Federal retirees and Social Security recipients won’t get a cost-of-living (COLA) adjustment next year, the Social Security Administration (SSA) announced Oct. 15.
More than 2.5 million federal retirees depend on annual cost-of-living adjustments to help their modest pensions keep pace with inflation, while federal retirees under the newer Federal Employees Retirement System also count on the COLA increase for their Social Security checks.
SSA said falling gas prices are to blame. But using gas prices to determine inflation and COLA adjustments for seniors doesn’t reflect how they spend their money. Seniors no longer drive to and from work. Rather, they spend a large chunk of their money on health care, the costs of which have increased faster than overall inflation. Enrollee premiums in the federal employee health benefits program will rise 7.4% next year. Also soaring are food prices driven up by factors such as draughts and the bird flu.
The lack of a cost-of-living adjustment may also mean a double whammy to federal retirees under the Civil Service Retirement System. Unless Congress acts to extend to all retirees the ‘hold harmless’ provision that protects Social Security recipients from Medicare Part B premium increases when there’s no COLA, they and other Medicare Part B recipients will have to cover the entire increase in Medicare Part B’s costs next year. That means CSRS retirees’ Medicare Part B premiums could more than double next year.
“This is unacceptable, and AFGE urges Congress to move forward with a legislative fix to protect CSRS retirees from increases in Medicare Part B premiums,” said AFGE President J. David Cox Sr.