Social Security Benefits to Increase in 2012

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    NEWSLETTERS

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    Some 55 million Social Security recipients will get a 3.6 percent increase in benefits next year, their first raise since 2009, the government announced Wednesday.

    The increase, which starts in January, is tied to a measure of inflation released Wednesday morning.

    About 8 million people who receive Supplemental Security Income will also receive the 3.6 percent cost-of-living adjustment, or COLA, meaning the announcement will affect about one in five U.S. residents.

    There was no COLA in 2010 or 2011 because inflation was too low. Those were the first two years without a COLA since automatic increases were adopted in 1975.

    Monthly Social Security payments average $1,082, or about $13,000 a year. A 3.6 percent increase will amount to about $39 a month, or just over $467 a year, on average.

    Advocates for seniors said the raise will provide a much-needed boost to the millions of retirees and disabled people who have seen retirement accounts dwindle and home values drop during the economic downturn. Economists say the increase should provide a modest boost to consumer spending, which should help the economy.

    Still, many seniors feel like they have been falling behind.

    Nancy Altman, co-chair of the Strengthen Social Security Campaign, said she is pleased Social Security recipients will get a raise next year. But, she added, "The COLA is still not enough to keep up with health care costs."

    "Despite the absence of a Social Security COLA, over the last two years out-of-pocket health care costs rose 14.1 percent for seniors and those measured in 2008, said Polina Vlasenko, an economist at the American Institute for Economic Research, based in Great Barrington, Mass.