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2014 COLA will increase Supplemental Security Income benefits

The Social Security Administration’s scheduled announcement on whether there would be any cost of living adjustment, or COLA, in 2014 was delayed by the government shutdown, but it has finally arrived. There will indeed be a COLA, effective Dec. 31, which will increase benefits for our nation’s 8 million Supplemental Security Income recipients -- of 1.5 percent. At the beginning of this year, a COLA of 1.7 percent went into effect.

The COLA is an adjustment to benefits levels required by the Social Security Act. It goes into effect whenever inflation increases and, by law, inflation for this purpose is calculated by the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics using an economic index called the “Consumer Price Index for Urban Wage Earners and Clerical Workers” or CPI-W.

A 1.5-percent increase means that the maximum Supplemental Security Income benefit for an individual grows from $710 to $721 per month. For couples who both receive SSI, the maximum monthly benefit will rise from $1,066 to $1,082.

The 2014 COLA is not very different from the one that went into effect at the beginning of 2013, both of which are substantially lower than the 2012 COLA of 3.6 percent. However, there was no COLA at all in 2010 and 2011 because, according to the CPI-W, inflation didn’t go up.

The calculation of Social Security COLAs using the CPI-W has long been controversial among both disability activists and among those wishing to see Social Security’s disability programs shrink. Alternative calculations have been proposed, each of which would have a different effect on whether benefits would increase or decrease, sometimes substantially.

For now, the CPI-W remains the law of the land, and an increase to SSI benefits is always welcome to those living with disabilities.

Source: Disability Scoop, “Social Security, SSI Benefits To Rise In 2014,” Michelle Diament, Oct. 30, 2013

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