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Retirees Launch Campaign to Protect Medicare from Privatization

Washington, DC – Alarmed by the House Congressional Leadership’s plans to dismantle Medicare, the Alliance for Retired Americans today kicked off a grass roots campaign to block any attempts to cut or convert guaranteed, earned health benefits into a voucher or privatized scheme. Speaker Paul Ryan and Rep. Tom Price, whom President-elect Trump will nominate to be Secretary of Health and Human Services, both said that they were moving to “reform” Medicare in the next Congress.  

“Alliance members will use all the tools at our disposal to stop any plan to replace our guaranteed earned Medicare benefits with a system of ‘Coupon-care’ vouchers,” said Richard Fiesta, executive director of the Alliance. 

Today the Alliance joined allies in delivering more than one million petitions against the Republican plan to cut and privatize Medicare to House Speaker Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.

Before delivering the petitions, Fiesta spoke at a Capitol Hill news conference with Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer, House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, Sen. Bernie Sanders and Representatives Jan Schakowsky and Ted Deutch. Representatives from several other advocacy groups also spoke against cuts to Medicare. 

Alliance members will be directly lobbying members of Congress and Senators in Washington and in their home districts and stating their opposition to efforts to gut Medicare and Medicaid. More than 100 meetings have been planned so far, and the organization expects to reach 200 offices over the next few weeks.

The Alliance will also campaign online and feature dozens of personal stories about why Medicare’s guaranteed benefits are so important on its website, www.retiredamericans.org, and social media.

 “Our members are irate. They paid into the Medicare system for decades, and heard President-elect Trump repeatedly promise to protect their earned health care benefits. We will fight tooth and nail to protect Medicare from all those who try to turn the earned benefits of Medicare into Coupon-care,” said Fiesta. “Medicare must be protected, preserved and expanded for future generations, not dismantled.”

Kuster Receives Endorsement of the Alliance for Retired Americans

Alliance For Retired Americans(Concord, NH) – Congresswoman Annie Kuster (NH-02) has received the endorsement of the Alliance for Retired Americans, a group that represents more than 4.3 million retirees nationwide, including 11,220 members in New Hampshire. The group endorsed Kuster for reelection to New Hampshire’s Second Congressional District because of her strong commitment to preserving Social Security and Medicare and her dedication to improving the lives of older and retired Americans.

“It’s an honor receive the endorsement of the Alliance for Retired Americans,” said Congresswoman Kuster. “Having cared for my mother, who had Alzheimer’s, I understand the importance of ensuring older Americans are able to retire and live their later years in dignity and with security. That’s why I’ll always fight to protect Social Security and Medicare, two of the most successful safety net programs in our nation’s history. As a member of Congress, I’m committed to strengthening these programs and working to increase access to healthcare and improve retirement for seniors in New Hampshire and across the country.” 

In their endorsement, the Alliance for Retired Americans wrote, “Your positions demonstrate a strong commitment to improve the quality of life for older Americans. Your leadership on issues such as preserving and protecting Social Security and Medicare from privatization and benefits cuts ensures these programs will be around for current and future generations. In addition, our members support your candidacy because of your belief in the need to provide more affordable health care for older Americans, as well as the need for stronger retirement and pension security, and quality long term care.”

Social Security COLA Falls Short for Seniors

social securty 1Small cost-of-living increase triggers huge Medicare Part B premium hike for many retirees

American Federation of Government Employees National President J. David Cox Sr. is calling on Congress to pass emergency legislation to prevent massive increases in Medicare Part B premiums for millions of retirees next year.

The government today announced a 0.3 percent cost-of-living adjustment for federal retirees and Social Security recipients. The COLA is based on the year-over-year change in the prices for goods and services purchased by hourly and clerical workers.

This small COLA has inadvertently triggered a massive increase in Medicare Part B premiums for the 30 percent of beneficiaries who do not currently receive Social Security benefits.

Premiums for Medicare Part B are expected to increase 23 percent next year, from $121 a month to $149 a month. A so-called “hold harmless” provision prevents Medicare Part B premiums from increasing by more than the dollar increase in an individual’s Social Security payment. But for the 16 million retirees who don’t receive Social Security, including 1.6 million federal retirees under the Civil Service Retirement System, the full increase must be paid unless Congress acts.

