February 6, 2010 7:07:00 PM
This is in response to a letter from Raymond Gross that was published in "Voice of the People" on Friday, Jan. 29.
He states that President Obama froze the COLA (Cost of Living Adjustment) for (SS) Social Security beneficiaries for 2010 and 2011. This is not accurate, as the President has no control over the determination of the amount of the annual COLA. The COLA for SS beneficiaries is determined by a law that was passed several years ago by the Congress. This law establishes a formula by which the amount of the COLA is determined each year. For the 2010 COLA, this formula resulted in a negative COLA figure; however, the law does not provide for a negative COLA, so there was no COLA given this year. SS beneficiaries, as well as military and civil retirees of the Federal Government therefore did not receive a COLA. The COLA amount, if any, for the 2011 year will not be determined until the fourth quarter of 2010.
He also states that the Democratic majority in the Senate and House voted themselves a COLA increase. This too is inaccurate. First of all, the Congress does not get a COLA, they get a RAISE. However, they only get a raise if a raise for civil servants is passed as part of the appropriations process. The only way Congress can not receive a raise if the Civil Service employees receive one is to vote NOT to receive the raise themselves. Civil Service employees did get a raise this year, though it was a small one. Congress got the same raise only because they did not vote to opt out of the raise.
Finally, the comment that Medicare premiums increased for each SS beneficiary is not true. The Medicare part B premium did NOT increase for SS beneficiaries, because the law provides that there will be no increase in part B premiums when there is no SS COLA. Medicare part D premiums did increase, but that was because the insurance companies that run the part D prescription drug program chose to raise them.
Noel Sumrall, Columbus