Rising COLA Falls a Little Flat

Categories: Congress, Budget, The Insider

Social Security benefits are rising by their largest amount in six years, but it’s still small change for many cash-strapped retirees.

Social Security beneficiaries will see a 2 percent cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) starting in December, the government announced in October.

This increase applies to federal retirees under the Federal Employees Retirement System (FERS), who pay into the Social Security system in addition to contributing to their pensions and Thrift Savings Plan investments.

This is the biggest increase in Social Security benefits in six years, due largely to higher gasoline prices caused by this season’s hurricanes. Last year’s COLA was 0.3%.

But the increase still amounts to just $25 extra a month for the average beneficiary. Increases in health care insurance premiums will eat up the entire COLA for most enrollees in the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program (FEHBP).

Federal employees and retirees will pay 6.1 percent more for health insurance premiums next year. A family enrolled in Blue Cross and Blue Shield’s standard option, the most popular plan in the federal program, will pay $38 more each month for insurance coverage.

This means federal retirees, like active employees, are having to make do with less as federal benefits fail to keep pace with rising costs for health care and other essential expenses.

And Congress is trying to cut your pay and benefits even further.

The House earlier this month passed the Republican budget by a vote of 219-206. That budget contains $32 billion in reconciled pay and retirement cuts.

Click here to find out what you can do to fight back.

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