For the first time in more than 30 years, Social Security recipients won’t be getting a cost-of-living adjustment. That increase is pegged to inflation, which has been negative this year.

Negative inflation is a good thing for consumers shopping for groceries and other staples, since it means lowered costs on many of the items we buy every day. But what is good news for the rest of us equals bad news for those expecting the same 5.8 percent raise they got January 2009 for their Social Security benefits starting January 2010. That’s because a negative inflation rate means there will be no Social Security increase come 2010.

The lack of an increase is expected to be especially hard on older people who spend a disproportionate amount of their income on health care. Health care costs continue to rise faster than inflation.

For more information, you can go to Social Security Online to find out how cost-of-living adjustments are calculated. In general, that resource tells you that a cost-of-living increase is equal to the percentage increase in the Consumer Price Index for Urban Wage Earners and Clerical Workers (CPI-W) from the third quarter of one year to the third quarter of the next. If there is no CPI-W increase, there is no cost-of-living increase either.

This is the first time in a generation that there will be no adjustment this next January. While benefits would not go lower, the deductions for Medicare and especially the prescription drug plan written under the Bush administration, will go up. Since millions of seniors have those benefits deducted from their social security check, come January those millions will get a smaller amount for each regular Social Security check.