Social insecurity

Cost-of-living raise low for second straight year
Associated Press
Oct 14, 2013



For the second 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 a benefit increase of roughly 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 Wednesday, but the report was delayed indefinitely because of the partial government shutdown.

The COLA is usually announced in October to give Social Security and other benefit programs time to adjust January payments. The Social Security Administration has given no indication that raises would be delayed because of the shutdown, but advocates for seniors said the uncertainty was unwelcome.

Social Security benefits have continued during the shutdown.

More than one-fifth of the country is waiting for the news.

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.

The COLA also 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.

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 in a row 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. "I live in a small apartment and I have an old car, and it's going to break down. And no doubt when it does, I'll have to fix it or get a new one."

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 was no COLA in 2010 or 2011 because inflation was too low.

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 to 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 1.4 percent higher than they were a year ago, according to the CPI-W.

Once the September report, the final piece of the puzzle, is released, the COLA can be announced officially. If prices continued to slowly inch up in September, that would put the COLA at roughly 1.5 percent.

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, projects the COLA will 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 between 1.5 percent and 1.7 percent. The Senior Citizens League estimates it will be about 1.5 percent.

Lower prices for gasoline are helping to fuel low inflation, Vlasenko said.

"In years with high COLA's, a lot of that had to do with fuel prices and in some cases food prices. Neither of those increased much this year," Vlasenko said. "So that kept the lid on the overall increase in prices."

Gasoline prices are down 2.4 percent from a year ago while food prices are up slightly, according to the August inflation report. Housing costs went up 2.3 percent and utilities increased by 3.2 percent.

Advocates for seniors say the government's measure of inflation doesn't accurately reflect price increases older Americans face because they tend to spend more of their income on health care. Medical costs went up less than in previous years but still outpaced other consumer prices, rising 2.5 percent.

"This (COLA) is not enough to keep up with inflation, as it affects seniors," said Max Richtman, who heads the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare. "There are some things that become cheaper but they are not things that seniors buy. Laptop computers have gone down dramatically but how many people at 70 are buying laptop computers?"

The cost of personal computers dropped by 10.6 percent over the past year, according the CPI-W.

That's a small consolation to Alberta Gaskins of the District of Columbia, who said she is concerned about keeping up with her household bills.

"It is very important to get the COLA because everything else you have in your life is on an upward swing, and if you're on a downward swing, that means your quality of life is going down," said Gaskins, who retired from the Postal Service in 1989.




Elect Republicans. They will get rid of old People.

Stop It

This means nothing to the people that vote these ef'n whatevers into their positions while they have EVERY benefit available to them because they can vote themselves what they choose and don't see the poverty living in the pearly white marble palaces. I have soooo many choice names for our current gov't that cannot be said in here. Must keep the decorum.


I am a senior. While it hurts to not get a raise, I worry more about young people who ARE WILLING to work for a living and pay into this system and might not ever get to use it. I struggled when I was young and I can do it again. Some have it so much harder. I was fortunate to have a good paying job where I could save a little. Pity the ones who have worked hard a low paying jobs and don't receive much.

AJ Oliver

Hey, granny-girl, we've been fortunate too and also worry about the young 'uns. SS will be there for them if we fight for it - if not, not. Don't let the GOPPERS steal it, or the Dems play switcheroo with the COLA.


Re: "SS will be there for them,"

ONLY if the thieving Washington kleptocrats keep moving the retirement age goal post and have more of the "young 'uns" pay in and die before they get a chance to collect.

With all its financial malfeasance; if SS were privately operated, the officers would be prosecuted for fraud for running a pyramid scheme and misappropriation of assets.

Kottage Kat

I want the COLA teachers get.
Where is my union Rep???

AJ Oliver

Hey Contagion, it's easy to make stuff up when you're anonymous.
SS has a 2.8 trillion (!!) surplus to fund future benefits.
It's the most efficient retirement system out there.


AJ, while SS may have funding now don't bet on the long term. Take into consideration the amount of workers paying into SS 20 yrs ago vs those withdrawing. Now bring it forward to today and project out 20 yrs. The past 20 yrs accured the surplus the next 20, as the baby boomers have then retired in mass and less number of jobs projected, will create a downward spiral.

Makes one wonder Pres Obama put the brakeson collecting those monies in 2011 and 2012.


