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Q&A: No Social Security raises foreseen

Social Security and cost of living

Who is responsible for the no-cost-of-living-raises decision for the next two years for Social Security recipients?

Social Security cost-of-living raises are determined by the trustees of the system based on information provided by the Social Security Administration actuaries, which is pegged to the rate of inflation as measured by the Consumer Price Index.

There are seven trustees: secretary of the Department of the Treasury (Timothy Geithner), secretary of the Department of Labor (Hilda Solis), secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services (Kathleen Sebelius), commissioner of the Social Security Administration (Michael Astrue), the deputy commissioner of the Social Security Administration (Jason Fichtner) and two trustees from outside the government (both these seats have been vacant since 2008).

What the trustees said earlier this year was that they didn't forecast cost-of-living increases in 2010 and 2011 based on projected CPI numbers. Inflation is down because of lower energy costs, although health care costs continue to rise. By law, Social Security benefits cannot go down, but they do not have to go up, either.

But the actual decision about a cost-of-living raise for 2010 won't be made until later this month, and any decision about 2011 will come in October 2010.

Two bills have been filed in Congress that would require Social Security recipients to get a raise next year regardless of what inflation is:

• Rep. Walter Jones, a Republican from North Carolina, wants a raise based on the average of the past 10 cost-of-living adjustments, which would amount to about 3 percent.

• Sen. Bernie Sanders, an independent from Vermont, and Rep. Peter DeFazio, a Democrat from Oregon, propose an extra one-time payment of $250.

Elderly in H1N1 low-risk groups

I would like to know who made the decision that the elderly are not eligible for the swine flu vaccination and what is the reasoning?

The decision that healthy people over 65 would be the last eligible for the swine flu vaccine was made by the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices, which is composed of medical experts and advises the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Healthy individuals older than 65 are least likely to contract swine flu, according to the committee. The New York Times reported that data from the CDC showed that half of the cases occur in those ages 5 to 24 compared with seasonal flu, which typically afflicts a greater number of elderly individuals.

Correction

The NCAA men's basketball tournament will be held in Tampa on March 17 and 19, 2011. An incorrect month was reported in Monday's column.

Q&A: No Social Security raises foreseen 10/05/09 [Last modified: Monday, October 5, 2009 6:01pm]
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