The Senior Citizens League (TSCL) — a nonpartisan seniors group — delivered letters last week to all members of Congress asking them cosponsor the bipartisan CPI-E Act (HR 1251). If passed, the bill would base the annual cost-of -living (COLA) adjustment for benefits under the Civil Service Retirement System (CSRS), the Federal Employees Retirement System (FERS), and Social Security on increases in the Consumer Price Index for the elderly (also known as CPI-E).
“The inflation index that is currently used – the Consumer Price Index for Urban Wage Earners (CPI-W) – fails to capture the inflation seniors experience because items like gasoline and electronics are given more weight than medical costs, prescription drugs, and housing expenses. The fastest growing cost for seniors – Medicare Part B premiums – is not accounted for at all in the CPI-W since young workers are not enrolled in Medicare,” wrote TSCL Chairman Art Cooper.
“If enacted,” Cooper continued, “the CPI-E Act (H.R. 1251) would go a long way in ensuring the retirement security older Americans have earned and deserve. I hope you will cosponsor this bipartisan bill, and I urge you and your colleagues to sign it into law before the end of this year.”
The CPI-E Act was originally introduced by Congressman John Garamendi (D-CA) in 2017 and had wide support of advocacy groups and labor organizations including the National Active and Retired Federal Employees Associations (NARFE).
“Our senior and disabled citizens rely on Social Security benefits for a large portion of their income, and it’s about time for Social Security benefits to reflect their lifestyles,” Rep. Garamendi said in a statement. “Using a Consumer Price Index that actually reflects how retirees spend their money – especially in health care – is a no-brainer that will increase benefits and make Social Security work better for the people it serves.”
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, from December 1982 through December 2011, the CPI-E rose at an annual average rate of 3.1 percent, compared with increases of 2.9 percent for both the CPI-U and CPI-W (see image below).
More information on the CPI-E can be found on the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ website here.
The TSCL also opened a petition Oct. 19 to appeal the 115th Congress to support a COLA increase by an average of of $70 a month, or $840 a year.