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My Coast Guard
Commentary | Jan. 2, 2024

Help DOD set cost of living allowance rates by taking the Living Patterns Survey

By AJ Pulkkinen, MyCG Team writer

Your voice matters when it comes to influencing Department of Defense in setting new cost-of-living allowance (COLA) rates. Take part in the triennial Living Pattern Survey (LPS) and share valuable insights about your shopping habits for groceries, clothing, childcare, household furnishings, entertainment, transportation and more. Your input will shape future COLA rates for service members everywhere! 

The LPS is open now through March 31. The survey is open to all active duty members (including reserve members on long-term active duty orders) who have been stationed at their current CONUS duty station for at least three months. 

Do you shop in the community, on base or online? Share your shopping habits in the LPS. Understanding where you shop will help inform COLA calculations for your area.  

DoD sets continental U.S. (CONUS) COLA rates every year. One tool DoD uses to set the COLA rates is the LPS, which they conduct every three years. The LPS provides real data on how and where members and their families shop. It is specific to uniformed personnel and, therefore, is not open to civilian employees. 

Participation is voluntary, but we can’t over-stress how important it is for all hands in CONUS to complete the online survey! The LPS is your opportunity to directly influence COLA rates. 

Everybody’s input is needed to ensure COLA rates reflect the shopping habits of servicemembers. The most recent LPS, completed in 2021, had a Coast Guard response rate of 17% and an overall response rate of 6%.  Such low participation means that the shopping patterns of the few are influencing COLA rates for everyone.  We can and should do better! There are many locations throughout the country where the Coast Guard is the only uniformed service. Our numbers may be small in these locations, but our input on the LPS is immensely important. 

An investment of 15 minutes of your time is all it takes. The LPS can be completed at work or at home — you don’t need a CAC.