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1.4 percent Social Security increase announced.

Monthly Social Security and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits to more than 50 million Americans will increase 1.4 percent in 2003, Jo Anne B. Barnhart, Commissioner of Social Security announced today.
"Today's news tells us that inflation continues to be low, which is certainly good news for the elderly and disabled," said Commissioner Barnhart. "Inflation is one of the biggest challenges for people living on a fixed income. The annual Cost-of-Living Adjustment (COLA) ensures that a person's monthly benefit doesn't drop in value over time."
The 1.4 percent increase will begin with benefits that 46 million Social Security beneficiaries receive in January 2003. Increased payments to 7 million SSI beneficiaries will begin on December 31.
Social Security and SSI benefits increase automatically each year based on the rise in the Consumer Price Index for Urban Wage Earners and Clerical Workers (CPI-W) from the third quarter of the prior year to the corresponding period of the current year. This year's increase in the CPI-W was 1.4 percent.
Some other changes that take effect in January of each year are based on the increase in average wages. Based on that increase, the maximum amount of earnings subject to the Social Security tax (taxable maximum) will increase to $87,000 from $84,900 in 2002.
As a result of the increase in the taxable maximum in 2003, the maximum yearly Social Security tax paid by employees and employers will increase by $130.20 each for a total of $5394.00. For self-employed workers, it will rise by $260.40 to a total of $10,788.00. Of the approximately 155 million workers who pay Social Security taxes, about 9.7 million are affected by the higher wage base in 2003.
Information about Medicare changes for 2003 can be found at www.hhs.gov - The Internet site for the Department of Health and Human Services.

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