“Congress must act now to prevent a massive increase in Medicare Part B premiums for this group of retirees,” Cox said. “Although most seniors would be protected, this group will have to pay more solely because of the uniqueness of their pension system.”

Congress last year extended the hold harmless provision to cover all Medicare Part B beneficiaries when there is no cost-of-living adjustment. However, this provision does not apply when there is a small COLA, as there will be in 2017.

Even without the increase in Medicare Part B premiums, retirees will have to tighten their belts to account for next year’s miniscule cost-of-living adjustment. Retirees already are facing a 6.2% increase in their health insurance premiums next year.

“Prices for many items that seniors must purchase are rising faster than the overall inflation rate,” Cox said. “Forcing this group of retirees to shoulder such a huge cost burden will have a devastating impact on their already modest living standards.”

The Alliance for Retired Americans have been pushing to increase Social Security benefits and change the way cost of living is calculated.

“The Alliance for Retired Americans is deeply disappointed by the announcement today that there will be a miniscule 0.3% benefit increase for millions of Social Security beneficiaries in 2017,” said Richard Fiesta, Executive Director of the Alliance for Retired Americans. “For the average retiree, that means just a $5.00 per month increase, not enough to keep up with the cost of their prescription medications. This follows a 0% COLA in 2016. Most retirees are going to continue to have a hard time paying for basic necessities.”

“That’s why Congress must expand earned Social Security benefits and change the formula used to calculate future COLAs to the Consumer Price Index for the Elderly (CPI-E).  The CPI-E would base the calculation on what seniors actually spend their money on. That list includes items such as health care and housing, which account for most retirees’ spending,” Fiesta added. 

The AFL-CIO was “disappointed” with this COLA announcement.

“A weak increase that amounts to a mere $5.00 more a month for the average retired worker is a disappointment for the millions who rely on Social Security to stay afloat during retirement,” said Richard Trumka, President of the AFL-CIO. “Protecting our seniors against inflation is one of the many obligations we have to retired Americans. The 2017 adjustment falls short of that goal because it fails to reflect seniors’ extraordinary expenses.”

 “The 2017 COLA not only fails to keep pace with seniors’ high health care and prescription drug costs, it also means millions of retirees, including many retired public employees, will be hit hard because the law fails to protect them against large Medicare Part B premium increases when inflation is low. State Medicaid budgets that cover Medicare premiums for low-income seniors similarly will be affected. We urge Congress to step in and limit the coming financial blow to thousands of vulnerable retirees and state budgets,” Trumka added.

Alliance For Retired Americans: Tell Your Senators To Expand Social Security, Not Destroy It

Alliance For Retired Americans

Washington – Today the Alliance for Retired Americans launched a digital campaign ad in five states, calling on Senators and Congressmen to strengthen and expand Social Security, not destroy it.

“Millions of retirees depend on Social Security’s modest earned benefits to make ends meet,” said Richard Fiesta, the organization’s executive director. “These politicians have repeatedly worked to weaken the system, and replace Social Security’s guaranteed earned benefits with risk-based schemes. Our members are asking them to support current and future retirees’ right to the secure retirement they have earned.” 

The ads feature children posing as retirees and stresses the importance of the Social Security system to Americans of all ages. The ads target people ages 55+ in Florida, Pennsylvania, Nevada, North Carolina and Missouri. A Spanish-language version will target Latino audiences in Florida and Nevada.

Each of the elected officials named in the ads has supported efforts to weaken Social Security through privatization, a higher retirement age, and/or means testing and has voted to slash funding for the Social Security Administration, increasing waiting times and lengthening decision-making times for retirees and other beneficiaries. 

The release of the ad supports field and grass roots efforts by Alliance members in each state. Retirees are holding demonstrations, news conferences and other events calling on the officials to publicly pledge to support Social Security and reject privatization, benefit cuts or means testing.

The Alliance for Retired Americans is a grass roots organization with 4.4 million members that works for the health and welfare of older Americans.

Governor Maggie Hassan Endorsed By National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare

CONCORD – Today, Governor Maggie Hassan was endorsed by the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare at an event at Havenwood Heritage Heights Senior Living Center.

