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Social Security COLA boost comes with the New Year

The dawn of the New Year brings with it an increase in the benefit checks for millions of recipients of Social Security benefits. This includes retirees, but also includes some individuals receiving disability benefits and Supplemental Security Income.

Chances are you didn't hear any beneficiaries breaking out noisemakers or fireworks to mark the occasion. According to the Social Security Administration, the 1.5 percent Cost of Living Adjustment amounts to about $19 in the average monthly retirement benefit, and $17 in the average disability check.

Some 58 million people are expected to be affected by the change. The question one St. Louis-area woman poses, however, is whether it shouldn't be more. Readers might have seen her opinion piece in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch about the issue yesterday. 

The focus of the piece was the woman's argument that while the COLA is certainly going to be welcome, it doesn't go nearly far enough to actually address the real cost of living increases that older individuals and those on disability face. She makes the argument from a perspective of personal experience, being a retiree herself and having been a recipient of SSI benefits since she was 12.

It's not apparent from the article just what her disabilities may be, but she makes the observation that people with conditions like hers face extraordinary costs, such as a need for medical care, more dependence on prescription medications, and a need for specialized equipment like motorized or manual wheelchairs.

She says contrary to popular belief, Medicare and Medicaid don't cover all those costs, so beneficiaries tend to dip into their Social Security funds to make up the difference.

Lump those costs in with food, utility, rent, and transportation expenses, and the 1.5 percent hike doesn't seem to go very far.

Despite her stark reflection, it is also a fact that disability and SSI payments represent crucial government help for those who are eligible. Those wondering if they qualify should always contact an attorney to check out their options.

Source: St Louis Post-Dispatch, "Higher increases for Social Security are much-needed," Joanne Grana, Jan. 2, 2014

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Alan E. DeWoskin, P.C.
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