Great news for those who receive Social Security disability benefits! Monthly Social Security and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits had a 3.6 percent cost-of-living adjustment ("COLA") beginning with the December 2011 benefits. Those benefits are paid to recipients in January 2012. The COLA is dependent on the CPI-W, which is the consumer price index for urban wage earners and clerical workers. The CPI-W is the official measure used by the Social Security Administration to calculate the COLA. After 1983, the COLAs have been based on increases in the CPI-W from the third quarter of the prior year to the corresponding quarter of the current year in which the COLA became effective. There was no adjustment in 2010 and 2011 because the CPI-W for those years did not increase above the third quarter CPI-W of 2008.
Congress enacted the COLA provision as part of the 1972 Social Security Amendments, and automatic annual COLAs began in 1975. Benefits were increased only when Congress enacted special legislation before that.