WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Nearly 65 million older Americans who receive Social Security benefits will not receive a cost-of-living increase next year, the U.S. Social Security Administration said on Thursday, citing flat inflation that prevented an automatic adjustment.
Consumer prices fell over the past year, government data showed on Thursday, and Social Security recipients receive a cost-of-living adjustment, or COLA, only if prices rise.
"Under existing law, there can be no COLA in 2016," the agency said in statement.
Americans are eligible to collect some Social Security benefits at age 62, although some people delay collection until they are older. Full benefits are bestowed at age 67.
The Social Security Administration also pays out disability benefits to those who cannot work, as well as to certain survivors after a beneficiary dies.
On average, a retired worker in 2016 will receive $1,341 a month, an amount unchanged from this year given the lack of inflation, according to the agency. In comparison, a widowed mother with two children will receive $2,680.
Falling gasoline prices have weighed on U.S. consumer prices, but signs that other prices are picking up suggest inflation could be set to firm.
That could set the stage for an increase in benefits for in 2017.
(Reporting by Susan Heavey; Editing by Will Dunham)