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DOD cutting 48,000 troops’ cost-of-living stipend in 2022

Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III briefs the media on Afghanistan, the Pentagon, Washington, D.C., Aug. 18, 2021. (DoD photo by Lisa Ferdinando)
December 28, 2021

The Department of Defense (DOD) announced last Wednesday that cuts to troops’ cost-of-living allowances in the United States will be coming in the new year, causing thousands of U.S. service members to lose their stipend.

The Defense Department said $8.5 million will be paid to roughly 6,000 troops stationed within the Continental United States in 2022. Recipients live in six “expensive” cities and 20 non-metropolitan counties, including New York City, Long Island and Staten Island in New York; Nantucket, Mass.; Boulder, Colo.; and San Francisco, Calif.

The new list excludes 15 cities and 21 non-metropolitan counties from the list of qualifying locations, which means no stipend for the 48,000 troops who live there.

The Pentagon said the stipend, known as CONUS COLA or Continental United States Cost-of-Living Allowance, is a supplemental allowance “designed to help offset higher prices in the highest-cost locations.”

Rates can increase, decrease, and remain the same based on depending on the non-housing prices in a duty location when compared to non-housing prices in average locations.  

“By law, a contractor provides the Department civilian cost data from each military housing area (MHA) and non-MHA for the following categories: transportation, goods and services, federal income taxes, sales taxes, and miscellaneous expenses,” the announcement stated. “Data is adjusted to account for the amount of Basic Allowance for Subsistence, an allowance meant to offset the costs for a member’s meals, and for cost savings gained from shopping at commissaries and exchanges.”

New York City’s stipend will drop to 6 percent next year, compared to 7 percent in 2021. Troops in Long Island and San Francisco with receive a 3 percent supplement in 2022.

Among the locations excluded from next year’s allowance are Boston and Worcester, Mass., which each received a 4 percent adjustment in 2021.

“The total amount of CONUS COLA a Service member receives varies based on geographic duty location, pay grade, years of service, and dependency status,” the DoD stated. “Payments per CONUS COLA percentage point range from $33 to $59 per month for members with dependents, and from $22 to $45 per month for members without dependents.”

Service members can calculate their CONUS COLA rate at http://www.defensetravel.dod.mil/site/conusCalc.cfm.

On Monday, Biden signed the annual defense bill, which contains a 2.7% increase in troops’ pay beginning in 2022.

Earlier this month, veterans saw a 5.9% increase in key benefit payments, including compensation and the dependency and indemnity compensation (DIC) benefits paid to family members of military personnel who died in the line of duty or from a service-related injury or disease.

Legislation connected the cost of living adjustment for those Department of Veterans Affairs benefits to the Social Security Administration’s annual inflation adjustment for its benefits.