Employee groups condemn 2017 mini-COLA
- By FederalSoup Staff
- Oct 18, 2016
The Social Security Administration on Tuesday announced a meager 0.3 percent cost-of-living adjustment for 2017.
The COLA—which is based on the cost of goods and services as measured using the Labor Department’s Consumer Price Index for Urban Wage Earners and Clerical Workers (CPI-W)—applies to Social Security retirement payments, Supplemental Security Income payments, and federal civilian and military retirement annuities.
National Active and Retired Federal Employees Association President Richard Thissen blasted the size of the COLA.
“Not only is the COLA increase unrealistically low and not reflective of the expenses faced by seniors,” Thissen said, “[but] hundreds of thousands of federal retirees enrolled in Medicare will see a significant decrease in their annuities for the second straight year, due to the so-called ‘hold harmless’ provision of Social Security law. NARFE is continuing to seek congressional action to fix this unfair disparity.”
Under the hold harmless provision cited by Thissen, the dollar increase in Medicare Part B premiums is limited to the dollar increase in an individual’s Social Security benefit.
This year, the low COLA means that about 70 percent of Medicare beneficiaries will be held harmless—with their Part B premiums increasing only in proportion to the increase in their Social Security checks. The base premium for those beneficiaries currently is $104.90 per month, NARFE said.
However, the other 30 percent of Part B beneficiaries will see a significant increase in their premiums. This includes about 1.6 million Civil Service Retirement System retirees who do not receive Social Security benefits, and those enrolling in Medicare for the first time in 2017.
“When it was announced in 2015 that there would be no COLA in 2016, Congress acted swiftly to limit the projected increase from 52 percent to 15 percent for those not held harmless,” Thissen said. “While this agreement wasn’t perfect, it provided some relief to federal retirees. NARFE implores the White House and Congress to once again prevent this unfair and disproportionate Medicare premium increase for federal retirees and millions of others. Both the administration and Congress have the authority to keep the increase from going fully into effect, and I urge them to do so quickly.”
American Federation of Government Employees National President J. David Cox Sr. also called on Congress to pass emergency legislation to prevent the increases.
“Congress must act now to prevent a massive increase in Medicare Part B premiums for this group of retirees,” Cox said. “Although most seniors would be protected, this group will have to pay more solely because of the uniqueness of their pension system.”