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Social Security COLA rises, but Congress needs to do more

Photo credit: Getty.
By Pete Levine ·

There’s good news for those collecting Social Security: the Social Security cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) will increase by 5.9% in 2022, according to the Social Security Administration.  

This would be the largest increase since 1982 (this year’s COLA adjustment was just 1.3%) and will affect 70 million Social Security recipients. The much-needed increase comes as inflation is rising.

The bad news? More needs to be done for struggling seniors who are facing sharp increases in prescription drug prices, health care and the costs of other goods that even the beefed-up COLA won’t help with.

“While retirees like me are happy to see an increase in the Social Security COLA, we need help in other areas,” said Jeff Birttnen, chair of the AFSCME Retiree Council and a member of the union’s International Executive Board. “From skyrocketing prescription drug prices to health care costs and more, we’re calling on lawmakers to protect seniors and the retirements we’ve worked so hard for.”

President Joe Biden’s Build Back Better agenda will give seniors desperate for relief from staggering prescription drug prices, as it will allow Medicare to negotiate for lower drug prices. AFSCME has also urged Congress to lower prescription drug costs not only for seniors but for everyone.

AFSCME President Lee Saunders said recently, “Big Pharma has monopoly power to set their own prices and keep jacking them up and gouging consumers any time they want. There is no enforceable law to stop them.”

Another potential solution to seniors’ woes comes in Biden’s infrastructure plan, which aims to help seniors by investing in and expanding access to much-needed caregivers. AFSCME is urging Congress to pass both proposals.

Finally, Congress also needs to repeal the Government Pension Offset (GPO) and the Windfall Elimination Provision (WEP) of the Social Security Act. Originally intended to adjust benefits for higher-income earners, the GPO and WEP formulas don’t consider a worker’s lifetime earnings, thereby harming low-income and middle-class retirees and their survivors and robbing retirees of their hard-earned retirement incomes.

While the Social Security COLA increase is a good step forward, Congress must clearly do more to ensure that struggling seniors don’t slip through the cracks.

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