Millions of Social Security recipients and other retirees will get a 2 percent increase in benefits next year, the largest increase since 2012. Though for the average beneficiary, the increase comes to only $25 a month.
The cost-of-living adjustment, or COLA, affects benefits for more than 70 million U.S. residents, including Social Security recipients, disabled veterans and federal retirees. That's about one in five Americans.
The Social Security Administration announced the COLA Friday.
This graph shows how millions of Social Security recipients and other retirees will get the largest increase in benefits next year since 2012
By law, the COLA is based on a broad measure of consumer prices generated by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Advocates for seniors claim the inflation index doesn't accurately capture rising prices faced by seniors, especially for health care.
'It doesn't make your life any easier. It's really made it tight,' said Barbara Bogart, who retired from a home health care company. 'You have to be so careful to make it each month.'
Bogart, 75, who lives near Indianapolis, said she gets less than $1,000 a month from Social Security, her only source of income.
'I have all the normal costs that people have. I have groceries, gas for my car,' she said. 'I have to be cautious.'
On average, this increase will amount to $25 per month. Pictured is the Social Security Administration's main campus in Woodlawn, Maryland
The 2 percent increase in benefits will be experienced by millions of Social Security recipients and other retirees. President Donald Trump (left) has no power to boost the automatic annual increase for Social Security. US Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta is pictured at right
Some conservatives argue that the inflation index is too generous because when prices go up, people change their buying habits and buy cheaper alternative s.
Consumer prices went up only slightly in the past year despite a recent spike in gasoline prices after a series of hurricanes slowed oil production in the Gulf Coast, said Max Gulker, senior research fellow at the American Institute for Economic Research.
'For the most part, there was a decline in energy prices for a lot of the year,' Gulker said. 'But at the end of the year we saw that uptick in gas from the hurricanes.'
The average monthly Social Security payment is $1,258, or about $15,000 a year.
Congress enacted automatic annual increases for Social Security in 1975. Presidents often get blamed when increases are small or zero. But President Donald Trump has no power to boost the increase, unless he persuades Congress to change the law.
In 2009, President Barack Obama persuaded Congress to approve one-time payments of $250 to Social Security recipients as part an economic stimulus package.
Over the past eight years, the annual COLA has averaged just above 1 percent. In the previous decade, it averaged 3 percent.