Yesterday, the U.S. Social Security Administration officially announced that there would be an infintesimal 0.3% Cost-of-Living Adjustment (COLA) to be implemented to beneficiaries in 2017. 2016 saw no COLA at all, and next year’s meager adjustment means that millions of beneficiaries will once again find their expenses outpacing their Social Security benefits.
Major news sites have rightfully called attention to this travesty, with headlines reading “Average retired Social Security beneficiary to get measly $5 raise in 2017,” in USA Today and “Federal retirees to get small sip of COLA,” in The Washington Post.
Why the paltry raise? Before the COLA adjustment was announced, a recent article in The Wall Street Journal explained that the drop in oil and energy prices caused “no change in benefits for the third time since the 2007-09 recession.” Many economists, politicians and seniors advocates have pointed out that the consumer price index used to calculate the COLA does not accurately reflect the living expenses of seniors, for whom health care and housing make up a larger share of living costs.
Senator Elizabeth Warren is outraged by the flawed system. Earlier this year, she pointed out that in contrast to the Social Security COLA, the average pay increase of America’s CEOs is 3.9% annually.
“For CEOs with taxpayer subsidies, it is a sweet life,” Warren said in a Huffington Post article. “But for 70 million seniors, veterans and Americans with disabilities, there are no raises this year.”
The adjustment slated to occur next year is calculated from a base in the last year in which benefits were raised. As a result, 2017’s 0.3% COLA will translate to an inconsequential $2-$6 increase in monthly benefits. Next year’s increase will be the smallest cost of living adjustment in Social Security benefits since automatic adjustments began in the mid-1970s. The meager cost-of-living increase is deeply troubling to Disability Justice Partner Tom Giordano, Jr.
“Our clients rely on these benefits, some as their sole source of income,” Tom stressed. “The lack of reasonable cost of living adjustments over the past few years is deeply troubling, and we’re doing everything we can to lobby for real, impactful increases. Recipients paid into the system with part of every hard earned paycheck. That same system is now allowing our citizens to fall into poverty instead of providing the safety net originally intended by the Social Security Disability Act.”
Be sure to contact your elected officials and let them know you are angry about the lack of sufficient Cost-of-Living Adjustments for Social Security benefit recipients. Follow the steps in our graphic below, or visit www.disabilityjustice.com/political-action.