The Cost of Living Adjustment, also known as the COLA, is an important factor in determining what benefits people receive when they get Social Security disability benefits. However, not many people understand what the COLA is, or why it might be important to them. So what is the COLA, and how does it affect people receiving Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI)?
What is the COLA?
The Cost of Living Adjustment is, as the name suggests, an adjustment that is made to SSDI and SSI payments every year to compensate for changes in the cost of living. This is meant to accommodate for things like inflation, increases in the cost of goods, increases in the cost of rent, and other economic changes. That way, SSDI and SSI payments will always remain in step with the cost of living, which tends to go up over time.
What Determines the COLA?
Fortunately, the COLA is not decided by Congress, nor is it adjusted via administrative procedure. Instead, it is made automatically every year in accordance with increases in the Consumer Price Index for Urban Wage Earners and Clerical Workers (CPI-W). As the CPI-W goes up, so does the COLA, which in turn increases the amount of benefits that SSDI and SSI recipients get.
How Does This Affect SSDI and SSI Recipients?
For people who receive SSDI and SSI as a result of being unable to engage in gainful employment, the COLA is a guarantee that their benefits will go up to match increases in prices. That way, they do not need to worry that Congress will not keep their benefits going up in accordance with increased living expenses, making it easier to survive on their disability benefits. In more general terms, it also means that SSDI and SSI recipients will typically see their benefits go up year after year, as a result of the rising cost of living.
What if I Do Not See Changes Due to the COLA?
While the COLA is supposed to be applied automatically at the beginning of every year, some recipients might not see this increase right away. In some cases, a person’s SSDI or SSI payments might remain stagnant, with the Social Security Administration failing to properly apply the COLA to their benefits. If this happens, you may need to seek help from a lawyer with experience handling disability benefits claims, who can help you get the benefits you are legally entitled to.
If you or a loved one need assistance applying for SSDI or SSI benefits, it is important that you seek the guidance of an experienced Social Security Disability benefits lawyer. The lawyers at Sullivan & Kehoe, LLP have over 50 years of combined experience between its attorneys and are available to you or your loved one in obtaining Social Security Disability or Supplemental Security Income benefits. To schedule a consultation with our New York Social Security Disability benefits lawyers, call (631) 823-7155.