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Thousands More Stateside Troops Qualify For Cost of Living Allowance (COLA)

2024 brings an extra cost-of-living benefit to more troops stationed in the United States. 

Military members assigned to high-cost areas in the United States may, depending on circumstances, qualify for a cost-of-living allowance or COLA similar to the benefit offered to military members assigned overseas.

Those stationed in selected areas in Oregon, New York, Virginia, Colorado, and California may qualify, depending on location. 

The new year brings approximately 17 thousand troops the benefit, known in the DoD as CONUS COLA, indicating that it is paid for select locations within the continental United States or CONUS.

The move comes as increases in military housing allowances and other benefits are also increasing.

How Much is the Increased COLA?

CONS COLA is paid based on the service member’s rank and other factors. COLA is not designed to fully offset the cost of living in a more expensive area. Instead, it’s meant to be a supplement.

According to the Defense Travel Management Office, payment rates are modest. “For calendar year 2023, at a location with 1% CONUS COLA, an E-6 with dependents and 10 years of service would receive $41/month; an O-3 with dependents and 10 years of service would receive $50/month.”

The rates for 2024 are posted and you can look up CONUS COLA paid for a specific location (listed by rank time in service) via the CONUS COLA payout table lookup tool.

How COLA Works

Stateside COLA benefits are paid to troops stationed in selected high cost areas in the USA. The Defense Travel Management Office defines CONUS COLA as “a taxable supplemental allowance designed to offset high prices in the highest cost locations that are at least 8 percent more expensive than average CONUS.”

At one time, only about five thousand troops qualified for CONUS COLA. But now those numbers are closer to 20 thousand.

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How CONUS COLA is Calculated

The federal government has a formula for calculating CONUS COLA. Unlike overseas COLA, which is adjusted more frequently, CONUS COLA is adjusted only once per year and uses the following criteria:

  • Local market prices
  • Financial factors such as the availability of Base Exchange and Commissary operations
  • Military “Living Pattern Surveys” held every three years “to determines the utilization rate of commissaries and exchanges” according to DOD
  • Current amount of the Basic Allowance for Subsistence

A location that, after the new calculations, are found to exceed 108% of the national average is added to the CONUS COLA list. The reverse is also true. A high-cost location and be priced out of the CONUS COLA list if the region no longer exceeds the 108% threshold.

In 2024, a handful of locations were taken off the list including Detroit and Martha’s Vineyard.

Related: Active Duty Military Benefits


About the author

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Editor-in-Chief Joe Wallace is a 13-year veteran of the United States Air Force and a former reporter/editor for Air Force Television News and the Pentagon Channel. His freelance work includes contract work for Motorola, VALoans.com, and Credit Karma. He is co-founder of Dim Art House in Springfield, Illinois, and spends his non-writing time as an abstract painter, independent publisher, and occasional filmmaker.