Social Security benefits will increase by just 1.5 percent next year - about $19 a month for the average retiree.
The increase is one of the smallest since automatic cost-of-living adjustments were adopted in 1975. It affects Social Security benefits for some 58 million Americans, as well as benefits for millions of disabled veterans, federal retirees and people who get Supplemental Security Income.
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"The COLA announced today is vital to millions, but at an average of just $19 per month, it will quickly be consumed by the rising costs of basic needs like food, utilities and health care," AARP Executive Vice President Nancy LeaMond said.
"Seniors know all too well, their living costs often outpace the COLA increase, and a 1.5 percent increase is anything but too generous," added Max Richtman, the president of the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare.
LeaMond also took issue with proposals to include a "chained CPI" in a budget deal, thereby changing the method for calculating cost-of-living adjustments. "The chained CPI," she said, "would further lower the COLA for Social Security and veterans' benefits with cuts that would start now and grow larger every year."
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Edward F. Coyle, the executive director of the Alliance for Retired Americans, said he hopes the small COLA this year will persuade politicians not to make the change. "How can anyone look at an increase of around 1.5 percent and think 'That's too big.'" he said. "Clearly, these politicians need to spend more time talking to seniors who are struggling."
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