The COLA Once Again Leaves Seniors Out In the Cold

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January 12th, 2015

The government announced today that the Cost of Living Adjustment (COLA) is going to be 1.7 percent for 2015.  This is far below the average of 4.1 percent calculated since 1975 and is the fifth time in the last six years that it has been below 2 percent.  By using a flawed method for calculating a fair COLA for seniors our government has once again asked older Americans to turn down the thermostat, reassess their eating habits and make unhealthy choices on which medicine they can afford.

Many people don’t realize that the COLA is calculated using the Consumer Price Index (CPI-W) based on the spending habits of urban wage earners and clerical workers – people who don’t have the same spending habits and expenses as older Americans.  You may say that gas prices have dropped so that should help seniors.  People forget that gas is a very small expense for most seniors.  Heating oil prices, on the other hand, are a big expense and they weren’t down during the depth of winter last January and February.  With this COLA our government is once again leaving seniors out in the cold. This is the reason I hear from older Americans everywhere that year after year their Social Security checks are buying less and less.

It seems to me that many in Washington have been asking older Americans to tighten their belts quite a bit over the last few years.  It’s a travesty that our government is failing those people who don’t have the options to maintain their standard of living the way that younger people do.  Seniors live on fixed incomes; they’re not in a position to go back to work when their country breaks its promise.

The present method of calculating the COLA is flawed and hurts seniors every year.  The small COLAs are announced only once a year but they hurt older Americans every day.  Seniors saved and were careful with their money and planned for their retirement and now, because their government spent the money they put into the Social Security and Medicare trust fund and weren’t careful with our Nation’s money, seniors have to tighten their belts.  They have meat for dinner less often, reduce the trips to see their kids and grandkids, make their medicine last longer than it should and turn the temperature down one more degree.  It just isn’t right.

Our government needs to quit asking older Americans to lower their standard of living and start keeping the promise they made to them years ago.  One big step will be to adopt H.R. 2154, the CPI for Seniors Act, which would once and for all calculate a fair COLA for seniors.  Using an accurate CPI to determine a fair COLA is one way Washington can recognize the great asset our country has in the older and wiser Americans who, even with all of its faults, still love their country. Promises made should be promises kept!