Nearly 70 million Americans will see a 1.3 percent increase in their Social Security benefits and SSI payments in 2021. Federal benefit rates increase when the cost of living rises, as measured by the Department of Labor’s Consumer Price Index (CPI-W).

The CPI-W rises when inflation increases, leading to a higher cost of living. This change means prices for goods and services, on average, are a little more expensive, so the COLA helps to offset these costs.

January 2021 marks other changes that will happen based on the increase in the national average wage index. For example, the maximum amount of earnings subject to Social Security payroll tax in 2021 will be higher.

The retirement earnings test exempt amount will also change in 2021. You can read our press release for more information at ssa.gov/news/press/factsheets/colafacts2021.pdf.

We will mail COLA notices throughout the month of December to retirement, survivors, and disability beneficiaries, SSI recipients and representative payees. Want to know your new benefit amount sooner? You can securely view and save the Social Security COLA notice online via the Message Center inside my Social Security in early December without waiting for the mailed notice.

If you don’t have an account yet, you would have had to create your account by November 18, 2020 to receive the COLA notice online this year. Holders of a my Social Security account can opt out of receiving a mailed COLA notice and other paper notices that are available online.

You can choose text or email alerts when there is a notice in the Message Center by updating your Preferences at ssa.gov/myaccount/opt-out.html so you always know when we have something important for you.

Be the first to know! Log in to your personal account today at ssa.gov/myaccount. Choose email or text under “Message Center Preferences” to receive courtesy notifications. This way you won’t miss your online COLA notice!

You can find more information about the 2021 COLA at ssa.gov/cola.

Get your standardized Benefit Verification letter online now

If you receive a Benefit Verification letter, sometimes called a “budget letter,” a “benefits letter,” a “proof of income letter” or a “proof of award letter,” we have good news for you! A new standardized Benefit Verification letter is now available when you need proof of Social Security benefits, Supplemental Security Income or Medicare.

In addition to name, date of birth and the benefits received, the new Benefit Verification letter includes other identifiers to prevent misuse and fraud. This is an added benefit to you as proof of income for loans, housing assistance, mortgage and other verification purposes.

The same standardized letter is also available if you need proof that you do not receive benefits or proof that benefits are pending. If you are an individual representative payee, you can use the my Social Security Representative Payee portal to access the same standardized Benefit Verification letter online for your beneficiaries.

This new standardized Benefit Verification letter is another example of our commitment to improve our service to you.

No matter how you request your letter, whether calling our National 800 Number, your local office, the Interactive Voice Response system or online with your personal my Social Security account at ssa.gov/myaccount, the Benefit Verification letter now contains a seamless look.

Nilsa Henriquez is a Social Security Public Affairs Specialist located in Queens.

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