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What is COLA?
The Federal government has provided a modest increase to veterans and social security recipients over the years to keep up with the cost of inflation, medical expenses and the general expectation that the cost of living continues to increase. The amount of the cost of living allowance (COLA) has varied over the years, but it has typically ranged from 2% - 3%, with 2009 being the exception and recipients receiving one of the largest increases in the history of COLA. The amount was 5.8 % and for the average recipient it meant having some breathing room to maintain the skyrocketing cost of goods and services everyone depends on. Namely these goods and services are utilities, fuel and groceries.
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Determination For 2011 COLA
The Bureau of Labor Statistics made the recommendation to eliminate increases on COLA for 2010 and 2011 based on the Consumer Price Index report. The claim was that based on the specific criteria they look at, prices had not risen to the point that a Cost Of Living Allowance increase was merited, therefore there is no increase in SS incomes or VA for 2011. Veterans benefits are tied to the Social Security Administration and follow the same procedures and adjustments. Veterans, retirees, disabled, and surviving spouses and dependents are all affected by this lack of COLA increase since they receive adjustments to their benefits at the same rate.
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Will There Be a $250 Stimulus Check?
While there was no COLA increase in 2010, President Obama requested to issue a one-time $250 check to Social Security and Veteran recipients. This stimulus check was exclusive to primary recipients and not to their dependents. There was much expectation and speculation that similar relief would be forthcoming in 2011, but thus far, these are unsubstantiated expectations, since the political climate has replaced the leadership in the House and The Seniors Protection Act of 2010 is unlikely to be invoked on to the House floor in November to give similar relief in 2011 to seniors, disabled individuals and veterans. Unfortunately, this issue has not been brought back up since the Republican leadership keeps advocating to cut Social Security expenses through a method of privatization and voucher programs for the elderly and disabled. For those hoping for some relief from $4 a gallon gas prices and rising utility and food costs, it might still be possible that in spite of the current political climate, a similar check will be issued this year through advocacy by organizations who serve the elderly, disabled and veterans. For updates on this issue, visit the Social Security Administration website periodically.
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Social Security Administration: http://www.ssa.gov/pressoffice/pr/2011cola-pr.htm
Department of Veterans Affairs: http://www1.va.gov/opa/pressrel/pressrelease.cfm?id=2027
Photo: Social Security Administration [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons