Q: Did President Trump increase monthly payments to Social Security beneficiaries?
A: No. Trump had nothing to do with the automatic cost-of-living increases for 2017, which were announced by the Social Security Administration last October.
Is it true that Trump will increase Social Security for recipients? The average monthly payment will increase to $1,360 for single recipients and about $2,260 for married couples?
In January, the average monthly Social Security benefit increased to $1,360 for retired individuals and $2,260 for retired couples. That’s true.
But several conservative websites and blogs, while accurately reporting the amounts, have wrongly credited President Donald Trump with securing the increases.
Headlines such as “OUR PRESIDENT Just Announced EVERY Social Security Recipient Will Now Get THIS Much Monthly” are wrong. The Social Security Administration announced the changes for 2017 back in October, before Trump was elected president. The increase is an automatic cost-of-living adjustment.
Social Security Administration, Oct. 18, 2016: Monthly Social Security and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits for more than 65 million Americans will increase 0.3 percent in 2017, the Social Security Administration announced today.
The 0.3 percent cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) will begin with benefits payable to more than 60 million Social Security beneficiaries in January 2017. Increased payments to more than 8 million SSI beneficiaries will begin on December 30, 2016. The Social Security Act ties the annual COLA to the increase in the Consumer Price Index as determined by the Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Some other adjustments that take effect in January of each year are based on the increase in average wages. Based on that increase, the maximum amount of earnings subject to the Social Security tax (taxable maximum) will increase to $127,200 from $118,500. Of the estimated 173 million workers who will pay Social Security taxes in 2017, about 12 million will pay more because of the increase in the taxable maximum.
The press release included a fact sheet summarizing the changes, including increases in the earnings thresholds for working beneficiaries that haven’t reached full retirement age. Those with earnings above such thresholds receive reduced benefits.
Presidents haven’t had anything to do with Social Security cost-of-living adjustments since 1975, when the first automatic COLA took effect. Prior to that, a separate act of Congress was required to grant any adjustment to beneficiaries to compensate for inflation in the price of goods and services. Since the current system has been in operation, there have been only three years when there has been no COLA increase, which is determined by the percentage increase in the Consumer Price Index for Urban Wage Earners and Clerical Workers. In those three years, the CPI-W had declined, but the law stipulates that benefits can’t be reduced. So the COLA in those years was zero.
Trump has said he opposes making changes to Social Security, and he has said “the key to preserving Social Security … is to have an economy that is robust and growing.”
But the fact is the bump in this year’s Social Security payments was out of Trump’s hands.
Social Security Administration. “Social Security Announces 0.3 Percent Benefit Increase for 2017.” Press release. 18 Oct 2016.
Associated Press. “AP FACT CHECK: Trump no factor in Social Security increase.” 28 Mar 2017.
Usveteransblog.com. “SPECIAL REPORT: OUR PRESIDENT Just Announced EVERY Social Security Recipient Will Now Get THIS Much Monthly… .” Accessed 6 Apr 2017.
Conservativeshere.com. “Trump Announces That Social Security Recipients Will Get This Each Month.” 29 Mar 2017.
Jackson, Brooks. “Social Security COLA.” FactCheck.org. 23 Sep 2009.
Social Security Administration. Social Security Cost-Of-Living Adjustments. Accessed 6 Apr 2017.
AARP. “Trump & Clinton: Find Out Where They Stand On Social Security.” 27 Jun 2016.
CNN. “Transcript of Republican debate in Miami, full text.” CNNPolitics.com. 15 Mar 2016.