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Senators Propose Boosting Seniors’ Social Security Benefits

May 22, 2024 | Firm News

Millions of seniors nationwide are among those who rely on the financial support they receive each month via their Social Security benefits checks.

However, many say that these payouts have failed to keep up with inflation and the escalating prices of basic goods and services over time. One analysis showed that retirees have in fact lost significant buying power in the past two decades, all while they tend to face steep increases in health care costs as they age. As of 2023, Social Security benefits experienced one of the biggest losses of purchasing power – 36 percent – since 2000.

A newly introduced bill seeks to remedy this.

The Cost-of-Living Adjustment (COLA)

At the end of each year, the Social Security Administration (SSA) informs Social Security recipients about how much they can expect to see in their payouts for the forthcoming year. Benefits typically undergo some level of change based on the SSA’s annual cost-of-living adjustment (COLA). In 2024, COLA rose slightly, by 3.2 percent. For the average retiree, that equates to receiving about $59 more per month compared with 2023.

The year prior to that, COLA had increased by 8.7 percent. Current predictions for 2025’s COLA are coming in at about 2 percent.

Today, COLA calculations are based on a metric known as the Consumer Price Index for Urban Wage Earners (CPI-W). This is where the recently proposed legislation focuses on making a change.

Boosting Benefits and COLAs for Seniors Act

In late March 2024, U.S. Sen. Bob Casey (D-PA) introduced the Boosting Benefits and COLAs for Seniors Act. Four Democratic senators are serving as co-sponsors: Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut, John Fetterman of Pennsylvania, Kirsten Gillibrand of New York, and Vermont’s Bernie Sanders, plus Peter Welch, an independent from Vermont.

The Act centers on changing the formula that the SSA uses to calculate Social Security benefits for older adults. It proposes using a different metric, the Consumer Price Index for the Elderly (CPI-E). Incorporating the CPI-E into the equation would, according to advocates, better reflect the specific types of costs facing subgroups like seniors.

As co-sponsor Sen. Gillibrand puts it, the bill would “factor the high cost of health care into Social Security benefits calculations.” In turn, this would mean bigger payouts for seniors and, she adds, would “help make sure recipients aren’t forced to choose between paying for their medication and buying other necessities.”

Nearly a dozen different agencies, including Arc of the United States, the Alliance for Retired Americans, and Justice in Aging, have endorsed the bill.