(Governor Hassan and NCPSSM President and CEO Max Richtman)

(Governor Hassan and NCPSSM President and CEO Max Richtman)

“I am honored to have earned the endorsement of the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare,” said Governor Maggie Hassan. “Here in New Hampshire we know that our seniors deserve a high quality of life with access to the full benefits that they have earned, and as Governor, I have made it a priority to support seniors in our state. That approach is in stark contrast to Senator Ayotte’s Washington record of standing with special interests like the Koch Brothers and voting to undermine Medicare and Social Security. In the Senate, I will always fight for Granite State seniors and protect Social Security and Medicare for years to come.”

“The National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare is proud to endorse Governor Maggie Hassan for Senate, because we know she will fight to protect benefits for seniors,” said Max Richtman, President and CEO of the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare. “While Maggie Hassan stands with New Hampshire’s seniors, Kelly Ayotte has supported a special interest agenda in Washington that would cut the benefits that seniors earned throughout their careers. Governor Hassan will bring her bipartisan approach and commitment to problem solving to the Senate, and she will always fight to protect and strengthen Social Security and Medicare.”

Governor Maggie Hassan has a proven record of supporting seniors in New Hampshire. As Governor, Maggie signed a law that strengthened protections for seniors by making financial exploitation of elderly, disabled or impaired adults a criminal offense and another law requiring the state to develop an educational program on Alzheimer’s disease and provide training to law enforcement on Alzheimer’s. She also signed into law a seniors bill of rights, and required it to be posted in housing establishments for the elderly. And Governor Hassan signed the CARE Act, which improves patient care and supports caregivers who help make it possible for seniors to live independently at home. In 2015 the AARP honored Maggie as a Capitol Caregiver for her efforts.

As Senator, Maggie Hassan will fight to protect Social Security and Medicare, and strengthen these programs for years to come. She will stand up to those trying to turn Medicare into a voucher program, and she will fight any attempt to privatize or cut Social Security. She will also work to enhance Social Security by ensuring that caregivers can get credit toward their Social Security benefits when they take time off or reduce working hours to care for family members.

In Washington, Senator Kelly Ayotte has stood with her corporate special interest backers like the Koch Brothers – who she voted with nearly 90% of the time her first four years in office – in working to undermine Social Security and Medicare. Senator Ayotte cosponsored a bill opposed by AARP that would have cut $859 billion from Medicare and $1.3 trillion from Social Security, increasing out of pocket costs for those on Medicare and slashing Social Security benefits by nearly 20%. Senator Ayotte has voted to cut Medicare by turning it into a private voucher system, while also voting against protecting Social Security from benefit cuts. And Ayotte has voted to increase the retirement age for Medicare, and has signaled her openness to doing the same for Social Security.

At AARP Forum, Hassan Highlights Her Commitment to Protecting Social Security, Unlike Ayotte

MANCHESTER – Yesterday, Governor Maggie Hassan spoke at the AARP New Hampshire U.S. Senate Forum, highlighting her commitment to protecting and strengthening Social Security for years to come and preventing special interests from preying on seniors’ hard earned benefits.

“As Governor, I have always fought to support New Hampshire’s seniors, and in the United States Senate I will always fight to protect Social Security and strengthen the program for years to come,” said Governor Maggie Hassan. “Unfortunately, Senator Kelly Ayotte has stood with her corporate special interest backers in efforts to undermine Social Security and balance the budget on the backs of our seniors. Granite State seniors deserve better, and as Senator I will always fight for them and the benefits they have earned.”

Governor Maggie Hassan has a proven record of supporting seniors in New Hampshire. As Governor, Maggie signed a law that strengthened protections for seniors by making financial exploitation of elderly, disabled or impaired adults a criminal offense and another law requiring the state to develop an educational program on Alzheimer’s disease and provide training to law enforcement on Alzheimer’s. She also signed into law a seniors bill of rights, and required it to be posted in housing establishments for the elderly. And Governor Hassan signed the CARE Act, which improves patient care and supports caregivers who help make it possible for seniors to live independently at home. In 2015 the AARP honored Maggie as a Capitol Caregiver for her efforts.

As Senator, Maggie will stand up to those trying to turn Medicare into a voucher program, and she will fight any attempt to privatize or cut Social Security. She will also work to enhance Social Security by ensuring that caregivers can get credit toward their Social Security benefits when they take time off or reduce working hours to care for family members.

