Legislative Update for Week Ending October 21, 2016

Legislative Update for Week Ending October 21, 2016

This week, the Social Security Administration announced that beneficiaries will receive a 0.3 percent Social Security cost-of-living adjustment in 2017. In addition, the congressional recess continued for lawmakers in the House and Senate.

SSA Announces Record-Low Social Security Increase

On Tuesday, the Social Security Administration (SSA) announced that beneficiaries will receive a 0.3 percent cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) in January – the lowest Social Security COLA ever paid. It will increase the average monthly benefit by just around five dollars, and it is likely to be offset completely by increased Medicare Part B premiums.

Mary Johnson – a policy analyst for The Senior Citizens League (TSCL) – told Stephen Ohlemacher of the Associated Press that she has serious concerns about the long-term impact of Tuesday’s COLA announcement. She said, “This loss of anticipated retirement income compounds every year, causing people to spend through retirement savings far more quickly than planned. Over the course of a 25- or 30-year retirement, it reduces anticipated Social Security income by tens of thousands of dollars.”

For years, TSCL has been advocating on Capitol Hill for a more fair and accurate Social Security COLA for beneficiaries. The Consumer Price Index for Elderly Consumers (CPI-E) Act (H.R. 3351) – legislation introduced by Rep. Michael Honda (CA-17) – is a common-sense solution that would better protect the purchasing power of Social Security benefits since it would use a more accurate measure of inflation.

Currently, Social Security COLAs are based on the way young, urban workers spend their money – not the way Social Security beneficiaries do. As a result, goods and services like gasoline and electronics are weighted more heavily than housing and health care – two of the fastest growing costs for older Americans. If the COLA were actually based on the way retirees spend their money using the more accurate CPI-E, Social Security beneficiaries would not be receiving a 0.3 percent COLA in 2017, they would be receiving a 2.1 percent increase, according to new data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

TSCL believes that in the lame-duck session following the November elections, Congress must prioritize the passage of legislation that would make the Social Security COLA more fair and accurate. In the weeks ahead, our legislative team will continue to advocate for the CPI-E Act (H.R. 3351), as well as for legislation like the SAVE Benefits Act (S. 2251, H.R. 4144), which would make up for this year’s zero COLA with a one-time emergency 3.9 percent increase. For progress updates, follow TSCL on Twitter or Facebook.

Fall Congressional Recess Continues

This week, lawmakers remained in their home states and districts to continue the fall recess. They are expected to return to Capitol Hill following the November elections to begin the lame duck session. Until then, most lawmakers will be attending local events and holding town hall meetings in their home states and districts.

TSCL encourages its members and supporters to attend these events and to ask questions of their elected officials about important Social Security and Medicare issues, like the following four…

1. This year, Social Security beneficiaries received no cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) despite a national survey indicating a majority reported higher costs. Do you support legislation that would give seniors an emergency COLA before the end of this year?

2. The federal government negotiates prescription drug prices for Medicaid enrollees and for veterans, but it is not allowed to negotiate lower prices for Medicare beneficiaries. Do you support this policy?

3. In January, one-third of all Medicare beneficiaries could see a Part B premium increase of 22 percent – the highest increase in 27 years. Do you believe Congress should take action like it did last year to prevent the dramatic increase?

4. If the Social Security COLA were based on a more accurate measure of inflation for senior citizens, next year’s increase would not be 0.3 percent – it would be 2.1 percent according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Do you support legislation that would base the COLA on a more accurate inflation index like the Consumer Price Index for the Elderly?

The following Members of Congress, among many others, will be holding town hall meetings in the days ahead: Reps. Eric Swalwell (CA-15), Susan Brooks (IN-5), Gary Palmer (AL-6), Lamar Smith (TX-21), Bruce Westerman (AR-4), Randy Hultgren (IL-14), Eleanor Holmes Norton (DC), Marc Veasey (TX-33), and Ed Perlmutter (CO-7).

For details, or to see if your Members of Congress will be holding town hall meetings before the November elections, call their local offices. You can find contact information HERE. For more sample town hall questions, click HERE.