In recent months, many VERIFY readers have reached out to the team with questions about potential changes to Social Security benefits in 2023.
Social Security provides people with an income when they retire or can’t work due to disability. Those who are retired can typically start receiving their Social Security benefits as early as age 62.
VERIFY already fact-checked one claim, and confirmed that Social Security’s annual cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) is expected to be higher than average in 2023 due to inflation.
But could another increase in benefits be on the way? Edward reached out to the team to ask if a bill would give Social Security recipients an extra $2,400 per year.
Would a bill give Social Security recipients an extra $2,400 per year in benefits?
Yes, a bill would give Social Security recipients an extra $2,400 per year in benefits. The bill has been introduced in both the House and Senate, but an expert told VERIFY it’s unlikely to pass in 2022.
WHAT WE FOUND
Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.) and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) introduced the Social Security Expansion Act in both the House and Senate on June 9, 2022. The bill has been referred to various committees in the House and Senate for discussion, but Congress hasn’t taken further action yet.
Mary Johnson, the Senior Citizens League’s Social Security and Medicare policy analyst, told VERIFY that this type of legislation “would be difficult to pass before the end of the year, and in a Congress as divided as this one.”
Social Security legislation requires a supermajority of 60 senators to pass the Senate, Johnson added.
When the 117th Congress officially ends on Jan. 3, 2023, members of the next Congress would need to reintroduce any legislation that hasn’t been passed yet.
One of the provisions included in the Social Security Expansion Act is a $200 monthly increase in Social Security benefits for new and existing recipients, separate from the annual cost-of-living adjustment (COLA), according to a fact sheet on the bill. That means recipients would see an extra $2,400 per year on average.
The legislation as currently written would apply this increase to people who receive retirement, disability and survivor Social Security benefits, but not those who receive Supplemental Security Income (SSI), Johnson said. SSI is a needs-based program for people with limited income and resources.
Johnson explained that Social Security would use a “more generous benefit formula” to provide the extra $200. The Social Security Administration (SSA) typically computes benefits by averaging up to 35 years of a worker’s earnings while taking inflation into account.
The bill would also make other changes to Social Security, including an increase to annual COLAs by adopting a new tool to measure inflation called the Consumer Price Index for the Elderly (CPI-E).
COLAs are currently calculated based on the percentage increase in the Consumer Price Index for Urban Wage Earners and Clerical Workers (CPI-W), an inflation gauge measured by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).
If the CPI-E were adopted, it would more heavily weigh the “disproportionate amount” of money seniors spend on things such as health care and prescription drugs, lawmakers say.
“Currently the CPI-E is a research tool only, that was developed from assumptions about the buying patterns of older Americans from another consumer price index — the Consumer Price Index for all Urban Consumers (CPI-U),” Johnson wrote in an email to VERIFY.
The CPI-E will “need more senior specific data than it has now” in order to more accurately calculate the COLA, Johnson added.
Johnson said that, even if this legislation doesn’t pass, proponents of the bill believe it could still influence debate on the campaign trail.
“This sort of legislation takes a lot of work to get passed, and a lot of contact with Members of Congress from those close to retirement, seniors and their families,” she said.