Cost-of-Living Allowance in the Continental United States

The Cost-of-Living Allowance in the continental United States (CONUS COLA) is a taxable, supplemental allowance designed to help offset expenses for Service members assigned to expensive CONUS areas.

An area is considered high cost if the non-housing cost of living for that area exceeds a threshold of 108%. Therefore, only members assigned to duty stations where the non-housing cost of living is at least eight percent above the national average are eligible for CONUS COLA.

Housing related costs are considered part of the Basic Allowance for Housing (BAH) and are excluded from CONUS COLA.

CONUS COLA Locations

Locations for CONUS COLA are defined by the same boundaries as the BAH Program and are known as Military Housing Areas (MHAs), which cover more than 98% of members assigned to CONUS duty stations. The remaining 2% are covered by non-MHA areas, known as County Cost Groups (CCGs).

Select a year to see historical CONUS COLA locations.

CONUS COLA rates are updated every calendar year. Non-housing costs are calculated for MHAs and CCGs and compared to average CONUS in order to generate CONUS COLA indexes.

The CONUS COLA computation takes into account several data sources including:

  1. Local market price data provided by a private contractor;
  2. Information pertaining to the availability of commissaries and exchanges provided by parent organizations;
  3. Average savings generated by commissaries and exchanges provided by the parent organizations;
  4. CONUS Living Pattern Surveys, conducted every three years, to determines the utilization rate of commissaries and exchanges; and
  5. Basic Allowance for Subsistence (BAS) rates, deducted from the cost of living, as required by law.

Payment of CONUS COLA is based on spendable income by grade, years of service and dependency status.

Spendable income is the amount of income spent on COLA-type goods and services, based on a member’s regular military compensation minus housing, taxes, savings, gifts, contributions, and life insurance. This amount is adjusted for the taxes paid on CONUS COLA.

Spendable income is based on non-housing expenses, adjusted for the taxes paid on CONUS COLA.

 

For calendar year 2022, at a location with 1% CONUS COLA, an E-6 with dependents and 10 years of service would receive $40/month; an O-3 with dependents and 10 years of service would receive $50/month. The amount of CONUS COLA that will be paid for a specific location by rank and number of years of service can found using the CONUS COLA payout table lookup tool.