WASHINGTON — The government is expected to announce this week that more than 58 million Social Security recipients will go through another year without an increase in their monthly benefits.
The cost-of-living adjustments, or COLAs, are automatically set each year by an inflation measure that was adopted by Congress in 1975. Based on inflation so far this year, the trustees who oversee Social Security project there will be no COLA for 2011. The projection will be made official Friday, when the Bureau of Labor Statistics releases inflation estimates for September.
Democrats have been working hard to make Social Security an election-year issue, running political ads and holding news conferences to accuse Republicans of plotting to privatize the national retirement program.
This week's announcement raises more immediate concerns for older Americans whose savings and home values haven't recovered from the financial collapse: Many haven't had a raise since January 2009, and they won't be getting one until at least January 2012.
Social Security was the primary source of income for 64 percent of retirees who got benefits in 2008, according to the Social Security Administration. A third relied on Social Security for at least 90 percent of their income. A little more than 58.7 million people receive Social Security or Supplemental Security Income. The average Social Security benefit is about $1,072 a month.
Social Security recipients got a one-time bonus payment of $250 in the spring of 2009 as part of the government's massive economic recovery package. President Barack Obama lobbied for another one last fall when it became clear seniors wouldn't get an increase in monthly benefit payments in 2010.
Congress took up the issue, but a proposal by Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., died when 12 Democrats and independent Sen. Joe Lieberman of Connecticut joined Senate Republicans to block it.