Rep. Barletta: Social Security COLA should reflect seniors' economic reality

Aug 31, 2011
Press Release

NANTICOKE– U.S. Representative Lou Barletta, PA-11, wants to make sure that senior citizens receive fair and adequate Social Security cost of living increases, so he’s co-sponsored legislation that changes the way the federal government calculates those increases.

The Social Security Cost of Living Adjustment (COLA) is based on a complex formula – using a version of the Consumer Price Index (CPI) – that looks at the prices of various goods. But the CPI that’s used mixes the cost of living incurred by younger Americans with the cost of living of senior citizens.

Rep. Barletta is working to change that.

“Senior citizens in the 11th District who rely on Social Security checks have had to get by on less and less, especially since they did not receive cost of living increases in the last two years. The reason they haven’t received increases is the flawed formula that mixes the cost of living of senior citizens with the cost of living of younger people. Seniors spend more on health care, for example, but the lower healthcare costs of younger people drive down the entire formula. Social Security is a program for senior citizens, so it only makes sense that the formula used to calculate the COLAs reflects the costs and economic realities of seniors,” Rep. Barletta said. “Seniors are paying more in their day-to-day lives, and they’re not getting the COLAs they deserve from Social Security. This isn’t fair to seniors, and it can be easily fixed.”

Rep. Barletta co-sponsors the CPI for Seniors Act of 2011 (H.R. 1086). This bill would change the CPI formula used to calculate the annual Social Security COLA by requiring the federal government to create and use a CPI formula that only examines senior citizens’ cost of living expenses. The current CPI used is the CPI-W; the formula as revised by law would use the new CPI-S.

Therefore, if the cost of living of senior citizens goes up, so would seniors’ Social Security payments.

“For years, seniors have had to cope with inadequate Social Security COLA increases. Washington failed to address this issue for too long, and senior citizens suffered. It’s time that the CPI formula accurately reflects the real-world conditions senior citizens endure each and every day,” Rep. Barletta said. “This change is long overdue.”