But in Washington, Senator Kelly Ayotte has stood with her special interest backers like the Koch Brothers in working to undermine Social Security. Ayotte has voted against protecting Social Security from privatization and benefit cuts, and has signaled her support to raise the retirement age for Social Security, even saying just weeks ago she was open to it.

“All the spin in the world won’t fool New Hampshire seniors who know Kelly Ayotte’s record of putting their retirement security on the chopping block to appease her corporate special interest backers,” said New Hampshire Democratic Party Press Secretary Melissa Miller. “We need a Senator who will put working families and seniors in New Hampshire first, not the Koch Brothers.”

See below for the facts about Ayotte’s record of siding with special interests to undermine retirement security for New Hampshire seniors:  

  • She stood with the Koch Brothers over New Hampshire seniors by voting for an extreme Republican plan that would have forced deep cuts to Medicare and Social Security. 
  • Ayotte voted against protecting Social Security from privatization and benefit cuts.
  • Ayotte cosponsored a bill opposed by AARP because it would have cut $1.3 trillion from Social Security and $859 billion from Medicare, slashing Social Security benefits by nearly 20% and increasing out of pocket costs for those on Medicare.
  • Ayotte also voted to increase the retirement age for Medicare and has said she’s open to such an increase for Social Security, both of which amount to a benefit cut. 
  • Ayotte sided with the Koch Brothers and voted for a plan to voucherize Medicare, a plan that the AARP has said would “increase costs for beneficiaries while removing Medicare’s promise of secure health coverage—a guarantee that future seniors have contributed to through a lifetime of hard work.” 

Clinton-Kaine is an Excellent Fit for Retirees

Ticket is Ultimate Antidote to Worries that Trump-Pence would cut Social Security, Medicare

Robert Roach, Jr., President of the Alliance for Retired Americans, released the following statement regarding Hillary Clinton’s selection of Virginia Senator Tim Kaine as her Vice Presidential nominee:
Alliance For Retired Americans

“Senator Tim Kaine is a superb choice to be Vice President. The Alliance for Retired Americans was already energized about a Hillary Clinton presidency, and Senator Kaine is the icing on the cake. His 93% lifetime score from the Alliance for his pro-retiree votes is proof that he is the right person for the job.

“Secretary Clinton has been a champion for retirees throughout her distinguished career, and Senator Kaine has been throughout his. As a Governor and as a Senator, he has always had retirees’ best interests in mind. He has stated plainly that ‘we shouldn’t embrace radical reforms like the Ryan Plan or the privatization of Social Security,’ and that is music to our ears. Senator Kaine clearly opposes efforts to cut, privatize or shift Medicare costs to retirees.

“If you go down the list of what retirees want the most, Tim Kaine checks all the boxes. He has pledged to protect Social Security. Like Secretary Clinton, he would rein in prescription drug costs by allowing the Medicare program to negotiate with pharmaceutical companies for better prices, just as the Department of Veterans Affairs does.

“His life’s work exemplifies the Alliance’s mission to enhance the quality of life for all Americans. He will protect our traditional pension plans from attack.

“On the other hand, Donald Trump’s choice of Governor Mike Pence as his running mate locked in place a team that endangers the things that retirees care about the most: the protection and expansion of their earned Social Security and Medicare benefits. The contrast could not be starker. We are confident that the Clinton-Kaine team will give us the retirement security we need.

“The Alliance’s 4.4 million members and 1600 chapters will do all they can before Election Day to educate seniors on the differences between the Trump-Pence plans for seniors and the Clinton-Kaine plans. We look forward to working with a Clinton-Kaine Administration to expand our earned Social Security benefits.”

Kelly Ayotte’s Misleading New Seniors Ad Features State Legislators Who Voted to Privatize Social Security, Cut Medicare Protections and Alzheimer’s Program Funding

Ayotte releases new ad to buffer her credentials on Social Security, Medicare, and Alzheimer’s research support, but instead features two NH State Representatives who supported privatizing Social Security, dismantling Medicare, and cutting funding for an Alzheimer’s caregiver respite program

photo of Sen. Kelly Ayotte by Gage Skidmore via Flickr Creative Commons

Concord, NH – Sensitive to a recent TV ad critical of her votes to dismantle key programs for seniors, Kelly Ayotte has released a misleading response ad intended to buffer her credentials on Social Security, Medicare, and Alzheimer’s research support. The ad, however, features two New Hampshire State Representatives who are in lockstep with efforts to dismantle key programs.

