Social Security raise among lowest in years
WASHINGTON — For the second consecutive year, millions of Social Security recipients, disabled veterans and federal retirees can expect historically small increases in their benefits starting in January.
Preliminary figures suggest a benefit increase of about 1.5 percent, which would be among the smallest since automatic increases were adopted in 1975, according to an analysis by The Associated Press.
Next year's raise will be small because consumer prices, as measured by the government, haven't gone up much in the past year.
The exact size of the cost-of-living adjustment, or COLA, won't be known until the Labor Department releases the inflation report for September. That was supposed to happen on Wednesday, but the report was delayed indefinitely because of the partial government shutdown.
The COLA usually is announced in October to give Social Security and other benefit programs time to adjust January payments. The Social Security Administration has not indicated that raises would be delayed because of the shutdown, but advocates for seniors said the uncertainty is troubling.
Social Security benefits have continued during the shutdown.
Automatic COLAs were adopted so that benefits for people on fixed incomes would keep up with rising prices. Many seniors, however, complain that the COLA sometimes falls short, leaving them little wiggle room.
David Waugh of Bethesda, Md., said he can handle one small COLA, but several consecutive ones make it hard to plan for unexpected expenses.
“I'm not one of those folks that's going to fall into poverty, but it is going to make a difference in my standard of living as time goes by,” said Waugh, 83, who retired from the United Nations.
Nearly 58 million retirees, disabled workers, spouses and children get Social Security benefits. The average monthly payment is $1,162. A 1.5 percent raise would increase the typical monthly payment by about $17.
Since 1975, annual Social Security raises have averaged 4.1 percent. Only six times have they been less than 2 percent, including this year, when the increase was 1.7 percent. There were no COLAs in 2010 or 2011 because inflation was too low.
The COLA affects benefits for more than 3 million disabled veterans, about 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 COLA is based on the Consumer Price Index for Urban Wage Earners and Clerical Workers, 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 during the course of the year, benefits follow suit, starting with payments delivered in January.
This year, average prices for July and August were 1.4 percent higher than they were a year ago, according to the CPI-W.
Several economists said there were no dramatic price swings in September to significantly increase or decrease the projected COLA. That means the projection shouldn't change by more than a few tenths of a percentage point, if at all.
Polina Vlasenko, a research fellow at the American Institute for Economic Research, expects the COLA to be between 1.4 percent and 1.6 percent.
Her projection is similar to those done by others, including AARP, which estimates the COLA will be 1.5 percent to 1.7 percent. The Senior Citizens League estimates it will be about 1.5 percent.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Authorities in Illinois hunt for 3 in officer’s slaying
- Ancient giant sea scorpion turns up
- West Point law professor resigns amid remarks that critics of war on terror are ‘treasonous’
- Monsoon leaves Phoenix in the dark
- CIA joins special ops in secret terrorist hunt in Syria
- Defense Secretary Carter was closing Guantanamo prison being considered, ceding base to Cuba isn’t
- Ky. clerk defies courts on gay marriage
- Kentucky clerk invokes ‘God’s authority,’ still refuses gay marriage licenses
- Outrage greets wildlife officials’ plan to kill bear cub that approached hiker in Connecticut
- 3 strikes convict freed in Mo.
- Lost hiker survived 9 days with broken leg in California’s Sierra Nevada