CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Social Security benefits will increase 1.5 percent in January, but that isn’t impressing those who depend on the money every month. The increase is an annual cost of living adjustment given annually to millions of retired and disabled workers. It’s among the lowest increases since the cost of living adjustment was instituted in 1975.
“The whole reason for adopting the adjustments was to provide protection against inflation,” said Gaylene Miller, director of West Virginia AARP. “We know the COLA helps generations of all ages maintain their standard of living.”
Miller said however, this one won’t do much to aid anybody. The average Social Security recipient will see an increase of $19 a month in their benefit check. The additional money won’t go very far amid today’s rates for almost every aspect of life.
“They count on their Social Security to help pay for their basic needs,” Miller said. “Whether it’s food, utilities, or health care costs and frankly all of those things are increasing.”
Miller said there needs to be a frank conversation in Washington about Social Security and how to administer the funding going forward. Even with the low COLA for 2014, there’s talk of making changes that could even further erode future adjustments. Miller said there’s talk in Congress of a compromise bill which would tie the adjustments to the Consumer Price Index. Miller and AARP believe that would cause more harm than good.
“Social Security deserves its own conversation, outside of the debt ceiling and outside of deficit reduction.” she said. “It is a self-financed program outside of the budget. It didn’t create any of these problems and shouldn’t be part of the solution to any of those problems.”
While the low increase directly impacts thousands of retired West Virginians who try to make ends meet on a fixed income, Miller said in the end it effects the entire state’s economy.
“Every dollar of Social Security Benefits generates a dollar of economic activity,” Miller said. “That’s huge.”