Before the 2016 election, Congressional lawmakers were said to be considering a measure, the Seniors and Veterans Emergency (SAVE) Act, to assist social security beneficiaries who were denied cost of living adjustments (COLA) in 2016. The one-time emergency payment, proposed by Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) and Charles Schumer (D-NY), would have provided $581 to recipients of retirement benefits and Supplemental Security Income (SSI).
Previously, retirement benefits were hiked a mere $5 per month from $1,355 to $1,3660. The SSI adjustment was even less, $2 per month, taking the maximum federal benefit to $735. While these adjustments were tied to the Consumer Price Index, lawmakers argued the increases were “woefully inadequate” and failed to help seniors on fixed incomes manage the costs of daily life.
Supplemental Security Income benefits are paid to individuals who are 65 or older, disabled or blind and whose income and financial resources are limited. While these benefits are means tested, SSI is not determined by the recipient’s work history, which is the case for retirement benefits. SSI beneficiaries may also be eligible for medical assistance through the Medicaid program to pay for hospital stays, doctor bills, prescriptions and other healthcare expenses. Lastly, separate supplemental benefits and food assistance are offered by a number of states to those who qualify.
A earlier version of the bill, was initially introduced by Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) who pushed for a 3.9 percent increase, tying it the typical raises that many business executives received in 2015. However, the measure did not make it to a floor vote. With the dust now settling from the election, it is unclear if lawmakers intend to re-introduce the legislation.
Such a move is not unprecedented, however, as lawmakers approved a similar measure in 2009 by giving Social Security recipients a one-time $250 payment. At the time, Democrats had a majority in both chambers. This proposal equates to the cost of three-months groceries for most seniors, and the additional $581 is also designed to defray out-of-pocket prescription costs.
At this juncture, the future of the SAVE Benefits Act is uncertain at best. Regardless of whether lawmakers reconsider the measure, obtaining SSI benefits and navigating the system can still be complicated. If you need assistance obtaining SSI or SSDI, you should speak to an experienced Social Security benefits attorney.