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Saturday, July 20, 2024

Another tiny COLA for Social Security users

(AP Photo/Bradley C Bower)
(AP Photo/Bradley C Bower)

For the third straight year, millions of Social Security recipients, disabled veterans and federal retirees can expect historically small increases in their benefits come January.

Preliminary figures suggest the annual cost-of-living adjustment, or COLA, will be less than 2 percent. That translates to a raise of about $20 a month for the typical Social Security beneficiary.

The government is scheduled to announce the COLA on Wednesday, when it releases the latest measure of consumer prices. By law, the COLA is based on inflation, which is well below historical averages so far this year.

For example, gas prices are down from a year ago, and so is the cost of clothing. Prices for meat, fish and eggs are up nearly 9 percent, but overall food costs are up less than 3 percent, according to the government’s inflation report for August.

Medical costs, which disproportionately affect older people, are only 1.8 percent higher.

But good news at the pump means bad news for benefit increases. Many older people who rely on Social Security are feeling the pinch of tiny benefit increases year after year.

“You lose that increase, not only in the short-term, you lose the compounding over time,” said Mary Johnson of The Senior Citizens League. “For the middle class, for people that don’t qualify for low-income programs, they are dipping into savings or they are borrowing against their homes.”

The Senior Citizens League projects the COLA will be 1.7 percent, which is in line with other estimates. Economist Polina Vlasenko, a research fellow at the American Institute for Economic Research, projects the COLA will be between 1.6 percent and 1.8 percent.

Congress enacted automatic increases for Social Security beneficiaries in 1975, when inflation was high and there was a lot of pressure to regularly raise benefits.

For the first 35 years, the COLA was less than 2 percent only three times. If the COLA is less than 2 percent next year, it would be the fifth time in six years. This year’s increase was 1.5 percent, the year before it was 1.7 percent.

Susan Gross gets hit twice by the small COLA. She cares for both her disabled son and her 89-year-old mother, both of whom get Social Security benefits.

A 1.7 percent increase comes to $12.60 a month for her son, said Gross, who lives in rural Barboursville, Virginia.

“That won’t even pay for his prescription program,” she said.

Gross, who works in an accounting office, said her family makes due by growing and canning much of their own food, which they can do because they live in the country.

“It makes our grocery bills less,” she said.

More than 70 million people receive benefits affected by the annual COLA.

About 59 million retirees, disabled workers, spouses and children get Social Security benefits. The average monthly payment is $1,191. A 1.7 percent raise would increase the typical monthly payment by about $20.

The COLA also affects benefits for about 4 million disabled veterans, 2.5 million federal retirees and their survivors, and more than 8 million people who get Supplemental Security Income, the disability program for the poor.

By law, the cost-of-living adjustment is based on the Consumer Price Index for Urban Wage Earners and Clerical Workers, or CPI-W, a broad measure of consumer prices generated by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. It measures price changes for food, housing, clothing, transportation, energy, medical care, recreation and education.

The COLA is calculated by comparing consumer prices in July, August and September each year with prices in the same three months from the previous year. If prices go up over the course of the year, benefits go up, starting with payments delivered in January.

This year, average prices for July and August were 1.7 percent higher than they were a year ago, according to the CPI-W. The September report — the final piece of the puzzle — is scheduled to be released Wednesday. Once it is released, the COLA can be announced.

It would take a dramatic increase in consumer prices for September to nudge the COLA above 2 percent.

“In general I don’t think there was a huge increase in prices in September,” said Vlasenko, the economist. “Fuel prices probably dropped and they have a ripple effect.”

According to AAA, the average price of a gallon of regular gasoline is $3.14. A month ago, it was $3.37.

Advocates for seniors say the government’s measure of inflation doesn’t accurately reflect price increases faced by older Americans because they tend to spend more of their income on health care. The rise in medical costs has slowed in recent years, but that may be little comfort to someone who is suddenly hit with a serious illness.

Older people on Medicare usually have their Part B premiums deducted from Social Security payments. The good news is that the premiums, which cover outpatient care, are scheduled to stay the same next year — $104.90 a month.

“Our members are not calling us and saying that the COLA that they’re getting is enough,” said Web Phillips of the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare. “They’re facing serious economic challenges in terms of just buying the basic necessities of life.”


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Copyright  © 2014 Capitol Hill Blue

Copyright  © 2014 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved

91 thoughts on “Another tiny COLA for Social Security users”

  1. As long as some of you choose to blame the people who are unfortunate enough to need welfare to survive and not the thieves that formulate the tax code and COLAs that are eliminating the middle class nothing will ever change. Think about your best interest and not just your political bias. They take advantage of us all!!

  2. WRITING to any politician for help is like dropping your mail down a sewer, it will never work they have people who do al that for them, they will never know that you have written to them.