NH State Representatives Mary Griffin (R) and Walter Kolodziej (R) – along with Kolodziej’s wife and one other individual – claim that Ayotte has protected seniors despite an ample vote record that shows Ayotte voted to turn Medicare into a voucher program and raise the eligibility age. The ad and copy also attempt to bolster Ayotte’s record in other areas, such as Alzheimer’s research funding. However, the voting records of Ayotte and those she trusts on senior issues would harm seniors on issues regarding Medicare, Social Security, and Alzheimer’s support:

  • Ayotte effectively voted for FY 2012 Ryan Budget, which replaced Medicare with a premium support plan. The plan would more than double out-of-pocket costs for the average Medicare enrollee. (Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, 4/7/11; Wall Street Journal, 4/4/11)
  • Ayotte effectively voted for the FY2013 Ryan Budget, which replaced Medicare with a voucher program, increased the eligibility age, reopened the donut hole, and repealed the Affordable Care Act. (Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, 3/28/12; AARP, Letter to Congress, 3/21/12)
  • Ayotte voted for FY 2014 Ryan Budget plan which would “replace Medicare’s guarantee of health coverage with a premium-support voucher.” (Senate Vote 46, 3/21/13; Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, 3/15/13)
  • Ayotte voted for FY 2011 budget with deep cuts to agencies responsible for Alzheimer’s research. In congressional testimony on March 11, 2011, HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said that the proposed cuts would mean that “about half of the hundred largest clinical studies including those on cancer and Alzheimer’s would probably be canceled.” (Vote 36, 3/9/11; Politifact, 4/15/11)
  • Ayotte surrogates Kolodziej and Griffin voted for urging Congress to privatize all aspects of Social Security. Privatizing social security puts at risk benefits for New Hampshire’s current and future retirees. (HCR39, Roll Call #190, 3/21/2012)
  • Ayotte surrogates Kolodziej and Griffin voted for an Interstate Health Care Compact that sought to allow New Hampshire to opt-out of Medicare and other programs, and eliminate all federal minimum benefit guarantees and protections for New Hampshire seniors and others. (HB1560, Roll Call #87, 2/15/2012)
  • Ayotte surrogates Kolodziej and Griffin voted for suspending funding for the Alzheimer’s disease and related disorders (ADRD) program. The program provides temporary respite services to family members, partners and other informal caregivers who are caring for an individual diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease or other related dementia. (HB2, Roll Call #143, 3/30/2011; DHHS, Accessed 21.16)

“Kelly Ayotte’s votes hurt Granite State seniors,” said Zandra Rice Hawkins, executive director of Granite State Progress. “Kelly Ayotte’s decision to feature individuals who support privatizing all aspects of Social Security and undermining protections for New Hampshire seniors and their caregivers sends a strong message regarding where her priorities sit.”

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 Granite State Progress is a progressive advocacy organization that addresses issues of immediate state and local concern. Granite State Progress works as a communications hub for the progressive community to provide a strong, credible voice in advancing progressive solutions to critical community problems.

Full Fact Check Citations

Ayotte effectively voted for FY 2012 Ryan Budget, which replaced Medicare with a premium support plan. According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, “CBO also finds that this beneficiary’s [a typical 65-year-old] annual out-of-pocket costs would more than double — from $6,150 to $12,500. In later years, as the value of the voucher eroded, the increase in out-of-pocket costs would be even greater.” [Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, 4/7/11] The Wall Street Journal wrote that “The plan would essentially end Medicare, which now pays most of the health-care bills for 48 million elderly and disabled Americans, as a program that directly pays those bills.” [Wall Street Journal, 4/4/11]

Ayotte effectively voted for the FY2013 Ryan Budget, which replaced Medicare with a voucher program, increased the eligibility age, reopened the donut hole, and repealed the Affordable Care Act. “The budget resolution developed by House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI) would make significant changes to Medicare. It would replace Medicare’s current guarantee of coverage with a premium-support voucher, raise the age of eligibility from 65 to 67, and reopen the “doughnut hole” in Medicare’s coverage of prescription drugs. Together, these changes would shift substantial costs to Medicare beneficiaries and (with the simultaneous repeal of health reform) leave many 65- and 66-year olds without any health coverage at all.” (Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, 3/28/12) AARP CEO Barry Rand said: “ … the proposal is likely to simply increase costs for beneficiaries while removing Medicare’s promise of secure health coverage — a guarantee that future seniors have contributed to through a lifetime of hard work.” (AARP, Letter to Congress, 3/21/12)

