Fed retirees to receive highest COLA in decades—but some will get less than others

The COLA will be one percentage point lower for federal employees in the newer retirement system.

The COLA will be one percentage point lower for federal employees in the newer retirement system. Catherine McQueen / Getty Images

CSRS enrollees will see an 8.7% increase in their defined benefit pension payments in 2023, while those in FERS will get only 7.7%.

For the second year in a row, federal retirees will see the largest annual increase in benefits payments in decades, as the Social Security Administration announced Thursday that the annual Social Security cost-of-living adjustment for 2023 will be 8.7%. Not all federal retirees will get the full 8.7%, however, prompting renewed calls for parity between the federal government’s retirement systems.

Social Security cost-of-living increases are calculated based on the annual change in the third quarter consumer price index for workers. The Civil Service Retirement System also calculates enrollees’ annual annuity increases on that basis, meaning retirees enrolled in CSRS will see an 8.7% increase to their annuity payments in 2023, the largest COLA since 1981.

Last year, Social Security and CSRS annuitants received a 5.9% cost of living adjustment, which marked the largest increase since 1982.

But former federal workers who are enrolled in the newer Federal Employees Retirement System, which came into being along with the 401(k)-style Thrift Savings Plan, will only receive a 7.7% increase in their annuities.

That’s because FERS operates on an extrapolation of the Social Security and CSRS cost-of-living adjustment. Each year, if CSRS sees an increase of under 2%, FERS retirees receive the full COLA. If the adjustment is between 2% and 3%, FERS enrollees only receive a 2% increase. And if the CSRS COLA is 3% or more, FERS retirees receive the Social Security and CSRS COLA, minus 1 percentage point.

The formula reducing the annual increase in defined benefit payments for FERS participants has been a pain point for organizations representing federal workers and retirees. Earlier this year, Sen. Alex Padilla, D-Calif., introduced legislation that would standardize the annual cost-of-living adjustments that federal retirees receive across both retirement systems.

“While CSRS annuities and Social Security benefits will be going up 8.7%, the January 2023 COLA unfortunately will be 7.7% for those who retired under the Federal Employees Retirement System,” said Ken Thomas, national president of the National Active and Retired Federal Employees Association. “This inequitable policy, enacted in the 1980s with the creation of FERS, fails to fully protect the earned value of FERS annuities, which decrease in value year after year—exactly what COLAs are intended to prevent.”

Thomas also renewed his organization’s call for the government to shift the economic metric used to calculate the annual increase in retirement annuities to one that more closely aligns with the spending of retirees: the consumer price index for the elderly. During the 2020 presidential campaign, President Biden endorsed this idea, although thus far, it has not come to fruition.

“Seniors spend more on health care than any other segment of the population, and those who enroll in Federal Employees Health Benefits plans for 2023 will see an average increase of 8.7% in their share of premiums, the biggest jump since 2011,” Thomas said. “For years, NARFE has urged Congress to address the inequity of COLAs that don’t keep up with rising health care costs by passing legislation requiring the [Bureau of Labor Standards] to calculate COLAs based on the consumer price index for the elderly (CPI-E) instead of the consumer price index for workers (CPI-W).”

This article was published first on GovExec, a FederalSoup partner site ("Federal Retirees Are Set to Receive the Highest COLA in Decades, But Some Will Get Less Than Others.") 

NEXT STORY: Big COLA boost for retirees

X
This website uses cookies to enhance user experience and to analyze performance and traffic on our website. We also share information about your use of our site with our social media, advertising and analytics partners. Learn More / Do Not Sell My Personal Information
Accept Cookies
X
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Do Not Sell My Personal Information

When you visit our website, we store cookies on your browser to collect information. The information collected might relate to you, your preferences or your device, and is mostly used to make the site work as you expect it to and to provide a more personalized web experience. However, you can choose not to allow certain types of cookies, which may impact your experience of the site and the services we are able to offer. Click on the different category headings to find out more and change our default settings according to your preference. You cannot opt-out of our First Party Strictly Necessary Cookies as they are deployed in order to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting the cookie banner and remembering your settings, to log into your account, to redirect you when you log out, etc.). For more information about the First and Third Party Cookies used please follow this link.

Allow All Cookies

Manage Consent Preferences

Strictly Necessary Cookies - Always Active

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data, Targeting & Social Media Cookies

Under the California Consumer Privacy Act, you have the right to opt-out of the sale of your personal information to third parties. These cookies collect information for analytics and to personalize your experience with targeted ads. You may exercise your right to opt out of the sale of personal information by using this toggle switch. If you opt out we will not be able to offer you personalised ads and will not hand over your personal information to any third parties. Additionally, you may contact our legal department for further clarification about your rights as a California consumer by using this Exercise My Rights link

If you have enabled privacy controls on your browser (such as a plugin), we have to take that as a valid request to opt-out. Therefore we would not be able to track your activity through the web. This may affect our ability to personalize ads according to your preferences.

Targeting cookies may be set through our site by our advertising partners. They may be used by those companies to build a profile of your interests and show you relevant adverts on other sites. They do not store directly personal information, but are based on uniquely identifying your browser and internet device. If you do not allow these cookies, you will experience less targeted advertising.

Social media cookies are set by a range of social media services that we have added to the site to enable you to share our content with your friends and networks. They are capable of tracking your browser across other sites and building up a profile of your interests. This may impact the content and messages you see on other websites you visit. If you do not allow these cookies you may not be able to use or see these sharing tools.

If you want to opt out of all of our lead reports and lists, please submit a privacy request at our Do Not Sell page.

Save Settings
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Cookie List

A cookie is a small piece of data (text file) that a website – when visited by a user – asks your browser to store on your device in order to remember information about you, such as your language preference or login information. Those cookies are set by us and called first-party cookies. We also use third-party cookies – which are cookies from a domain different than the domain of the website you are visiting – for our advertising and marketing efforts. More specifically, we use cookies and other tracking technologies for the following purposes:

Strictly Necessary Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Functional Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Performance Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Social Media Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Targeting Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.