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:: 1.7% COLA Benefit Increase for 2015 Announced by Social Security

  • Date : 2014/10/29 (Rev: 2016/03/27)
  • Social Security - www.socialsecurity.gov
  • Synopsis : Monthly Social Security and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits for nearly 64 million Americans will increase 1.7 percent in 2015.

Main Document

The 1.7 percent cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) will begin with benefits that more than 58 million Social Security beneficiaries receive in January 2015.

Cost of Living Adjustment (COLA) - U.S. Social Security and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits are adjusted to reflect the increase, if any, in the cost of living as measured by the Consumer Price Index for Urban Wage Earners and Clerical Workers (CPI-W) prepared by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). The purpose of the cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) is to ensure that the purchasing power of Social Security and SSI benefits is not eroded by inflation. For purposes of determining the COLA, the average CPI-W for the third calendar quarter of the last year a COLA was determined is compared to the average CPI-W for the third calendar quarter of the current year. The resulting percentage increase, if any, represents the percentage that will be used to increase Social Security benefits beginning for December of the current year. SSI benefits increase by the same percentage the following month (January). If the increase in the CPI-W is at least one-tenth of one percent (0.1 percent), there will be a COLA. However, if the CPI-W increases by less than 0.05 percent, or if the CPI-W decreases, there will not be a COLA.

The purpose of the COLA is to ensure that the purchasing power of Social Security and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits is not eroded by inflation. It is based on the percentage increase in the Consumer Price Index for Urban Wage Earners and Clerical Workers (CPI-W) from the third quarter of the last year a COLA was determined to the third quarter of the current year. If there is no increase, there can be no COLA.

Increased payments to more than 8 million SSI beneficiaries will begin on December 31, 2014.

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.

Congress enacted the COLA provision as part of the 1972 Social Security Amendments, and automatic annual COLAs began in 1975. Before that, benefits were increased only when Congress enacted special legislation.

Some other changes that take effect in January of each year are based on the increase in average wages.

Based on that increase, the maximum amount of earnings subject to the Social Security tax (taxable maximum) will increase to $118,500 from $117,000.

Of the estimated 168 million workers who will pay Social Security taxes in 2015, about 10 million will pay higher taxes because of the increase in the taxable maximum.

The earnings limit for workers who are younger than "full" retirement age (age 66 for people born in 1943 through 1954) will be $15,720. (We deduct $1 from benefits for each $2 earned over $15,720.)

The earnings limit for people turning 66 in 2015 will be $41,880. (We deduct $1 from benefits for each $3 earned over $41,880 until the month the worker turns age 66.) There is no limit on earnings for workers who are "full" retirement age or older for the entire year.

Information about Medicare changes for 2015 is available at www.Medicare.gov

The Social Security Act provides for how the COLA is calculated. To read more, please visit https://www.ssa.gov/news/cola/

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