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(NEWSER) – Millions of older Americans who rely on federal benefits will get a 1.7% increase in their monthly payments next year, the government announced today. That's the fifth time in six years the increase will be less than 2%. The increase amounts to about $20 a month for the typical Social Security recipient.

The annual cost-of-living adjustment, or COLA, affects payments to more than 70 million Social Security recipients, disabled veterans, and federal retirees; that's more than a fifth of the country. The COLA is calculated by comparing consumer prices in July, August, and September each year with prices in the same three months from the previous year. If prices go up over the course of the year, benefits go up, starting with payments delivered in January.

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