Congresswoman Johnson announced today that House Democrats will move ahead with legislation to provide Social Security recipients with a one-time $250 payment. The Social Security Administration is expected to announce that there will be no automatic Cost-of-Living-Adjustment for 2011. That means that for the first time ever, 2011 will be the second consecutive year that Social Security retirees, veterans, and people with disabilities will see no increase in their monthly Social Security, SSI, VA Pension and Compensation, and Railroad Retirement benefits. This unprecedented situation is a result of economic conditions, not the result of Congressional or Presidential action or inaction.
"The lingering effects of the worst economy since the Great Depression mean Americans who need Social Security to survive can't afford to tread water," said Congresswoman Johnson. "We will act quickly to enact a one-time $250 payment to seniors, veterans, and people with disabilities who receive Social Security to help them make ends meet during this tough time, when housing values are down, other retirement income is volatile, and many are facing rising expenses.
"I support H.R. 5987, the Seniors Protection Act, to provide a $250 payment to about 54 million Americans in lieu of no increase in their monthly income," said Congresswoman Johnson. "The President has already budgeted for this and we can do this in a fiscally responsible way. We can't leave seniors on Main Street behind as we begin this recovery."
The COLA is automatically calculated using data on inflation published by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). October 15 is the day BLS releases the final economic factor that the Social Security Administration uses to calculate the annual COLA. In 2009, Social Security recipients saw a 5.8% increase in their benefits, the largest since 1982, as a result of rising costs; but in 2010, they saw no COLA at all.
Social Security benefit levels are modest -- only $14,000 a year for the average retiree. The median income for senior households is just $24,000, reflecting just how much Social Security means to most elderly Americans. Six in ten seniors rely on Social Security for more than half of their income, and about a third of retirees have little other than Social Security on which to live.
Gains for Seniors
The 111th Congress has worked to strengthen the economic security of America's seniors. In the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, Congress provided seniors and other beneficiaries a $250 economic recovery payment to boost the economy and help them weather an anticipated upcoming COLA cutback. In fact, a recent study by the Economic Policy Institute showed that similar payments to seniors in 2009 strengthened the economy, increasing the nation's GDP by 0.5% in the second quarter of the year, and creating or saving 125,000 American jobs.
Under health reform, millions of seniors will save thousands of dollars on their prescription drug costs by phasing out the Medicare prescription drug "donut hole" coverage gap and Medicare will be strengthened. In 2010, 4 million seniors who hit the donut hole are receiving a $250 rebate check. Beginning in 2011, seniors who hit the donut hole will receive a 50 percent discount on brand name drugs, and the donut hole will be completely closed by 2020. In addition, beginning on January 1, 2011, the Affordable Care Act provides that seniors will receive, under Medicare, free preventive services such as mammograms and certain colon cancer tests and a free annual physical. The Affordable Care Act also strengthens Medicare by extending the solvency of the trust fund by an additional 12 years, from 2017 to 2029.
Both of these plans to bring greater security to America's seniors were opposed by Republicans in Congress who created the donut hole and would stop donut hole checks to seniors, and who favor turning over Medicare to the insurance companies, forcing seniors to hunt for their own coverage with vouchers that would decrease in value over time.
There are several false rumors circulating among seniors on the internet about Social Security and the reasons for the lack of a COLA. You may find useful the debunking information at the following links:
* "Is it true that the Democratic Congress will not allow an increase in the Social Security COLA?"
* Is SSA spending COLA money on electronic medical records, instead of a COLA?
* Debunking myths about the history of Social Security