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The Defense Department will pay out about $8.5 million to some 6,000 service members living in six metro areas and 20 non-metropolitan counties within the Continental United States in 2022, the Pentagon said Wednesday. Some 48,000 service members will drop from receiving the supplement after 15 metro areas and 21 non-metropolitan counties were removed from the list of qualifying locations.

The Defense Department will pay out about $8.5 million to some 6,000 service members living in six metro areas and 20 non-metropolitan counties within the Continental United States in 2022, the Pentagon said Wednesday. Some 48,000 service members will drop from receiving the supplement after 15 metro areas and 21 non-metropolitan counties were removed from the list of qualifying locations. (Sarayuth Pinthong/Army)

Thousands of U.S. troops will lose a monthly cost-of-living stipend beginning Jan. 1 because fewer locations across the lower 48 states — including the Washington, D.C., metro area — qualified as excessively expensive living areas, according to a Pentagon announcement Wednesday.

The Defense Department will pay out about $8.5 million to some 6,000 service members living in six metro areas and 20 non-metropolitan counties within the Continental United States in 2022, the Pentagon said Wednesday. Some 48,000 service members will drop from receiving the supplement after 15 metro areas and 21 non-metropolitan counties were removed from the list of qualifying locations. 

The Pentagon, by law, relies on a contractor to provide cost data for each of its military housing areas, which is then compared to the national average, DOD said in its announcement. Areas qualify for the cost-of-living-adjustment, or COLA, subsidy if non-housing costs are determined to be at least 8% higher than the national average. 

Categories that determine cost data include transportation, goods and services, federal income taxes, sales taxes and miscellaneous expenses, according the Pentagon. Data is also adjusted based on access to commissaries and military exchange stores.

The metro areas which qualified for the COLA supplement next year are New York City, Long Island and Staten Island in New York; Nantucket, Mass.; Boulder, Colo.; and San Francisco, Calif. New York City’s 6% COLA payment will be the largest in 2022, dropping from 7% this year. Long Island and San Francisco were the next highest, with troops in those locations set to receive a 3% adjustment next year.

Among those locations dropped from last year’s CONUS COLA list were Washington, D.C., where service members had received a 1% COLA payment this year. Boston and Worcester, Mass.-based troops were also dropped after they received a 4% supplement in 2021. 

The total amount of COLA that a service member receives varies based on geographic duty location, rank, years of service and dependency status. Monthly payments for each CONUS COLA percentage point range from $33 to $59 per month for troops with dependents, and from $22 to $45 per month for those without dependents, according to the Pentagon. 

For example, a typical service member at the rank of E-6 with dependents and 10 years of service would receive $40 per month for each COLA index point — amounting to a $240 stipend if stationed in the New York City metro area in 2022. 

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Corey Dickstein covers the military in the U.S. southeast. He joined the Stars and Stripes staff in 2015 and covered the Pentagon for more than five years. He previously covered the military for the Savannah Morning News in Georgia. Dickstein holds a journalism degree from Georgia College & State University and has been recognized with several national and regional awards for his reporting and photography. He is based in Atlanta.
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