Government affairs

Legislative Updates

Equal COLA Act introduced in Senate

On Nov. 1, Sen. Alex Padilla (D-CA) introduced the Equal COLA Act (S. 3194). The bill would ensure that cost-of-living adjustments are applied equally to federal retirees.

Under current law, there is a discrepancy between COLA increases for Civilian Service Retirement System (CSRS) and Federal Employees Retirement System (FERS) retirees. COLAs for CSRS retirees are determined by the rate of inflation measured by the Consumer Price Index for Urban Wage Earners and Clerical Workers in the third quarter of a year compared with the third quarter of the previous year. COLA benefits for FERS retirees are based on the same percentage change; however, the increase is limited, based on certain criteria.

If the CSRS COLA increase is more than 3 percent, FERS retirees receive 1 percent less than the full annual COLA. If the CSRS COLA increase is between 2 and 3 percent, FERS retirees receive a 2 percent COLA. If the CSRS COLA increase is less than 2 percent, FERS retirees receive the full annual COLA.

For example, earlier this year the Social Security Administration announced a 3.2 percent COLA increase for 2024. Therefore, CSRS will receive this 3.2 percent boost in benefits while FERS retirees will only receive a 2.2 percent increase.

Sens. Ben Cardin (D-MD), Patty Murray (D-WA), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) and Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) were all original co-sponsors of S. 3194. Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-VA) introduced a House version of the Equal COLA Act (H.R. 866) in February. The House version has 43 co-sponsors—40 Democrats and three Republicans.

“All retired letter carriers deserve to receive the same cost-of-living increases,” NALC President Brian L. Renfroe said. “It is time for this disparity to be fixed so that our retired members, and all federal retirees, receive equal COLA adjustments.”

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