Can't get your point across without childish name callin' eh *sshole J Oliver?

Yea, receiving $0.00 after paying into a system for a lifetime, dying pre-retirement age and leaving no qualified beneficiary seems fair doesn't it?

Again: If a private entity ran this racket, the officers would be tried, fined and/or imprisoned.

BTW: If SS is so d*mn solvent, why then did Simpson-Bowles recommend increasing the retirement age?

The Big Dog's back

Whew, hit a nerve pooh?


Off-topic putz.


Definition of contagion (n)

Bing Dictionary
[ kən táyjən ]

1.spread of disease by physical contact: the transmission of disease, especially by physical contact between people or contact with infected objects such as bedding or clothing
2.disease spread by physical contact: an illness that spreads from one person to another, especially by physical contact between persons or contact with infected objects
3.harmful influence: a harmful or corrupting influence with a tendency to spread

Synonyms: infection · contamination · pollution · taint · poison · impurity · dirt · septicity

Good description ,very appropriate.


Dear government. Please give me back everything I have paid into SS and sign off that I do not have to pay into it ever again. I will invest my own money and do so much better at it than you.


See Kat? Did not you say you came to Ohio? Did not you say you were non-Union before? Which is it?

Kottage Kat

Factious Thought even u could see that
OK I will dumb it down for you, anti- union, Republican, Baptist, non racist, born in Ohio.
Attack away, I simply commented. As is your right to do that. I prefer you not pull down your knickers and show your intelligence when you do.
Thank you


Re: "I prefer you not pull down your knickers and show your intelligence"

You were "spot on" regarding where his "intelligence" resides. :)

"Spent the night with a single mom."

"She & I both got the maximum + she got a bonus!"

"...I was 4" thick,"

- kURTje, Oct. 12, 2013

The Big Dog's back

kat gets hers but everyone else is a cheatin the system.

Kottage Kat


Darwin's choice

Lol !

AJ Oliver

OK Contagious, since the Register lets you slide, I'll call you out for what you are - a sniveling anonymous coward. You must have been a holy terror back in Jr. High - or maybe you still are. Punk.


He probably got punched in the mouth every day.


Re: "OK"

Feel better now with your off-topic childish tantrum?

The forum is what it is - get over it.

BTW: Why were the retirement ages and contribution rates for both employee and employer increased during the Reagan Admin.?

Also, once SS benefit payments were not taxed. During Pres. Clinton's Admin. 85% of the payments were made eligible for taxation. Why?

If the system is solvent why all the periodic tweaking and why are there calls now to increase the retirement ages?

No private system would be allowed to change the rules like the govt. has in the middle of the game.

How does this not read like a Ponzi scheme?


AJ, Social Security has 2.8T in Treasury Notes, did you notice we are facing a debt crisis and could possibly default if the *ssclowns in DC don't get their crap together. Yes, SS is currently funded, but with T-bills because the money was dumped into the General Fund. It is my position that the Ponzi scheme will fail due to the theft of funds. Don't bother to insult me, I don't really care, I am neither a Democrapt or a Rupukelican...I vote my conscience and frankly don't give a damn about our current two party system.


See this is exactly America is weak. Locally & nationally many want THIER way. Few will reason together. Hence America's dilemma. Thanks for your candor Kat. You gave it out but show your thoughts when the truth got you. Your Chief Dave Light knows me too. (I helped him once). Way too many reprobates here. "If you wanna get to heaven, ya godda raise a little hell." btw, if you still want some food eye got it

AJ Oliver

I'm always willing to engage people who post under their own names - the rest, no way. I will note in this case, however, that Dubya Bush was purchasing big T-notes for his retirement AT THE SAME TIME he was calling the SS trust fund "worthless IOU's". He was clearly anticipating that his notes would be paid, as would the Chinese, Japanese, Canadians, etc. - the notes for the rest of us? Fuggetaboutit ! I agree that they will totally steal the Trust Fund if they can - we must not let them.


Re: "I'm always willing to engage people who post under their own names - the rest, no way."

And by previously calling me out, you've already proven yourself to be disingenuous.

The assets which are held in the "SS Trust Fund" are non-marketable securities, redeemable ONLY by the U.S. Treasury.

They are NOT the same as U.S. Treasury notes, bills and bonds which are traded in the secondary market.