Ayotte voted for FY 2014 Ryan Budget plan which would “replace Medicare’s guarantee of health coverage with a premium-support voucher.” According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, “The Medicare proposals in the 2014 budget resolution developed by House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI) are essentially the same as those in last year’s Ryan budget.  Once again, Chairman Ryan proposes to replace Medicare’s guarantee of health coverage with a premium-support voucher and raise the age of eligibility for Medicare from 65 to 67.” The vote was largely along party lines; Ayotte voted with Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell. (Senate Vote 46, 3/21/13; Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, 3/15/13)

Ayotte voted for FY 2011 budget with deep cuts to agencies responsible for Alzheimer’s research. In congressional testimony on March 11, 2011, HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said that the proposed cuts would mean that “about half of the hundred largest clinical studies including those on cancer and Alzheimer’s would probably be canceled.” (Vote 36, 3/9/11; Politifact, 4/15/11)

Ayotte surrogates Kolodziej and Griffin voted for urging Congress to privatize all aspects of Social Security. Privatizing social security puts at risk benefits for New Hampshire’s current and future retirees. (HCR39, Roll Call #190, 3/21/2012)

Ayotte surrogates Kolodziej and Griffin voted for an Interstate Health Care Compact that – with permission from Congress – would give participating states the authority to opt out of all federal health care protections and programs, including Medicare, Medicaid and the Affordable Care Act. This would have taken away not just all federal oversight, but all federal minimum benefit guarantees and protections for New Hampshire’s most vulnerable populations: states could drop seniors from Medicare coverage, eliminate our Medicaid and CHIP protections for vulnerable children, end Medicaid-sponsored long-term care services for elders and people with disabilities, terminate protections for children with pre-existing conditions, and stop the enforcement of laws protecting medical privacy. A compact state would be free to replace any and all of these previous federal programs and protections with risky and/or inadequate state-based schemes or, if a state so chose, not replace them at all. (HB1560, Roll Call #87, 2/15/2012)

Ayotte surrogates Kolodziej and Griffin voted for suspending funding for the Alzheimer’s disease and related disorders (ADRD) program. The program provides temporary respite services to family members, partners and other informal caregivers who are caring for an individual diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease or other related dementia. (HB2, Roll Call #143, 3/30/2011; DHHS, Accessed 7.21.16)

Social Security And Medicare Report Shows We Need To Rein In Pharmaceutical Costs

2016 Social Security and Medicare Trustees Reports Highlight Need to Expand Social Security and Rein in Out of Control Pharmaceutical Corporations

Today the Social Security and Medicare Trustees released their annual report. The report showed some things we already knew, the Social Security trust fund is holding steady and will continue to pay full benefits for almost 20 more years.  They also showed that big pharma is fleecing Americans with out of control prescription drug prices.

“Both Social Security and Medicare face long-term financing shortfalls under currently scheduled benefits and financing. Lawmakers have a broad continuum of policy options that would close or reduce the long-term financing shortfall of both programs,” wrote the Social Security Administration. “The Trustees recommend that lawmakers take action sooner rather than later to address these shortfalls, so that a broader range of solutions can be considered and more time will be available to phase in changes while giving the public adequate time to prepare. Earlier action will also help elected officials minimize adverse impacts on vulnerable populations, including lower-income workers and people already dependent on program benefits.”

Richard Fiesta, Executive Director of the Alliance for Retired Americans, issued the following statement:

 “The Social Security Trustees reaffirmed that Social Security can pay full benefits until 2034. After that, it can pay three-quarters of benefits. This is unchanged from last year’s report.

“The Medicare Trust Fund for hospital care has sufficient funds to cover its obligations until 2028, two years sooner than projected last year.

“The message we must take is that it’s time to expand Social Security. There are several bills already pending in Congress that would expand Social Security benefits and adopt a more accurate formula for determining cost-of -living increases. Economists, public opinion surveys and our members’ own experiences all indicate that Social Security benefits are becoming a larger portion of Americans’ retirement income. The minimum benefit will need to be increased to keep most retirees out of poverty.

