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Minimal increase in SSI benefits announced

The Social Security Administration will announce a minimal hike in Social Security benefits for the upcoming year, a move that will affect New Jersey residents receiving Supplemental Security Income as well as other Social Security disability payments. Although this is better than no increase at all, as was the case last year, it has left some recipients worried about continuing to be able to make ends meet.

This increase does not mark an about face of government thinking toward Social Security spending. Instead, it is coming about automatically as a cost-of-living adjustment, or COLA. The idea is that as prices increase over time due to normal inflation, benefits should also increase. However, according to the established government formula used to figure a COLA, the increase should only be less than 1 percent this year. It is quite possible that, for many recipients, there will be no net increase due to additional deductions for the government's Medicare program.

While in one sense, it is good that the law accounts for the economic reality of inflation, in another sense, automatic increases can lull federal officials and the voting public in to thinking that people are getting the same benefit year after year since inflation is, theoretically, accounted for.

The reality is, however, that not getting substantial increases could profoundly affect a disabled person's ability to plan for even a modest retirement.

Of course, how much a disabled person can collect either via SSI or SSDI benefits is largely a political question. The first step for anyone to get any disability benefit at all is to establish that he or she is entitled to it. This step in and of itself can be involve a difficult and lengthy legal process.

Source: U.S. News & World Report, "Social Security benefits increase, slightly," Stephen Ohlemacher, Oct. 18, 2016.

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