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Nearly Half of Senior Citizens Receiving Smaller Social Security Checks in 2011

New survey finds lack of COLA hurting seniors as over 60% see their expenses rise, Medicare premiums reduce checks

Feb. 3, 2011 - Forty-four percent of seniors are receiving lower Social Security checks this year compared to 2010, while even more are dealing with significantly higher expenses. The findings come from an annual survey of elderly Americans, released earlier today by The Senior Citizens League (TSCL), which claims to be one of the nation's largest nonpartisan senior citizens advocacy groups.

Of seniors receiving lower checks, one in four report receiving at least $50 less per month, and one in nine are receiving at least $100 less per month.


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At the same time, nearly two-thirds of seniors (61 percent) estimate their expenses have increased by at least $80 per month compared to last year.

Social Security checks are lower because many seniors have their Medicare Part D or Medicare Advantage premiums automatically deducted, and these premiums have increased in many cases. An annual Cost of Living Adjustment (COLA) typically offsets such premium increases, but seniors are not receiving a COLA for the second year in a row.

"The combination of lower benefits and higher expenses means many more seniors will have a hard time making ends meet this year," said Larry Hyland, chairman of The Senior Citizens League. "More of them will have to make very difficult choices and cut back on basic things such as health care and utilities."

Almost 70 percent of beneficiaries depend on Social Security for 50 percent or more of their income. Social Security is the sole source of income for 15 percent of beneficiaries.

TSCL supports emergency COLA legislation and opposes any deficit reduction proposals that would cut the COLA.

In a news release on December 29, 2010, the TSCL predicted financial problems ahead for older Americans:

“For the second year in a row, there's no annual cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) to boost Social Security benefits.  Rising Medicare premiums will shrink the Social Security benefits of an estimated 25 million seniors, says The Senior Citizens League (TSCL), one of the nation's largest nonpartisan seniors groups. 

"’If that isn't bad enough, when rising cost-sharing and coverage changes are added, some of the oldest and sickest seniors may find they need as much as half of their Social Security benefits just to cover healthcare costs in 2011,’ says TSCL Chairman, Larry Hyland. 

"’Seniors have to pay more, but they have less to do it with,’ Hyland says. ’And this could become our new norm in the near future,’ he notes.

“’Many seniors are still learning about some hefty new increases in their Part D or Medicare Advantage plans.  A host of changes to the plans will affect what seniors pay out-of-pocket in 2011.  "And for the unsuspecting who failed to check the cost details last year, the jump may be pretty big, including the loss of coverage for certain drugs and some extra benefits,’ says Hyland.”

SURVEY METHODOLOGY: TSCL says the survey was conducted through print and electronic surveys from December 13, 2010, through January 31, 2011. It had 1,253 Social Security recipients.

The Senior Citizens League claims 1.2 million supporters, and says it is one of the nation's largest nonpartisan seniors groups. Its mission is to promote and assist members and supporters, to educate and alert senior citizens about their rights and freedoms as U.S. Citizens, and to protect and defend the benefits senior citizens have earned and paid for. The Senior Citizens League also says it “is a proud affiliate” of The Retired Enlisted Association. Visit for more information.


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