WASHINGTON --- The government is expected to announce this week that more than 58 million Social Security recipients will go through another year without an increase in their monthly benefits.
It would mark only the second year without an increase since automatic adjustments for inflation were adopted in 1975. The first year was this year.
"If you're the ruling party, this is not the sort of thing you want to have happening two weeks before an election," said Andrew Biggs, a former deputy commissioner at the Social Security Administration and a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute.
"It's not the congressional Democrats' fault, but that's the way politics works," he said.
The cost-of-living adjustments, or COLAs, are automatically set each year by an inflation measure that was adopted by Congress in the 1970s. Based on inflation so far this year, the trustees who oversee Social Security project say, there will be no adjustment for 2011.
The projection will be made official Friday, when the Bureau of Labor Statistics releases inflation estimates for September.
This week's announcement raises immediate concerns for older Americans whose savings and home values haven't recovered from the financial collapse: Many haven't had a raise since January 2009, and they won't be getting one until at least January 2012.
"While people aren't getting COLAs they certainly feel like they're falling further and further behind, particularly in this economy," said David Certner, AARP's legislative policy director. "People are very reliant on Social Security ... and, quite frankly, they have counted on the COLA over the years."
Social Security was the primary source of income for 64 percent of retirees who got benefits in 2008, according to the Social Security Administration. A third relied on Social Security for at least 90 percent of their income.
A little more than 58.7 million people receive Social Security or Supplemental Security Income.
The average Social Security benefit is about $1,072 a month.