April 17, 2024

New Gallego Bill Increases Social Security Benefits for Seniors

The Boosting Benefits and COLAs for Seniors Act ensures Arizona seniors receive benefits that keep up with inflation

WASHINGTONRep. Ruben Gallego (AZ-03) introduced the Boosting Benefits and COLAs for Seniors Act, legislation that changes the calculations for Social Security cost of living adjustments (COLAs) to more accurately reflect the costs incurred by Arizona seniors.

“Rising costs mean Arizona seniors on Social Security see the real value of their benefits decrease,” said Rep. Gallego. “My new bill puts more dollars in the pockets of Social Security recipients to pay their bills, get their medications, and pay for housing. It’s only right—Arizona’s seniors earned their Social Security benefits.”

“A monthly Social Security check is how most seniors make ends meet, we need it to pay our bills and pay for health co-pays and medications,” Roman Ulman, President of AFSCME Arizona Retirees Chapter 97 said. “The current annual cost-of-living-adjustment (COLA) formula does not account for the inflation seniors see in health care costs. It’s important that the COLA reflects how inflation impacts seniors so that we can pay our bills and our monthly Social Security checks stays strong.  Rep. Gallego’s bill would change that make sure the COLA keeps pace with the inflation seniors feel in their wallets.”

Each year, Social Security benefits are adjusted by the COLA formula. The COLA is based on the previous year's Consumer Price Index for Urban Wage Earners (CPI-W). CPI-W reflects Americans' everyday spending, including expenses like food, consumer goods, and housing.

Despite this, Social Security benefits have not kept up with costs, and older adults are left struggling to afford food, medications, clothing, and other necessities. The Consumer Price Index for Americans aged 62 or older (CPI-E) is another price index that reflects the actual costs incurred by older adults; for example, within CPI-E, medical expenses are weighted more heavily than they are in CPI-W.

Specifically, the Boosting Benefits and COLAs for Seniors Act would:

  • Direct the Social Security Administration (SSA) to adjust benefits based on CPI-E rather than CPI-W, if CPI-E would result in a larger increase in benefits;
  • Directs the Bureau of Labor Statistics to calculate and publish the CPI-E monthly.

The bill is endorsed by the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees; the Alliance for Retired Americans; and the AFL-CIO. Senator Bob Casey (D-PA) introduced the companion legislation in the Senate.

Rep. Gallego has a strong track record of supporting Arizona’s seniors. In March of this year, Rep. Gallego pushed the Social Security Administration Commission (SSA) for answers on why some Americans may have received significant fines from SSA without proper notification.

In December, Rep. Ruben Gallego (AZ-03) and Rep. Garret Graves (LA-06) introduced bipartisan legislation to limit the Social Security Administration’s (SSA) overpayment lookback period to ten years, protecting Arizona’s 1.4 million Social Security recipients from the undue burden of having to pay back lifesaving funds that may arise from errors on the part of SSA. He also previously sent a letter to the SSA calling for more clarity on SSA’s overpayment claw-back waiver process and how it could affect Arizona’s 1.4 million Social Security recipients.

Click here to read the bill.