There will be no federal retirement COLA in January because the inflation index used for setting the annual adjustment finished negative. That means no increase (although there’s also no decrease) in FERS or CSRS annuities, surviving spouse benefits or surviving children benefits, and also a freeze of Social Security, military retirement and certain other benefits. The inflation index finished at -0.5 percent through the September figure. By law the count toward the 2017 COLA starts off there. The last time there was a similar situation, in the calculation for 2010 that also resulted in no COLA in that year, there was no increase in the following year, either. Of the just above 2 million federal retirees as of last October, 72 percent were retired under CSRS, with an average monthly annuity of about $3,000, while those retired under FERS had an average monthly annuity of about $1,000; FERS also includes Social Security, for which the average benefit nationwide is $1,300 monthly. Generally lower energy costs were cited for offsetting increases in other sectors measured in the inflation index, including health care–where the enrollee share of premiums in the FEHB program in 2016 are increasing by 7.4 percent on average, for example. Within that FEHB average, though, there is much variation among plans and enrollees can change coverage in the upcoming open season.
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