Social Security pay raises, which are known as cost-of-living adjustments or COLAs, are automatically given to recipients annually. COLAs are designed to allow Social Security income to keep up with inflation in the United States economy. For example, the COLA for 2015 was 1.7 percent of the benefit amount.
The COLA each year is based on increases in the third-quarter of the previous calendar year to the current third-quarter in the Consumer Price Index for Urban Wage Earners and Clerical Workers. Increases are for all Social Security beneficiaries, including those receiving Supplemental Security Income, or SSI.
Congress authorized the provision for COLAs in the 1972 Social Security Amendments. Automatic COLAs were first initiated in 1975.