In 2019, federal retirees will receive the largest cost of living adjustment increase in years. The adjustment will be 2.8% of their benefits. The boost applies more broadly to recipients of Social Security benefits and it comes on top of a 2% increase in 2018.
The annual COLA is based on the percentage increase in the average Consumer Price Index for Urban Wage Earners and Clerical Workers (CPI-W) for the 3rd quarter of the current year over the average CPI-W for the 3rd quarter of the last year in which a COLA became effective.
This 2.8% adjustment applies to retirees under the Civil Service Retirement System. Those under the Federal Employee Retirement System will receive 2%. There is a difference because FERS employees only receive the full percentage increase if it’s less than 2%. If the change is 2-3%, they get 2%, and if its higher than 3%, FERS retirees will receive one percentage point less than the full increase.
“CSRS retirees and Social Security recipients will be pleased to see their benefits increase by 2.8% in 2019, the largest increase since 2012,” said Richard Thissen, president of National Active and Retired Federal Employees Association. “Unfortunately, hundreds of thousands of FERS retirees will be wondering why they are only receiving a 2% COLA when the relevant measure of consumer prices increased by 2.8%. It’s past time for Congress to ensure FERS retirees receive a full COLA each year.”
President of the National Treasury Employees Union, Tony Reardon said, “As retired federal employees welcome the increase in their monthly pensions in 2019, it’s a good time to remind them and all future retirees that such routine cost of living adjustments cannot be taken for granted. The administration has not given up its plan to eliminate COLA’s for federal employees who retiree through the Federal Employees Retirement System, and severely cut them for those in the Civil Service Retirement System.”
The new COLA’s take effect starting with federal retirees’ December 2018 benefits.