  3. How funny that gas goes down just when it’s time to figure the COLA for SS! I would love to see where they get their figures from, I simply cannot believe they live in the same world that we do. Everything has gone up I don’t care what they say. I used to have a parttime job so I could at least keep my head above water and I lost that job in August this year. My savings are gone, my car is 10 years old, I NEVER go out to eat, I don’t go to movies or rent them, my one and only luxury is that I get my hair cut every 5 weeks. I’m a cancer survivor but still have to be tested and still have doctor appointments, my prescription plan is going up!
    Our Congressmen need to be thrown out and we need to start over. Let any one of them have to live like we do for a month and they’d change their tunes. Enough of this b.s they set their own raises, retirements, pension plans, medical plans, if it’s good enough for us it should be good enough for them, but they make the laws, whether we want them or not. I AM FED UP, wait until November.

  4. Just Reading these comments leads me to Say this. If everyone of us would take the time to let your local Congressman know ( WITH AN E-MAIL) just what you have said here. We might be able to get Congress to bring to the floor a new way to formulate the COLA increases, one that includes Food, Insurance Premium increases,
    tax increases, Utilities ,Etc. Just Say-in !!

  5. The people who do cost of living surveys live on the coasts. The fact is that food costs in fly-over land have nearly doubled in the last few years and they are too stupid to know it.

  6. I agree we are not able to pay for the food we need as it goes up every week,meat is way up,eggs,potatoes,of course those crooks in D.C. don’t care with rthe amt, they pull in they can say nothing has increased, I bet they couldn.t tell you what a loaf of bread costs.I pity families with several children to feed not sure how they do it, yet we send money to other countries and our vets don’t get enough to live on.Our country is going to the dogs.

    • what is so bad once they give you that little money your food stamps go down your rent goes up so who is getting ahead .I get 72$amonth in food stamps they say eat healthy that is a joke they must figure seniors don’t eat that much well we cant afford to eat healthy so good luck all thank you linda holmes

  7. I had to go on disability in 2005 so for a 10 year span my benefits went from $814 per month to $966. That is a $152 raise in 10 years. I haven’t had a steak in 3 yrs.,gone out to eat and sit down in a decent place to eat or saw a movie in years. The cost of meat, milk,fresh fruit, fresh veggies, have gone up. We buy bread at the outlet store. Our rent goes up EVERY YEAR FOR THE LAST 10 YRS. WE ARE PAYING DOUBLE NOW. Something wrong with this picture? Between my husband and I our RX cost is 1/3 of our income and when we hit the donut hole we pay 1/2 of our income until the end of the year. We worked over half of out lives and paid into Social Security all those years.for what? So certain people out there can call part of the the 47% living off the government.

    • This is really sad to here the stories on here today. Please I beg you guys to take the time to E-mail your Congressman the same stories .
      They may be able to change the current outdated formulation. And if they decide to ignore all of us. Then remember these guys when you make your trip to the polling booth. Just Say-in

  8. Another hit for SENIORS, while our greedy politicians reward themselves with all kinds of COLA perks (big ones I must say).

    If any of these guys tried to live the way a SENIOR
    lives or apply for programs that just disqualifies them before applying i.e. food stamps, fuel savings, SSI checks. It’s time to vote out of office ALL POLTICIANS that are now in office and replace them with someone else, when at the voting polls.

    The politicians do what they want and don’t care about us (seniors), al they think about are themselves and their families, and will do anything they want with or without our approval. SO WHAT IF THE NATIONAL DEBT GOES UP ANOTHER TRILLION OR MORE, IT WON’T MAKE ANY DIFFERENCE, This action will only give politicians another so called CANDY DISH TO RAID, to pay themselves. AT Will.

  9. why is it that we the goverment can give billions too other country and wars but we cant help hour senior citzens with more than a 1.8 raise or cola why is that? as anyone looked at the prices of medical,food clothes gas rent, insurances and so avg $20.00 cola or do they want us too put a gun too our head kill us all maybe um?and they still take money out ssa why?

  10. Ever since the GOP’s Saint Reagan, they perpetuate the “Trickle Down Economics” system. If it works for the Rich, why wouldn’t it also work for the Seniors? We would definitely spend it everywhere and stimulate business.

  11. Congress and the Senate do not need any raise at all. They make too much now and don’t spend it wisely. Nor do they spend any of our money wisely. Another measly raise for us, Every week at the grocery we cut something off the list we normally buy, Our diet is geeting less and less healthly.

  12. if we allow this corrupt government to get away with cheating us out of a cola that we should rightfully get,after watching them squander billion and billions of dollars on these bogus wars;they have already spent close to $100 million in the past couple of weeks dropping bombs in Syria and Iraq we must be total idiots. “remember in November” oust every one of the organized crime syndicate known as the republicans and democrats.Don’t forget,,” Only a fool repeats the same behavior over and over,and expects a different result.”

  13. I don’t know where you shop and live. I have to pay .$80 for a lemon and I live in Florida. The AHC prices are outrageous and you can’t keep the doctors you want and not all hospitals and doctors accept the plans. My car insurance goes up every year, electric, water. What makes gas the determining factor. Lets have a layoff in Washington and see where that goes. Lets stop giving away money to welfare recipients who contribute nothing because it’s easier to do nothing.

