“It’s squeezing them. It’s causing them to dip into savings more quickly,” said Mary Johnson of The Senior Citizens League. “The lifetime income that they were counting on just isn’t there.”  The average monthly Social Security payment is $1,258, or about $15,000 a year.  Congress enacted automatic annual increases for Social Security in 1975. Presidents often get blamed when increases are small or zero. But President Donald Trump has no power to boost the increase, unless he persuades Congress to change the law.

In 2009, President Barack Obama persuaded Congress to approve one-time payments of $250 to Social Security recipients as part of an economic stimulus package.  Over the past eight years, the annual COLA has averaged just above 1 percent. In the previous decade, it averaged 3 percent.  Johnson noted that multiple years of small or no COLA’s reduces the income of retirees for the rest of their lives.

The COLA is calculated using the average CPI-W for July, August and September, and comparing it to the same three months from the previous year.