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COLA for Social Security Disability Beneficiaries. Is It Enough?

People receiving benefits from Social Security Disability (SSD), Supplemental Security Income (SSI), and Social Security retirement will see a slight increase in their payments in 2014. Known as a Cost of Living Adjustment (COLA), the increase will be 1.5 percent. But is that enough?

Since 1975, cost-of-living adjustments to SSD, SSI and retirement benefits have been linked by law to the rate of inflation. More than 58 million people who receive one of these benefits will be affected. A disabled blogger in the St. Louis area recently posted a blog about the practical consequences of such a small increase to those living with disabilities and unable to work.

The blogger has been receiving SSI benefits since the age of 12, when her father died, and has had personal experience with living on the limited amount provided. She points out that beneficiaries of SSI and SSD usually have extraordinary expenses because of their disabilities. Medicaid and Medicare do not cover everything, and paying for the uncovered cost of medications and specialized equipment such as motorized wheelchairs must come from somewhere - usually from the individuals' SSD or SSI benefit payments.

When you add these disability-related expenses to the cost of food, rent and other expenses of daily living, a 1.5 percent increase seems very small. How is the increase amount calculated? It is based on a Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) measurement that averages how much Americans pay for things such as food, rent and electricity. However, using that number to calculate expenses for the disabled isn't accurate, according to the St. Louis blogger. Disabled people have extra costs related to their disabilities - costs that are not fully included in the BLS calculations because the majority of Americans do not have such expenses.

A higher COLA could remove some of the stress experienced by people who struggle to make ends meet every month and who have to decide every day about the treatment, medicines and equipment they can afford. Many go without needed drugs, equipment and personal care items every month because they cannot afford them. Others eat less than they should in order to make up the difference, putting themselves at risk for nutrition-related complications - complications that could ultimately increase their expenses.

At Binder & Binder®, we can't change the amount of the COLA, but we can work hard to help the you obtain the full SSD or SSI benefits they need and deserve. If you have applied for benefits and have been turned down, we can help. As America's most successful Social Security Disability advocates, we know how to structure and document your case. Call us from anywhere in the United States and learn what we can do.

Source: St. Louis Post-Dispatch, "Higher increases for Social Security are much-needed," Jan. 2, 2014.

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