  14. I don’t have anyone to take care of me, I was put in a home for the elderly and at the time Rent was $1,165.00, plus electricity and now it is $1,325.00, plus electricity, then there is my Medicine and food. When my husband died, my home was paid for. All the kids and grand kids keept at me to sell, so I did after that they dollared me to death and now I do not even have a savings account. One child took me in until they got what they wanted from me and then put me in this home for the elderly. Take it from me, be aware of your children because if they borrow money (it is a gimmie) and never paid back. I live NOW payday to payday.

    You are correct make sure you vote for someone who is for the people.

    • These Sad stories need to be E-Mailed to your Congressman. They don’t read our posts. If we all send our Congressmen these painful stories, maybe Congress will change the current formulation for COLA increases. It’s worth a try Dorothy JUST- SAY_IN !!!!

  15. Aw! The government wouldn’t LIE about this, WOULD THEY??!!! Gas prices can now go back to where they were BEFORE the Feds had to figure this COLA! Hell! the Feds gotta’ buy Obamaphones to give to a bunch of lazy assholes who don’t really want to work! They can’t be expected to pay out money to people who forcibly paid money into Social Security ALL OF THEIR LIVES! Our present federal government is comprised of a bunch of treasonous, anti-American, communist sons-o’-bitches whose only goal is to consistently remain in power as the Ruling Class in this country!

  16. You know it really makes me angry that I worked hard all My life to earn an income, raise two kids, take care of a disabled husband who had numerous health issues. I also got My GED after quitting high school when I was 16. I went on to become a CNA( certified nurses aid) then financed a student loan. Went to school for two years while working and taking care of My Husband, My kids, help out my parents. I worked for over 11 years as a nurse. My husband kept having medical problems from strokes ( 7 plus) and other medical problems. In 2001 I quit work to stay home with him as he couldn’t be left alone. We lived on his disability of $532.00 a month, $200.00 a month in food stamps, Liheap heating assistance for over 3 years until My Husbands passing in October 1st of 2004. Not long after that I started to have health problems one right after the other and now I’m home with numerous health problems and I will be 62 yrs. old in December of this year. I have to pay for Medicare, supplement insurance to cover the cost of co-pays. In other words everything is out of My pocket. The government should be be ashamed to give especially the Senior citizens the punny raise to live on. Everything is going up faster then their incomes. Everytime there is an increase in Social Security, Medicare goes up and takes care of the big cost of living raises. Let the government give back part of their income. Let them live on what they expect people on Social Security to live on and see how they do with their incomes. The Seniors make to much money to get Food Stamps and other programs they could benefit from. Half or better of these people doesn’t know about most of the programs that could benefit them. I’m sorry for writing so much, but Myself and a lot of the Seniors went through a lot in their lifetime. Give them a break. Help them to live.

  17. George Bush didn’t give anybody anything. He cost a lot of people their lives though.

    But as far as a COLA raise, the amount is an automatically calculated amount which is set by law, and even a man as powerful as Vladimir Putin cannot change that.

    And don’t forget, Bush wanted to take the entire Social Security Trust Fund, which belongs to millions of Americans, and deposit it in Ken Lay’s bank account, to bail out Enron.

    • Read your history…there is no trust anymore. Johnson raided it to pay for the Vietnam War and it was never replaced. Funds have been used for other than original intent…not just seniors but widows, orphans, and disability.

  18. The gas is only low because there is more than they can store. When the level goes down the prices will go back up. They don’t realize that the price of food has gone through the roof because they have people doing their shopping for them. They don’t have a budget to stick to. They can afford the best food because they’re over-paid and don’t feel the pinch of inflation. I would challenge them to live on what I get for being a disabled vet. They would cry themselves to sleep at night if that’s all they had to live on. They spend more on a dinner than I receive for a month. I’m just glad I don’t have to pay for my medical expenses and medication because I wouldn’t be able to survive even with my section 8 housing. Our Congress keeps embarrassing us by giving themselves raises and more benefits to cover their expenses so they don’t have to spend any of the money they don’t earn. They are on recess more than they work and when they do show up they don’t do anything they are paid to because they are too busy trying to undermine the President. It’s all political and shouldn’t be tolerated by the citizens of this great Country.

  19. Only George W Bush had the balls to give a 5% raise to the seniors the last year he was in office. Do you remember that? does anybody miss him? Don’t forget when you will be called to vote next month, vote for a real change, vote for what is good for the people of this great country, don’t vote how our bloody money will be sent to all the lazy bums allover the world. November is around the corner ” ALL SENIORS SENT A MESSAGE SHOW YOUR POWER

    • Uh…..Bush didn’t give anyone a raise.

      The COLA is decided by a certain formula and then implemented without regard to who is in charge.

      • As I read these comments I was thinking that the President and Congress have the authority to bring to the floor a new more current method to formulate COLA increases. If they just added Cost of Food to the formula it would be more realistic. If you want change Please E-Mail your Congressman your thoughts. I don’t think they spend time reading these comments. JUST SAY- IN !!

      • COLA is a Government scam. One month ago, ground lamb around here was $5.99 per pound – today $6.99 per pound. That’s a mighty strange 2% – but the math the Government uses must just delete zeros –

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