Q: I am a retiree under the CSRS who cannot get Social Security benefits. Are the COLA’s for federal retirees and Social Security benefiiciaries determined under the same law? If so, why are they not both subject to the “hold harmless” provision in that law? For the past two years, there have been no cost-of-living allowances, yet my Medicare Part B premiums have increased both years while those on Social Security benefits haven’t.
A: There are two separate laws at work here. While both laws protect retirees from having their benefits reduced when the numbers go negative, only the Social Security act has a “hold harmless” provision that prevents Social Security benefits from being reduced when the cost of Medicare Part B premiums rise. The “hold harmless” provision doesn’t protect those who aren’t receiving a Social Security benefit from experiencing an increase in their Part B premiums.