Legislative Update for Week Ending October 16, 2015

Legislative Update for Week Ending October 16, 2015

This week, the Social Security Administration (SSA) announced that there will be no cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) in 2016, and The Senior Citizens League (TSCL) delivered letters to Capitol Hill urging lawmakers to pass an emergency increase. In addition, the U.S. Treasury moved the debt limit deadline up by two days, to November 3rd.

SSA Announces Zero COLA Next Year

On Thursday, SSA announced that Social Security beneficiaries will not receive an increase in their monthly checks next year. In a press release, officials at SSA wrote: “As determined by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), there was no increase in the CPI-W from the third quarter of 2014 to the third quarter of 2015. Therefore, under existing law, there can be no COLA in 2016.”

Next year will mark the third time since 2010 that seniors have received no COLA. Inflation levels were pushed down by gas prices this year – one gallon is around 90 cents less than it was last year, according to AAA. However, since Social Security beneficiaries do not drive as often as younger, working Americans, they do not benefit from plunging gas prices in the same way.

According to the BLS, seniors actually experienced higher inflation than most over the past year. If the Social Security COLA were based on the Consumer Price Index for the Elderly (CPI-E) – an inflation index that tracks the spending patterns of only those over the age of sixty-two – seniors would receive a 0.6 percent increase in benefits next year. The CPI-E puts a greater weight on expenses like medical care, housing costs, and prescription drugs, and it more accurately reflects the inflation that Social Security beneficiaries experience.

In order to lessen the ill effects of next year’s zero COLA, TSCL is urging Members of Congress to do three things in the months ahead: provide beneficiaries with a one-time $250 emergency COLA, prevent a 50 percent Medicare Part B premium hike from hitting 15 million seniors in January, and consider legislation like the CPI-E Act, which would result in more fair and accurate COLAs in the future.

We delivered letters to each Congressional office on Thursday afternoon urging lawmakers to act swiftly and responsibly before the end of this year. In the coming weeks and months, we will continue to advocate for these and other solutions that would give seniors the retirement security they deserve and have earned. Follow our progress here in the Legislative News section of our website, or on our new Facebook page.

Debt Limit Deadline Looms

This week, Treasury Secretary Jack Lew warned lawmakers that they will need to increase the debt limit by November 3rd – two days earlier than expected – in order to prevent a default on the nation’s debt. In a letter to House Speaker John Boehner (OH-8), Secretary Lew wrote, “I respectfully urge Congress to take action as soon as possible, raise the debt limit without delay, and remove an unnecessary threat to our economy.”

If Congress fails to act before the deadline, which is just over two weeks away, seniors could see delays in their Social Security checks, and the government may be unable to pay them in full. TSCL will be monitoring the debt limit discussions very closely in the days ahead, and we will urge leaders in Congress to act responsibly in order to avoid serious negative impacts on Social Security beneficiaries.