Padilla Introduces Legislation to Fix Cost-of-Living Adjustment for Retired Federal Employees

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Today, U.S. Senator Alex Padilla (D-Calif.) introduced the Equal COLA Act to ensure cost-of-living adjustments (COLA) are applied equally to all federal retirees. Senators Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Patty Murray (D-Wash.), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), and Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) are cosponsoring the bill. Representative Gerry Connolly (D-Va.-11) is leading companion legislation in the House of Representatives.

The Social Security Administration recently announced a 3.2 percent COLA increase for 2024. While federal employees who retired under the Civilian Service Retirement System (CSRS) will enjoy this 3.2 percent boost in benefits, those under the Federal Employees Retirement System (FERS) will only receive a 2.2 percent increase. This legislation would end the disparity between the two federal retirement systems and ensure all federal workers receive full COLAs.

“Federal retirees who have worked in service to our country should receive the full adjustment in benefits each year that is consistent with national economic trends,” said Senator Padilla. “The Equal COLA Act will ensure the nearly 800,000 federal retirees living on fixed incomes receive the full benefits they deserve to keep up with the cost of living.”

Civilian federal employees who were hired in 1984 or later participate in FERS, as do employees who have voluntarily switched from the CSRS, which was only available to those hired before 1984. COLAs for CSRS annuities are based on the rate of inflation as measured by the Consumer Price Index for Urban Wage Earners and Clerical Workers (CPI-W) in the third quarter of the current calendar year compared with the third quarter of the prior year. While COLA benefits paid under FERS are also based on the percentage change in the CPI-W, they are limited if the rate of inflation exceeds 2 percent.

The Equal COLA Act is endorsed by the American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE), the National Active and Retired Employees (NARFE), and the National Treasury Employees Union (NTEU).

Full text of the bill is available here.


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