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Social Security Increase Due to Inflation, Not Presidential Action

A deleted tweet from the White House and remarks by President Joe Biden could leave the false impression that Biden’s policies have something to do with an increase in Social Security payments. But the increase is set by law and is linked to inflation.

In remarks in Florida on Nov. 1, Biden repeated a boast about Medicare Part B premiums decreasing next year “for the first time in more than a decade.” As we’ve explained, that’s true, but misleading. The $5.20-per-month drop next year follows a larger increase the prior year that was partly due to anticipated Alzheimer’s drug expenses, which ended up not happening.

The president then immediately turned to Social Security. “And on my watch, for the first time in 10 years, seniors are getting an increase in their Social Security checks,” he said. “So, checks are going to be up and Medicare payments are going to be down.”

It may not have been clear to the audience, but what Biden meant was that “for the first time in 10 years” Social Security payments would increase while Part B premiums would decrease. He has made that point before. On Oct. 13, for instance, he said of seniors: “For the first time in 10 years, their Social Security checks will go up while their Medicare premiums go down.”

But Social Security payments have gone up every year except one over the past decade. And those increases had nothing to do with presidential actions.

Social Security cost-of-living adjustments are tied to inflation, specifically the Department of Labor’s Consumer Price Index. The CPI usually goes up every year — though there have been a few years when the CPI was flat, and seniors didn’t get a Social Security increase. The last time that happened was in 2015.

This year, since inflation has gone up significantly, the Social Security cost-of-living adjustment also was robust: an 8.7% bump, the largest percentage increase since 1981. The COLA translates into an average increase of more than $140 per month for beneficiaries, starting with the January 2023 payment, the Social Security Administration explains.

The White House Twitter account attempted to make the same claim as Biden, but failed to include the Medicare part. “Seniors are getting the biggest increase in their Social Security checks in 10 years through President Biden’s leadership,” the White House tweeted on Nov. 1, later deleting the message.

As we just explained, the big bump has everything to do with inflation, not “Biden’s leadership.”

White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters in the Nov. 2 briefing that the message was taken down because “the tweet was not complete.”

“So in the past, we’ve pointed out that, for the first time in our — in over a decade, seniors’ Medicare premiums will — will decrease even as their Social Security checks increase. That’s a little bit of context that was not included.”

Of course, there’s even more context that the White House leaves out.

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