Passage of Engel COLA Bill Would Help Seniors
Congressman Eliot L. Engel, lead sponsor of the Guaranteed 3% COLA for Seniors Act, released the following statement on the Social Security Administration’s announcement that seniors’ Social Security benefits would increase just 0.3 percent in 2017, a bump of about $5 per month for the average senior citizen:
“This year’s disgraceful cost-of-living increase would be laughable if it wasn’t so upsetting to see how our seniors are being treated. COLAs are vital to our seniors, who rely on these increases to make ends meet. Seniors’ Social Security benefits have not gone up more than 1.7% since 2012. These paltry increases fail to account for the real costs seniors face and could force many to forego crucial expenses, like medication – a heartbreaking choice no senior should be forced to make.
“What makes this problem all the more upsetting is the fact that it’s fixable. COLAs are tied to a measure of inflation called the Consumer Price Index for Urban Wage Earners and Clerical Workers (CPI-W). This index doesn’t adequately measure the types of costs frequently incurred by older Americans. The CPI-W puts a heavier emphasis on expenses more commonly incurred by the general population. Seniors have different spending habits, usually spending less on travel and gasoline and more on medication and housing. The Bureau of Labor Statistics tracks an alternative index, the Consumer Price Index for the Elderly (CPI-E), which specifically accounts for seniors’ typical expenses – like medical care and shelter – to measure inflation. Using the CPI-E would allow the government to more accurately base COLAs on the true living costs that seniors face. And, importantly, the CPI-E regularly determines a greater cost-of-living increase than the CPI-W.
“I have introduced the Guaranteed 3% COLA for Seniors Act, which requires the use of the more appropriate CPI-E to determine the Social Security COLA. In addition, my bill would ensure seniors receive a minimum 3% COLA every year, even if the CPI-E COLA falls below this amount. Our nation’s seniors should not struggle to survive on account of an obsolete formula and Congressional inaction. I will continue pushing to remedy this issue and finally afford seniors the annual COLAs they deserve.”