“We can also significantly strengthen Medicare by tackling skyrocketing prescription drug prices, which are increasing at more than twice the rate of inflation. Medicare and its beneficiaries spent $103 billion on pharmaceuticals in 2013. We need to stop the profiteering and monopolistic behavior by pharmaceutical corporations to save both retirees’ and the taxpayers’ money.

“Nothing in today’s reports justifies Paul Ryan and the Republican Congressional leadership’s stated goal of cutting Social Security or Medicare by privatizing the systems or raising the retirement or eligibility age.”

AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka took the opportunity to show that Hillary Clinton is “committed to strengthening Social Security,” while Donald Trump “can’t be trusted to protect” Social Security and other programs.

Today’s reports provide reassuring news for retired and disabled workers, their families and all Americans working toward a secure retirement. But fully funding Social Security’s modest benefits into the indefinite future in the face of a growing retirement income crisis is not enough; and the Medicare report establishes the precipitous growth of prescription drug prices as a major driver of healthcare costs. These represent some of the most important issues at stake for working people in this election.

Hillary Clinton is committed to strengthening and expanding vital programs working people rely on while Donald Trump can’t be trusted to protect them. We will stand with leaders like Hillary Clinton so together we control the cost of prescription drugs and improve benefits to ensure that future generations get the retirement security they need and deserve.

Progressives Rejoice As Obama Announces Support For Expanding Social Security

(Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

(Official White House File Photo by Pete Souza)

Progressives are celebrating a huge win this week as President Obama announced his support for expanding Social Security as part of a larger economic agenda.

 

“To me, if we raise the minimum wage; if we make it easier, not harder, for people to unionize; if we negotiate trade deals that raise labor standards and environmental standards in other countries, instead of letting them sell here and we can’t sell there; if we make sure that we’re rebuilding our roads and our bridges and our infrastructure to put a bunch of folks in hardhats back to work; if we make Social Security stronger rather than cutting it — if we do those things, then we are going to see wages go up, labor markets tighten, and we will relieve a lot of the stress that people feel,” said President Obama at a town hall discussion in Elkhart, Indiana on June 2nd.

This is a complete change in direction for Obama as it was only a few years ago that he was willing to make cuts to Social Security as part of his “Grand Bargain” with Republicans.

“Progressives led, they people spoke out, and the politicians are now embracing change we can believe in: Expanding Social Security benefits — never cutting them,” said Adam Green & Stephanie Taylor, Co-Founders of the Progressive Change Campaign Committee. “This will be a defining issue in the 2016 election. Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders, and congressional candidates across the nation are for expanding benefits to keep up with the rising costs faced by our grandparents and veterans. Donald Trump and Republicans oppose increased benefits, and many support cuts.”

“I applaud President Obama for joining the growing movement in the Democratic Party to expand Social Security — for today’s seniors, workers, persons with severe disabilities, and for generations to come,” said Eric Kingson, Co-Founder of Social Security Works. “With two-thirds of today’s working persons, especially those in their late 40s and 50s, facing a personal retirement income crisis, yes, it’s time to expand benefits. With the Social Security benefits for today’s seniors averaging just $14,000, today’s older Americans need benefit increases, and they need fairer cost-of-living adjustments. With the United States being one of only three nations that do not provide paid maternity benefits at birth or adoption, it’s long past time to add up to 12 weeks paid family and sick leave to our Social Security.”

“The Alliance for Retired Americans welcomes President Obama’s statement in favor of expanding earned Social Security benefits,” said Richard Fiesta, Executive Director of the Alliance for Retired Americans. “The Alliance advocated the expansion of Social Security benefits for years and we are pleased that the President agrees with us.”

“Forty percent of Americans over the age of 50 say that Social Security will be their primary source of retirement income, and the current level of benefits is not keeping pace. It’s time for Congress to pass one of the many bills that has already been introduced to make a more secure retirement for current and future retirees,” added Fiesta.

Progressives like Senator Elizabeth Warren have tirelessly been taking the floor of the Senate to talk about how we need to do more to help our nation’s seniors.

“After a lifetime of work, people deserve to retire in dignity. Two-thirds of seniors rely on Social Security for the majority of their income, and for 15 million seniors — 15 MILLION — Social Security is the only thing standing between them and poverty,” said Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA). “I’m proud that President Obama spoke out Wednesday about protecting and expanding Social Security for millions of people who are struggling to get by.”

