New bill seeks to expand Social Security benefits for seniors

Lawmakers in the U.S. House of Representatives and U.S. Senate are seeking to address the rising costs of living for U.S. seniors, primarily those living on fixed incomes, which would be accomplished by increasing monthly benefits and requiring the Social Security Administration (SSA) to use a different inflation-calculation formula.

The bill, known as the Boosting Benefits and COLAs for Seniors Act, is being spearheaded in the Senate by Bob Casey (D-Pa.), chairman of the Special Committee on Aging, and in the House by Ruben Gallego (D-Ariz.). So far, Gallego’s House version has not picked up any co-sponsors, while the Senate version is co-sponsored by four other Democrats and one of its independent members, Sen. Bernie Sanders (Vt.).

“For millions of older adults in Pennsylvania and across the Nation, Social Security is the promise of a safe and stable retirement,” Casey said in a statement. “As the costs of basic goods and services for seniors rise, we cannot allow that promise to be broken. The Boosting Benefits and COLAs for Seniors Act would help seniors contend with rising costs and ensure that Social Security remains a lifeline for all who need it.”

The bill would seek to change the standard by which COLA benefits are calculated, according to the text of the bill and an accompanying fact sheet circulated by the Senate’s Special Committee on Aging.

“Each year, Social Security benefits are adjusted by the Cost-of-Living Adjustment (COLA) formula,” the fact sheet explained. “The COLA is currently based on the Consumer Price Index for Urban Wage Earners (CPI-W) from the previous year. CPI-W is reflective of the everyday spending of Americans, and includes expenses like food, consumer goods, and housing, among others.”

Social Security benefits, however, have not kept pace with the rising cost of living for the majority of seniors who live on a fixed income, the lawmakers explained.

“The Consumer Price Index for Americans aged 62 or older (CPI-E) is another price index that is more reflective of the actual costs incurred by older adults; for example, within CPI-E, medical expenses are weighted more heavily than they are in CPI-W,” the fact sheet stated.

The bill seeks to direct the SSA to recalculate the cost-of-living adjustment based on CPI-E, should that standard yield higher benefits for U.S. seniors. It would also direct the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics to regularly calculate and publish the CPI-E on a monthly basis.

“Rising costs mean Arizona seniors on Social Security see the real value of their benefits decrease,” Gallego said in a statement. “My new bill puts more dollars in the pockets of Social Security recipients to pay their bills, get their medications and pay for housing.”

Gallego’s office acknowledges the long road to passage that such a bill faces in the House given the Republican majority, with another disruptive leadership challenge to Speaker Mike Johnson’s tenure expected in the coming days.

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