By Ellen James Martin,
Washington News Service
Special to The SUN
Word from the Social Security Administration that there’ll be no inflation adjustment in 2016 is causing shock and disbelief among the nearly 60 million Americans who now collect benefits. After all, many retirees — along with the disabled and other beneficiaries — are struggling to make ends meet.
“This is no small matter. The purpose of the annual adjustments is to ensure that Social Security benefits don’t lose value over time. They are intended to keep seniors and other beneficiaries afloat, to allow them to tread water. But they are not floating; they are sinking,” said Nancy Altman, co-director of Social Security Works, a nonprofit advocacy group (www.socialsecurityworks.org).
Right now, the cost of living for Social Security is measured by the Consumer Price Index for Urban Wage Earners and Clerical Workers (CPI-W), which is calculated by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
A zero-inflation adjustment happened just twice before: in 2010 and 2011. Why no automatic adjustment for 2016? Because the index used by the government to calculate increases was affected by the decline in gas prices. But advocates say that medical costs — which hit seniors harder than younger people — have risen dramatically.
“Seniors and people with disabilities spend more on health care and long-term care — where prices rise faster — and less on clothing, recreation and other items where prices tend to rise more slowly than for younger, healthier Americans,” Altman said.