“For me, this is about whose side you stand on. We have a growing retirement crisis in this country. Democrats recognize that. The President supports expanding Social Security. Nearly every Senate Democrat voted for my budget amendment in support of expanding Social Security. Both Democratic Presidential candidates support expanding Social Security. And the vast majority of Americans support expanding Social Security. Republicans may still be living in the Stone Age of trying to cut benefits, but on Social Security, the American people stand with President Obama and the Democrats to take on the retirement crisis,” added Warren.

As Sen. Warren alluded to, the battle over Social Security is a defining issue in the Presidential election.

In typical Donald Trump fashion, Trump says he is going to save Social Security, and the millions of seniors who rely on it, by not doing anything.

“I will do everything within my power not to touch Social Security, to leave it the way it is,” Trump said at a campaign event in Miami, Florida (3-10-16).

Trump also claims that Social Security is full of fraud, waste and abuse.

“Waste, fraud and abuse is massive in Social Security and Medicaid,” Trump told MSNBC’s Morning Joe. In the same interview Trump attacked Secretary Clinton and Senator Sanders for wanting to increase Social Security.

The Democratic candidates strongly support expanding Social Security and the Presidents new initiative.

Secretary Clinton tweeted out her support for expanding Social Security saying, “We can never let Republicans cut or privatize Social Security — we should protect and expand it. Thanks, @POTUS.”

 

Before campaigning for President, Senator Bernie Sanders was one of the loudest voices in the fight to expand Social Security.

“Social Security is the most successful government program in our nation’s history. Before it was signed into law, nearly half of senior citizens lived in poverty,” said Senator Bernie Sanders. “Today, the elderly poverty rate is 10 percent. Although still much too high, that’s a dramatic improvement.”

“I applaud President Obama for making it clear that it is time to expand Social Security benefits. Millions of seniors, disabled veterans and people with disabilities are falling further and further behind on $10,000 or $11,000 a year Social Security,” added Sanders.

Senators Warren and Sanders, along with Rep Keith Ellison (MN-5) and Rep Raul Grijalva (AZ-3), the Co-Chairs of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, have been asking Congress to “scrap the cap” on Social Security.

“We thank President Obama for speaking up on behalf of seniors and people with disabilities by calling for an expansion of Social Security benefits,” said Rep Keith Ellison and Rep Raul Grijalva. “So many Americans rely on these vital, earned benefits that they have secured through a lifetime of hard work. Still, too many seniors struggle to make ends meet. Expanding benefits and scrapping the payroll tax cap, which prevents the wealthy from paying their fair share, is the responsible way to ensure full Social Security solvency in the long-term while protecting today’s seniors.”

“We applaud the president for reaffirming the importance of Social Security, and we believe his statement shows just how important the progressive movement is in shaping the policies that will drive our country forward,” added Ellison and Grijalva.

It has become painfully obvious to many people that Social Security benefits have not kept up with the needs of seniors. New Hampshire Executive Councilor, and Gubernatorial candidate, Colin Van Ostern, explains how critical Social Security is to New Hampshire seniors.

“I applaud President Obama in his call to expand Social Security for hardworking Americans,” said Executive Councilor Colin Van Ostern. “Here in New Hampshire one in five residents collect Social Security and without this critical program, nearly half of those individuals 65 years or older would have incomes below the poverty level. After years of too many calling to cut Social Security, this is a welcomed direction. Issues like this, and access to debt-free college are the path to a stronger future where everyone has a chance to succeed, not just those at the top.”

Expanding Social Security is a direct infusion to our local economies as seniors spend the majority of their Social Security check in their communities. Even though Social Security was designed to provide assistance to seniors as they retire, many now fully depend on Social Security as their sole source of income.

As part of expanding Social Security we should continue to push for higher payouts to seniors and to eliminate the payroll tax cap. We can add additional strength to the Social Security trust fund by increasing the minimum wage. By raising the minimum wage, workers would earn more in their paycheck and pay more in to the Social Security trust fund. Ultimately raising the minimum wage would provide higher payouts to workers 30-40 years from now when they retire as Social Security payouts are based on quarterly income rates.

Expanding Social Security is the only way to ensure that more seniors do not slip into poverty and can retire with the dignity and respect they deserve after a lifetime of hard work.

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