Q & A

Ask Rusty – Why Don’t I Get Annual Cost of Living Adjustments (COLA)?

Dear Rusty: I get a NET amount of $210 from Social Security plus get an alimony check of $1,400. Other people I know get a COLA increase every year, but I was told I am not eligible? But no reason was given. Why am I not eligible? Signed: Struggling Senior

Dear Struggling Senior: Everyone who collects Social Security receives the annual Cost of Living Adjustment (COLA), so whoever told you that you aren’t eligible for a COLA increase was incorrect. However, keep in mind that COLA is applied to your gross Social Security payment, not your net payment. One thing which can happen, especially to those whose Social Security payment is small, is that an increase to the Medicare Part B premium may consume your COLA increase. Here’s an example of how that might occur: 

You say your NET Social Security amount is $210. Assuming you are enrolled in Medicare, your gross Social Security payment (before the Medicare Part B premium is deducted) is probably about $380. The COLA increase for 2022 was 5.9%, which would increase your gross Social Security payment from about $380 to about $402, an increase of about $22. However, the 2022 Medicare Part B premium also increased by nearly $22 and, since your Medicare premium is deducted from your Social Security benefit, your NET Social Security payment wouldn’t change. I suspect this is why you didn’t see the Cost of Living Adjustment in your Social Security payment – an increase to your Medicare Part B premium most likely offset all of your COLA increase. 

I know (and agree) this seems unfair, but inflation has also affected healthcare costs in general and Medicare premiums in particular, and a Medicare premium increase unfortunately offsets at least some of, and sometimes all of, the annual COLA received by all Social Security beneficiaries. I suspect the above, or some variation of it, is why you are not seeing a COLA increase in your net Social Security payment. Rest assured, however, that you ARE receiving an annual COLA increase to your gross Social Security amount – every recipient of Social Security receives each COLA increase granted.

Comments On This Topic

  1. Can anyone answer this question? Living in massachusetts I receive partial social security because i am a retired teacher but i put in enough quarters in the private sector before becoming a teacher . Do to the windfall effect i lose a portion of social security benefits. If I were to move to Florida would I then receive the full social security benefits?

    • Ronald:

      Thank you for contacting us. Unfortunately, the Windfall Elimination Provision (WEP) in Social Security is a federal-level rule, so the state where you reside makes no difference in the calculation process.

      Gerry Hafer, Social Security Advisor
      AMAC Foundation, Inc.
      CONFIDENTIALITY NOTICE: The contents of this message, including any attachments, are confidential and are intended solely for the use of the person or entity to whom the message was addressed. If you are not the intended recipient of this message, please be advised that any dissemination, distribution, forwarding, printing, copying, or use of the contents of this message, and any attached documentation, is strictly prohibited. If you received this message in error, please notify the sender. Please also permanently delete all copies of the original message and any attached documentation. The opinions and interpretations expressed in this message are the viewpoints of the message’s author, a trained advisor accredited under the National Social Security Advisors program of the National Social Security Association, LLC (NSSA). The author, the NSSA, and the AMAC Foundation are not affiliated with or endorsed by the United States Government, the Social Security Administration, or any other state government.

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