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Economic Security for Our Nation’s Seniors

Posted on by Karina

This morning, the Social Security Administration (SSA) announced there will be no automatic Cost-of-Living-Adjustment for 2011:

The Social Security Act provides for an automatic increase in Social Security and SSI benefits if there is an increase in the Consumer Price Index for Urban Wage Earners and Clerical Workers (CPI-W) from the third quarter of the last year a cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) was determined to the third quarter of the current year. As determined by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there is no increase in the CPI-W from the third quarter of 2008, the last year a COLA was determined, to the third quarter of 2010, therefore, under existing law, there can be no COLA in 2011.

In 2009, Social Security recipients saw a 5.8% increase in their benefits, the largest since 1982, as a result of rising costs; but in 2010, they saw no COLA at all. That means 2011 will be the second consecutive year that Social Security retirees, veterans, and people with disabilities will see no increase in their monthly Social Security, SSI, VA Pension and Compensation, and Railroad Retirement benefits. There are several false rumors circulating about the reason for the lack of a COLA—the non-partisan FactCheck.org explains it succinctly, “the reason is simple: the official measure of the cost of living has gone down, not up.”

But without the COLA, many Americans who rely on Social Security to survive can’t make ends meet. Last July, the Social Security Subcommittee Chairman Earl Pomeroy (D-ND) introduced the Seniors Protection Act of 2010 (HR 5987) to provide a $250 payment to about 54 million Social Security recipients in the event the Social Security Administration announced there would be no COLA. Yesterday, Speaker Pelosi reiterated her strong support for the bill and committed to bring the bill for a vote when Congress returns to session next month:

The Seniors Protection Act, introduced by subcommittee Chairman Earl Pomeroy, provides America’s seniors and all Social Security recipients with a one-time payment that will help millions make ends meet during these difficult economic times.

In the event that the Social Security Administration announces it will not provide a Cost-of-Living Adjustment (COLA) for recipients this year, the House will vote to provide seniors with a one-time payment of $250. I have asked the Ways and Means Committee to bring this legislation to the floor during the lame duck session. All Members of Congress should join us in supporting this legislation which will be fiscally responsible and upholds our bedrock promise of economic security for our nation’s seniors.

White House press secretary Robert Gibbs also expressed the President’s support for the legislation:

Many seniors are struggling in the face of the economic downturn, having seen their savings fall. Today’s news that the Social Security Administration will for a second year not provide a cost of living adjustment for social security benefits highlights these struggles. The President will renew his call for a $250 Economic Recovery Payment to our seniors this year, as well as to veterans and people with disabilities. Last year, under the Recovery Act, 56 million people benefited from the first Economic Recovery Payment—including about 50 million Social Security beneficiaries. We’re grateful that Speaker Pelosi has indicated she will bring the new Economic Recovery Payment to a vote and we urge members of Congress on both sides of the aisle to support our seniors, veterans and others with disabilities who depend on these benefits.


Learn more about the Seniors Protection Act»

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