Social Security Increase Is Lowest In Years

Social Security increases will be historically low for a second year in a row, according to preliminary figures, which put the raise at about 1.5 percent.

Next year's raise will be smaller because consumer prices haven't gone up much in the past year, according to figures from the government. The exact size of the cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) won't be known until the Labor Department releases September's inflation report.

The report was supposed to be published on Wednesday, but USA Today notes that the government shutdown has delayed it indefinitely. The COLA is typically announced in October, so that Social Security and other benefit programs have time to adjust their January payments.

While the shutdown has delayed and halted several projects, reports, and payments, social security benefits haven't been affected. The Social Security Administration hasn't indicated whether raises will be delayed because of the shutdown either.

The Seattle Times notes that nearly 58 million retirees, disabled workers, spouses, and children receive social security benefits. Because of this, more than one-fifth of the country is waiting to see if the raise will be delayed or not. The average monthly payment for benefits is $1,162, and a 1.5 percent raise would add $17.

Along with increasing social security payments, the COLA also affects benefits for over three million disabled veterans, about 2.5 million federal retirees and their survivors, and over eight million people who receive Supplemental Security Income (the disability program for the poor).

Advocates say the delay in announcing COLA figures is worrying, and the uncertainty is unwelcome for the millions who depend on the payments. Annual social security raises have been around 4.1 percent every year since 1975. The raise has only been less than two percent six times, including this year, when the increase was 1.7 percent. Inflation was so low in 2010 and 2011 that there was no COLA.

While a low social security increase one year isn't a problem, it can affect the recipients' standard of living if they receive several low increases in a row.

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