By Brandon Moseley
The Social Security and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) will be 5.9% in 2022. Approximately 70 million Americans receive Social Security benefits.
“As a member of the House Ways and Means Committee’s Subcommittee on Social Security, I have fought for critically important earned benefits for Alabama’s seniors,” said Rep. Terri Sewell (D-AL07). “A nearly 6% cost-of-living adjustment is great news for seniors who have struggled during the COVID-19 pandemic. However, this COLA increase is not a substitute for congressional action. Social Security is one of our nation’s most trusted and successful programs and serves as a lifeline for countless Alabamians. I will continue to do everything in my power to protect and expand Social Security so that all workers can retire with dignity.”
Sewell represents Alabama’s Seventh Congressional District, which has 157,219 Social Security beneficiaries including 9,945 widowers and 16,459 children. Tens of millions of Americans are reliant on Social Security benefits to help cover the costs of basic necessities such as food, rent, health care, and medications.
The current annual inflation for the 12 months ending in September 2021 is 5.39%. Higher inflation negatively affects the purchasing power of those reliant on Social Security benefits.
COLA rises to cover increased costs of rent, food, and other expenses due to rises in inflation. Medicare premiums – which are deducted from Social Security checks for most beneficiaries – typically consume much of the COLA increase. One study found that over the past 20 years, the increase in the Medicare Part B premiums averaged 5.9% annually while COLAs have averaged 2.2% annually. Because “a larger and larger chunk of the Social Security benefit goes to health insurance, […] the net benefit available for non-health expenditures does not keep pace with inflation," according to the study.
The 64 million Social Security beneficiaries will receive the 5.9% COLA adjustment in their check beginning in January 2022. Eight million SSI beneficiaries will start to receive the COLA beginning on December 30, 2021. Approximately 2 million receive both Social Security and SSI benefits.
The COLA amount is not set by Congress or the President. Instead, the Social Security Act ties the annual COLA to the increase in the Consumer Price Index as determined by the Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Social Security and SSI beneficiaries will be notified by mail starting in early December about their new benefit amount. Most people who receive Social Security payments will be able to view their COLA notice online through their personal "my Social Security" account. People may create or access their "my Social Security" account online at www.socialsecurity.gov/myaccount.
The federal government spends over $1.1 trillion on Social Security alone. It is the federal government’s second-largest expenditure, trailing only Medicare and Medicaid, at almost $1.4 trillion a year.