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Winter 2017

Social Security Benefits Increase with Cost of Living

For more than 66 million Americans, monthly Social Security and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits are increasing 2% in 2018, considered the highest increase in six years. Social Security Administration (SSA), an independent agency of the federal government, administers both Social Security and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits. These programs are essential to vulnerable populations including low-income seniors and disabled individuals.

In Santa Clara County, the number of older adults aged 65+ living at, near, or below poverty level has increased over the past 15 years as indicated in the Sourcewise Area Plan on Aging 2016–2020. The 2014 American Community Survey indicated that approximately 8% of all older adults in SCC are living below poverty. More staggering is the fact that nearly half (49%) of SCC seniors age 65 and older are living at or below the means necessary to live adequately, according to the 2011 Elder Economic Security Standard Index.

Annually, SSA announces a cost-of-living adjustment (COLA), which is an inflation-adjusted “raise” provided to Social Security beneficiaries. When a COLA is announced, an increase in the amount of Social Security and SSI benefits are distributed to recipients.

Federal benefits rise when the cost of living increases, as measured by the Department of Labor’s Consumer Price Index (CPI-W). The CPI-W rises when prices increase which increases cost of living. Social Security is arguably one of the most important social programs for beneficiaries; many of whom depend on these monthly benefits.

What does a 2% COLA mean for Social Security beneficiaries? First Republic explains that average retirees can expect an increase of around $27 per month (about $329 per year), helping to sustain the value of Social Security benefits.

Find information about the 2018 COLA at www.socialsecurity.gov/cola.