Millions of older Americans may face shrinking Social Security payments next year. It is the first time in a generation that payments would not rise.
The trustees who oversee Social Security project no cost of living (COLA) increase for the next two years.
Although legally Social Security benefits cannot go down, monthly payments would still drop for millions of people in the Medicare prescription drug program. That's because the premiums, which are frequently deducted from Social Security payments, are scheduled for a slight increase.
"I will promise you, they count on that COLA," said Barbara Kennelly, head of the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare. "To some people, it might not be a big deal. But to seniors, especially with their health care costs, it is a big deal."
Meanwhile, President Barack Obama, currently preoccupied with health care reform, has put Social Security on next year's to-do list.
"I think a lot of seniors do not know what's coming down the pike, and I believe that when they hear that, they're going to be upset," said Sen. Bernie Sanders.
Sanders is an independent from Vermont who is working on a proposal for one-time payments for Social Security recipients.
"It is my view that seniors are going to need help this year, and it would not be acceptable for Congress to simply turn its back," he said.