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SSA cost of living increase doesn't reflect reality for many

The Social Security Administration announced the raise people receiving retirement benefits, Social Security Disability and Supplemental Security Income will get for the coming year. Many describe it as modest. Those in North Carolina and elsewhere in the country who are dependent on such benefits would likely agree.

According to the SSA website, the increase for all the 64 million or so Americans receiving benefits will amount to 1.7 percent. That reflects how much the government says the Consumer Price Index for Urban Wage Earners and Clerical Workers has gone up since this time last year. 

How that plays out in the pocketbook will differ depending on the person, but CNN reports that the average retiree will have an extra $22 to spend a month starting in January. We haven't seen the figures for those on disability, but considering that the average benefit is slightly lower than for retirees it seems safe to expect that the monthly increase will be lower, too. pegs the average monthly increase for those receiving SSI at about $18 a month.

There are those who argue that the CPI-W used to gauge the cost of living increase has an inherent flaw in that it measures costs workers face, not those that Social Security beneficiaries face. One expert from the American Institute for Economic Research says data shows retired people spend differently than wage earners and we suspect the same could be said for those who are receiving SSD or SSI.

Pundits note that how cost of living is accounted for is going to figure prominently in any Social Security reform to come. It would be mere speculation to try to say how Congress might act, but a poll by the National Academy of Social Insurance this week is clear. It indicates that 72 percent of people responding to a national poll say they support raising benefits.

For those who are disabled or are now seeking SSI help, the primary issue isn't keeping up with the cost of living, it's just living. Many have already seen their claims denied and now face the appeals process. To successfully navigate what can be a daunting process it might be wise to turn to an experienced attorney.

Source:, "Why Your Social Security Check Isn’t Keeping Up With Your Costs," Mark Miller, Reuters, Oct. 23, 2014

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