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COLA changes could impact disability rights

When confronting the "fiscal cliff," lawmakers must consider the impact certain changes could have on individuals who collect Social Security disability. A technical calculation change to the cost-of-living-adjustment, also known as "COLA," could result in lost benefits to the most vulnerable Americans living in Los Angeles, California and nationwide. Advocates for veterans, seniors, and low-income families of disability have joined together to oppose a government-wide switch to the chained Consumer Price Index (CPI).

CPI is an inflation measurement used to adjust benefits to Social Security, SSI and veterans' disability, among other programs. When inflation rises, the government uses the CPI to provide the cost-of-living-adjustment necessary to provide basic living requirements to 56 million Americans who benefit from Social Security disability. A change in how CPI is calculated could potentially mean a significant loss for those dependent on benefits.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics looks at 8 different categories of spending, including food, housing, clothing, medical care, education, communication, as well as other necessary goods and services. The substitution effect for the chained CPI means that if the price of a good or service goes up, people will substitute a cheaper produce. This could produce inaccuracies that make keeping up with daily expenses a serious hardship. This is especially true in healthcare, where inflation is high and necessities are difficult to substitute.

Every year this could mean a greater difference in benefits for recipients. A beneficiary could potentially lose a full month's worth of benefits after 30 years. Over time, this could impact the financial security and well-being of recipients, including the loss of basic needs, including food, medicine or shelter.

Advocates believe that the chained CPI would fail to provide the necessary security over time. If you or someone you love is in need of benefits, it is important to consult with an experienced attorney who can protect your rights.

Source: Huffington Post, "Donna Meltzer: The Chained Consumer Price Index Would Hurt People With Disabilities," Donna Meltzer, Dec. 11, 2012

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