However, this year, with the rising costs of Medicare and Inflation, the first Cost of Living (COLA) increase since 2009 has been approved by the Social Security Administration – at 3.6% of monthly benefits. The increase in Medicare premium cuts will amount to approximately $3.50 in additional deductions (or 10% of the COLA increase) (Globe) – How much does politics factor into this - again, the Globe notes that
“It could be good, too, for President Barack Obama and Democrats struggling for older Americans' votes in a close election.”
Senior Citizens currently receiving benefits, are already concerned with the rising costs of food and fuel (which is not factored into the rate of inflation released by the Depart of Labor Statistics, which figure is used by the Social Security Administration as the basis for the percentage of COLA increase, an increase in Medicare Premiums, food and fuel, basically negates the 3.6% increase. For example, a widow earning Social Security Benefits of $600 per month will see an increase of $21.60, as Social Security Benefits are not immune to Federal Taxes, (see article here on elderlawanswers.com:” Although Social Security retirement benefits are generally not taxable, people with substantial income in addition to their Social Security payments may pay taxes on their benefits. If you file a federal tax return as an individual and your "combined income," -- calculated by adding one-half of your Social Security benefit to other income, including nontaxable interest income -- is between $25,000 and $34,000, 50 percent of your benefits will be considered taxable. If your combined income is above $34,000, 85 percent of your benefits are subject to income tax. If you file a joint return and you and your spouse have a combined income between $32,000 and $44,000, 50 percent of your benefits will be subject to tax. If your combined income is more than $44,000, 85 percent of your benefits are subject to income tax.”)
Therefore, a couple who has retired or has been forced to retire, with an income of $44,000 per year (before taxes) that consists of social security, are subject to a 50% tax on benefits, which, is a real eye opener – the highest payment to social security recipients is capped at $2366 (2011), therefore, assuming that an individual receives $28,392 in SSI Benefits, (and is the sole provider of income for a couple) retirement benefits (and is the sole provider of income for a couple (not unusual for those over 65 at present) should they have an additional annuity or pension that equals roughly $15000 annually, the net result is a $14,196 tax, leaving that couple with $24,000 annually – Out of those “wages”, there are state and local income and real estate taxes, should they own a home – cutting further into available funds for luxury items such as food, heating oil and co-pays to medical groups, as well as insurance premiums should the couple own a car, have life or long term care insurance.
The current system does nothing to help SS recipients (specifically retirees) – it does give them additional income, but constrains them in that income received, and if they go over due to an additional retirement plan and or part time job, they are taxed back to the Stone Age.
Who is eligible for Social Security Benefits? Retirees and those who are considered “Disabled” by the SSI administration are eligible for a range of benefits. Disabilities maybe something serious, granted, but others who are eligible for benefits include groups such as: children and young adults with ADHD. In addition, Medicaid, which is a sister program, is available to immigrants, especially if they lack English Language skills.
Therefore, the program should be specifically for those who have paid in, for retirement programs and separated from other “giveaway” programs. In addition, seniors should not be penalized for earning a wage that is at middle class, by forcing them to the poverty level.
Is it no wonder the system is broke – and it is a sham on the nation that politician’s use this most important lifeline (what there is of it), to sway a vote on those, who for the most part, are living day to day on what’s left of their Social Security Check, while delivering nothing, changing nothing, and using those monies to fund programs outside the scope of “retirement”.