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What is a COLA?


Our readers who are familiar with Social Security and benefits including Social Security Disability and Supplemental Security Income may have heard of a "COLA" and a "COLA increase." But, some may wonder what COLA refers to. So, what is COLA?

COLA refers to the cost of living allowance that provides an income increase that takes into account the increase in the cost of living. COLA is useful when incomes are fixed, but it applies in other contexts in addition to government benefits as well.

COLA is based on the Consumer Price Index and increases in the Consumer Price Index. The Consumer Price Increase is the official measure of inflation for the federal government. An increase in prices triggers a COLA. The CPI measures changes in prices of 80,000 goods and services. The Social Security Administration provides the latest COLA figures, which were recently increased for 2017. While the COLA may be viewed as important today, the increase in benefits it provides for recipients of disability benefits is always important to disabled individuals and their families.

Social Security Disability benefits may be available to disabled individuals suffering from a physical or mental condition that prevents them from working. The medical condition must be severe enough that it prevents the disabled individual from performing their usual type of work or another type of work. In addition, the medical condition must be expected to last 12 months or longer or result in death. Disabled individuals must also have sufficient work history to qualify for SSD benefits.

In some circumstances, disabled individuals who do not meet the work history requirements to qualify for SSD benefits may have other options available to them. It is important for disabled individuals to be familiar with the options available, how to qualify for them and what the benefits of each include.

Source: Thebalance.com, "What Is the Cost of Living Adjustment?" Kimberly Amadeo, Sept. 24, 2016

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