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Social Security benefits to see biggest boost in four decades

Monthly payments to retirees will rise 8.7 percent in January as inflation continues to bite

The Social Security Administration announced that recipients will receive a historically large cost-of-living adjustment to cope with inflation.
The Social Security Administration announced that recipients will receive a historically large cost-of-living adjustment to cope with inflation. (Photo illustration by Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images)

Tens of millions of retirees and disabled workers will see their monthly benefits rise by 8.7 percent in 2023 to help combat rampant inflation, the Social Security Administration announced Thursday.

It’ll be the highest cost-of-living adjustment for Social Security beneficiaries since the last period of sustained inflation in 1981, according to agency records.

Starting in January, the big COLA amounts to an average of $146 extra per month above this year’s payments for more than 65 million retirees, survivors and disabled workers. An additional 7 million beneficiaries of Supplemental Security Income benefits for low-income elderly, blind or disabled adults and children will also see the 8.7 percent increase.

Inflation rose 8.2 percent over the year ending in September, the Bureau of Labor Statistics announced Thursday.

While that’s a slight decrease in inflation from recent months, the consumer price index is still hovering near 40-year highs. The annual Social Security increase is tied to a related statistic, the consumer price index for urban wage earners and clerical workers, which rose at a slightly faster clip of 8.5 percent over the past year.

The Biden administration celebrated the generous benefits boost, which had been expected based on recent inflation figures, even before Thursday’s official announcement.

White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said in a Wednesday statement that the increase in Social Security checks will be paired with a decrease in seniors’ Medicare premiums for the first time in over a decade.

“This means that seniors will have a chance to get ahead of inflation, due to the rare combination of rising benefits and falling premiums,” she said. “We will put more money in their pockets and provide them with a little extra breathing room.”

Congressional Republicans, on the other hand, seized on the high rates of inflation. Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wyo., the chairman of the Senate Republican Conference, charged in a statement that Democrats are responsible for the high prices.

“Too many Americans are living the nightmare of having to choose between buying gas they can’t afford, buying groceries they can’t afford, and paying energy bills they can’t afford,” Barrasso said. “Families are struggling under the Democrats’ radical agenda.”

The maximum amount of earnings subject to Social Security tax is also increasing in January from $147,000 to $160,200, based on the increase in average wages.

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