Know
Dec 22, 2023 | 6 min. read
Changes in Cost-of-Living Adjustments (COLA) for Military Retirees
The Consumer Price Index (CPI) has set a maximum 3.2 percent cost-of-living adjustment for military retirees in 2024. According to AARP, the increase would represent a $59 monthly increase for the average retiree. Though significantly less than the 5.9 percent increase in 2022 and last year’s 8.7 percent increase due to cooling inflation, it’s above the average of 2.6 percent for the prior 20 years.
What is COLA?
A cost-of-living adjustment, or COLA, is a percentage increase in compensation that accounts for rising consumer prices, or inflation. It originated in the 1970s, a period of high inflation, to protect government workers against rising costs.
Who qualifies for the military retiree COLA?
Military retirees and disabled veterans receive the COLA as well as individuals who are Survivor Benefit Plan recipients or the surviving spouses of disabled veterans who receive Dependency and Indemnity Compensation benefits.
How is the military retiree COLA determined?
Each year, military retirement pay, Survivor Benefit Plan annuities, VA compensation and pensions, and Social Security benefits are adjusted for the rate of inflation. The Department of Labor determines the annual COLA by establishing the CPI, a measurement of the cost of a broad sampling of consumer goods and expenses. The CPI of the current year is compared to the previous year’s CPI. If there is an increase, a COLA equals the percentage increase. If there is no increase in the CPI, there is no COLA, and benefits will remain the same -- not decrease.
Service members in their first year of retirement receive a partial COLA if they retired between Jan. 1 and Sept. 30 to prevent the receipt of both retirement pay based on a new pay raise and a full COLA. This partial COLA is calculated differently depending upon an individual’s retirement plan. COLAs for retirees who joined the military after Aug. 1, 1986 and are in the Redux retirement plan receive COLA increases that are one percentage point lower. For more information, visit: Retirement Cost of Living Adjustments (defense.gov).
When does the 2024 COLA take effect?
A COLA for military retirees typically takes effect on Dec. 1 of each year.
Is the COLA for retirees the same as the annual pay raise for active-duty service members?
The COLA for retirees differs from the annual pay increase for active-duty service members. While the retiree COLA is based on the CPI, active-duty pay raises are based on the Employment Cost Index, which measures the increase in private-sector wages. For more information on the 2024 military pay raise, click here.
Your Military Pension and Full Retirement
Often, a military pension is just one important piece of your overall retirement picture since many military retirees follow the years spent on active duty with a second career. But whether Uncle Sam is your sole employer as you enter full retirement or you secure another job that provides additional income and benefits, a COLA is always helpful. To learn more about what you can do to prepare for your full retirement, check out our article on Income planning for retirement.
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