“Next year’s 8.7% Social Security cost-of-living adjustment (COLA), when combined with the recently announced decrease in 2023 Medicare Part B premiums, amounts to an average of over $140 more per month in seniors’ pockets starting in January.  This is the largest COLA since the early 1980s.  But, as helpful as the 8.7% COLA may sound, it’s more like a band aid on a gaping financial wound from chronically rising living expenses for seniors — who have had to make do with historically inadequate COLAs (without a boost in base benefits for the past fifty years). In fact, COLAs have been downright paltry (from zero to 2%) for seven of the last ten years.

Social Security beneficiaries would be better off with a new COLA formula. The current formula, based on the CPI-W, reflects the impact of inflation on urban wage earners, not seniors. There is a newer inflation index available, the CPI-E (Consumer Price Index for the Elderly), that more accurately reflects seniors’ spending patterns.  The CPI-E is included in Rep. John Larson’s Social Security 2100 legislation and in Senator Bernie Sander’s Social Security Expansion Act. Both bills would also give seniors a badly needed benefit boost while requiring the wealthy to contribute their fair share to Social Security.  (Republicans have proposed adopting an even less generous COLA formula, based on the Chained CPI, along with cutting benefits by raising the retirement age.) 

Neither bill is likely to come up for a vote during the remainder of the 117th Congress, and that’s a shame. Because every year that Congress kicks the can down the road, the closer Social Security’s projected trust fund shortfall draws — and the more dire the financial struggles become for seniors on fixed incomes.  Large majorities of the American public across party lines support Social Security and want to see it expanded and strengthened.  After years of rising costs for older Americans, a deadly pandemic that took a disproportionate toll on seniors, and rampant post-pandemic inflation, one has to wonder what Congress is waiting for. Seniors and their families should weigh their votes carefully this fall — and elect representatives committed to boosting Social Security – including those frequently inadequate COLAs.” – Max Richtman, President and CEO, National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare



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