Portland, OR – Oregon’s Senator Jeff Merkley today met with seniors at the Hollywood Senior Center and announced that he will be introducing legislation in the Senate that will increase Social Security benefits for seniors by changing the cost of living adjustment (COLA) formula to keep up with inflation. Since seniors spend more of their income on healthcare, housing and heating fuel than the average household, the current formula fails to keep up with the actual costs seniors face. The Merkley bill would provide a fair benefit to seniors.
“It’s time that we stop talking about reducing Social Security benefits and instead focus on giving our seniors a raise,” said Merkley. “I hear too many stories in Oregon about seniors who are struggling to stay afloat on their Social Security benefits and have to make a choice between medication and heating their home. It is unacceptable to have an inflation formula that steadily erodes the purchasing power of Social Security benefits. Seniors deserve better.”
Senator Merkley sees Social Security and Medicare as a covenant with seniors. People work their whole lives with the understanding and expectation that they can rely on these programs when they retire. He has been a strong critic of a proposal circulating in Washington, DC to reduce the Social Security COLA for seniors by moving to a new formula called chained CPI. For more than half of our seniors, Social Security constitutes a majority of their income. For a third, it is nearly 90 percent of their income.
The legislation announced by Merkley would move the Social Security COLA to the Consumer Price Index-Elderly (CPI-E) formula, which is designed to account for the unique spending patterns of seniors.
Currently the Social Security COLA is calculated by the Consumer Price Index for Urban Wage Earners and Clerical Workers (CPI-W) formula. Senator Merkley’s legislation would change the way that the Social Security COLA is calculated by replacing the CPI-W with the CPI-E formula.