Closely watched COLA announcement to be delayed

Retirees will have to wait a little longer to learn the size of their upcoming inflation adjustments.

Cost of living adjustments in Social Security, federal retirement, military retirement and certain other programs are linked to an inflation figure that the Labor Department was to release Wednesday. However, that figure along with certain others will be delayed because of the partial government shutdown; they have not been rescheduled.

Since the adjustments won’t actually be paid until January, a delay in the announcement might not impact the actual payments. But retirees “will absolutely notice,” said Jessica Klement, legislative director of the National Active and Retired Federal Employees Association.

“NARFE members wait with bated breath for this annual announcement,” she said in an e-mail. “We’ve already gotten questions as to what we think the COLA will be. We’ve had folks complain that we didn’t post it [online] fast enough in the past.”

AARP senior vice president for government affairs Joyce Rogers said in an e-mail that “Our members are worried that the benefits they have earned may be cut as part of a deal to reduce the deficit, fund government operations or increase the debt ceiling, and the lack of a COLA announcement could add to their increasing worries that, if there is no agreement soon, they may not receive their Social Security checks and may lose access to their health care.”

The COLA is based on the average change in a Consumer Price Index measure from the third quarter of one calendar year to the next. The figure covering September and announced in October finalizes the count.

Based on the first 11 months of the measuring period, the adjustment likely will fall in the 1-2 percent range, about in line with the 1.7 percent COLA paid  in those programs in January of this year.

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