Action on Capitol Hill was slow once again this week as the fall recess continued. However, the Social Security Administration (SSA) did make an important announcement regarding next year’s cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) on Wednesday.
SSA Announces 2015 COLA
On Wednesday, SSA announced that Social Security beneficiaries will receive a 1.7 percent COLA in 2015, which will amount to a $22 per month benefit increase for the average recipient. Next year’s COLA will mark the sixth consecutive year of record low increases. Since 2010, the annual COLA has averaged only 1.4 percent per year, which is less than half of the 3 percent average during the prior decade.
The Senior Citizens League (TSCL) believes that the index that is currently used to measure inflation – the Consumer Price Index for Urban Wage Earners (CPI-W) – underestimates the inflation that Social Security beneficiaries experience. According to our research, Social Security recipients have lost 31 percent of their purchasing power since 2000, and in a recent survey that we conducted earlier this year, most respondents said their monthly benefits increased by less than $19 in 2014 while their expenses rose by nearly $120.
To address this issue, we strongly support the adoption of the Consumer Price Index for the Elderly (CPI-E) – a measure of inflation that more accurately tracks the spending patterns of seniors. In the coming months, we will continue to advocate for legislation like the CPI-E Act (H.R. 1030), the CPI for Seniors Act (H.R. 2154), and the Guaranteed 3% COLA Act (H.R. 1585), all of which would result in more fair and accurate COLAs for beneficiaries.
Lawmakers Remain in Pre-Election Recess
The pre-election recess continued this week, and Members of the House and Senate remained in their home states and districts. They are expected to return to Capitol Hill on Wednesday, November 12th, to begin the “lame duck” session. Before the end of the year, they will need to pass a package of tax extenders, and a spending bill to keep the government funded past December 11th.
Some on Capitol Hill also believe that lawmakers may consider legislation to repeal and replace the flawed sustainable growth rate formula, which is currently used to determine reimbursements for doctors who treat Medicare patients. TSCL feels that doing so would bring increased stability to the program for physicians, and it would ensure continued access to quality medical care for beneficiaries.
In the coming weeks, many Members of the House and Senate will attend local events and hold town hall meetings. TSCL urges its members and supporters to attend these events, since they are an excellent opportunity for constituents to have their most pressing concerns addressed before the upcoming elections.
The following Members of Congress, among others, will hold town halls this week: Sen. Michael Crapo (ID), Sen. Jerry Moran (KS), Sen. Mike Lee (UT), Rep. Frank Lucas (OK-3), Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton (DC), Rep. Tom Rice (SC-7), Rep. Donna Edwards (MD-4), and Rep. Susan Brooks (IN-5).
For more information, or to see if your Members of Congress have scheduled town halls before the November elections, call their local offices. You can find contact information HERE, and for a list of ten sample town hall questions, click HERE.