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Oct 22, 2015
Press Release
New legislation would change how yearly increase is calculated after news of no Cost of Living Adjustment in 2016

Congressman Brian Higgins (NY-26) spoke on the House Floor advocating for legislation that would create a more accurate formula to determine the annual Cost of Living Adjustment (COLA) for those who receive Social Security retirement benefits.  The bill, the Consumer Price Index for the Elderly (CPI-E) Act of 2015 (H.R. 3351), would result in a more accurate measure of the cost of living for seniors.

“Social Security and other federal retirement programs are an important safety net for our nation’s seniors,” said Congressman Brian Higgins. “They’ve worked hard their entire lives for these benefits, and they should not have to worry about pinching pennies during their retirement.”

On October 15th, the Social Security Administration announced that seniors and disabled individuals would not receive a COLA in 2016.  Since 1975, when the COLA was introduced, recipients have not received a COLA three times.  All three have come since 2010, suggesting the formula no longer reflects the spending habits of seniors.

The annual COLA is intended to make sure benefits keep pace with inflation.  Each year, the Social Security Administration calculates COLA based on a formula determined by the Consumer Price Index for Urban Wage Earners and Clerical Workers (CPI-W) from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, which measures the cost of living for working families.  However, seniors have different spending patterns than working families.  A greater percentage of their income goes towards housing and health care, the prices of which tend to rise more quickly.  In 2013, national health care spending in the United States averaged $9,255 per person, an 89.5 percent increase than the amount in 2000.

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The text of Congressman Higgins’ remarks is below:

Mr. Speaker: Last week the Social Security Administration announced that there would be no cost of living adjustment for Social Security benefits next year. 

This news has seniors in Western New York worried. The price of food, housing, health care have increased. Without a corresponding increase in benefits seniors will be asked to do more with less. 

The formula used to determine cost of living adjustments is not properly reflecting the senior economy. Seniors spend more on housing, food and medical care and less on travel and education.

That’s why I support legislation to adopt a new formula, called the Consumer Price Index for the Elderly, that would give weight to price increases in housing and medical care and more accurately reflect the costs incurred by seniors. 

Unless Congress acts, the incomes of sixty million Americans will be effectively reduced. That would be bad for our economy and worse for the vulnerable Americans we are here to protect.

In addition to the legislation, last week, Congressman Higgins joined other members in sending a letter to Social Security Commissioner Carolyn Colvin, expressing concern that Social Security beneficiaries will not receive a COLA in 2016 and urging the Commissioner to support a COLA increase for the elderly. 157,698 people in Congressman Higgins’ district receive Social Security benefits.