Advisory
Immediate Release

DOD Releases 2019 CONUS COLA Rates

Dec. 20, 2018

The Defense Department released today the 2019 Continental United States (CONUS) Cost of Living Allowance (COLA) rates, which takes effect Jan. 1, 2019. In 2019, the total number of service members receiving CONUS COLA will decrease from approximately 28,000 to 15,000.

Approximately $22.1 million will be paid to 15,000 service members stationed CONUS in 2019 -- $6 million less than last year. Approximately 2,500 members will now receive CONUS COLA; 7,900 will see an increase in their CONUS COLA payments; 2,600 members will see a decrease; 15,000 members will no longer receive CONUS COLA; and, 2,000 will see no change.

CONUS COLA is a taxable supplemental allowance designed to help offset higher prices in the highest cost locations in CONUS that exceed the costs in an average CONUS location. Rates can increase, decrease, or remain the same depending on the non-housing prices in a duty location as compared to non-housing prices in an average CONUS location.

By law, a contractor provides cost data from each military housing area (MHA) for the following categories: transportation, goods and services, federal income taxes, sales taxes, and miscellaneous expenses. 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.

This information is compared to the same cost data for average CONUS, which serves as a benchmark. The resulting ratio is called an index. By law, a CONUS COLA rate is only prescribed when the index meets a threshold of 108 percent, meaning the costs for non-housing types of goods and services in a particular location are at least eight percent more expensive than average CONUS. An index in excess of 108 percent would qualify for CONUS COLA (e.g., a location that is 10 percent more expensive would qualify for a two percent COLA index).

This year, three MHAs will now receive an index; eight will receive a CONUS COLA index increase; three will receive a decrease; eight will no longer receive CONUS COLA; and two MHAs will remain unchanged.

For non-MHA areas (non-metropolitan counties), two counties will now receive an index; two will have an increase in their index; and, 37 will lose CONUS COLA.

MHAs with the Highest CONUS COLA rates:
San Francisco, Calif. 6%
New York City, N.Y. 6%
Staten Island, N.Y 8%

MHA with the Largest Increase in CONUS COLA:
Santa Clara County, Calif. 3% to 5%

MHA with the Largest Decrease in CONUS COLA:
Atlantic City, N.J. 7% to 1%

The total amount of CONUS COLA a Service member receives varies based on geographic duty location, rank, years of service and dependency status. Service members can calculate their CONUS COLA rate at http://www.defensetravel.dod.mil/site/conusCalc.cfm.

Additional information about COLA can be found on the Defense Travel Management Office (DTMO) website at http://www.defensetravel.dod.mil/site/conus.cfm.