Monday, October 28, 2013

Your Shrinking Social Security Check After the Government Shutdown

government shutdown

Millions of Americans, who have inadequate or no income, rely on monthly Social Security payments to pay for their basic living needs.  When the government faced a shutdown, earlier in October, new applicants faced the reality of a delayed process.  According to a Providence Social Security Disability Attorney, more than half of all Social Security cases are denied due to a tough application process.  With the government shutdown, many hopeful applicants, in desperate need of assistance, feared that they may never receive the assistance when they needed it.  However, prospective applicants were not the only ones worrying about the fate of Social Security.  Active recipients of government benefits worried that their assistance would be delayed while the government fought to come to an agreement on federal spending.  Fortunately, Americans who receive Social Security continued to receive their month checks on time.  With the shutdown over, many questions are still left unanswered, including the amount of next year’s Social Security.

What’s in the Future for Social Security?
On October 16, a day before the government resumed normal function, Social Security was slated to reveal the cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) for 2014, but recipients are still left waiting for an exact amount of increase.  Over the last couple of years, the increase has been small, barely budging an already small (and for some a barely liveable) payment.  According to an analysis by the AP, preliminary figures suggest next year’s benefit will increase about 1.5 percent.  Currently, approximately 58 million retirees, disabled workers, spouses, and children receive an average monthly Social Security payment of $1,162.  The small, estimated increase would only raise the payment of about $17.

Can One Live Off of Social Security?
According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the 2013 Poverty Guidelines for a household of one is $11, 490.  A year of Social Security payments just barely rises above the federal individual poverty line.  Seniors, in particular, feel the stress of living check to check, throwing out the idea of having any “luxuries”.  Depending on living situations and other needs, there may be little to no money left at the end of the month.  Many recipients can’t even afford to pay for yearly “essentials” such as vehicle tabs, license renewals, or other state required updates, not to mention any sort of emergency fund for things like car repairs.

What Does the Future Hold?

While Social Security recipients continued to receive their payments during the partial government shutdown and their payments should continue to arrive without delay, it’s difficult to say what is in store for the new year and years to come.  Will the COLA continue to make small increases or with the government facing ongoing debt, will Social Security benefits completely plummet, leaving recipients without money or a roof over their heads?  While the government was able to get back into “working order”, will they ever be able to increase benefits to help recipients live more comfortably?  


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