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The Latest News on Social Security and Medicare

In yet another in an endless string of commission proposals, H.R. 4786, the “Social Security Commission Act of 2014,” introduced by Representatives John Delaney (D-MD) and Tom Cole (R-OK) targets Social Security for “reform.” This time, the task would be delegated to a “Commission on Long Term Solvency,” made up of 13 members appointed variously by the President and the leadership of the House of Representatives and the Senate.

Today’s Supreme Court ruling in Harris v. Quinn could have devastating effects on America’s home health system by driving down already low wages and reducing the basic rights of workers in one of our nation’s fastest growing job sectors – home health services. 

One year ago tomorrow, the Supreme Court issued its landmark Windsor ruling in the Defense of Marriage Act providing benefits to legally married same-sex married couples.  Since then, federal agencies such as the Social Security Administration have been working to define benefits eligibility for millions of Americans. 

On behalf of the millions of members and supporters of the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare, I am writing to express our support for your bill, the “Seniors Access to Social Security Act of 2014,” which directs the Commissioner of Social Security to continue to make Social Security number (SSN) printouts and benefit verification letters available at the agency’s local field offices for at least an additional year.

The National Committee is committed to protecting and improving Social Security.  Social Security is a program that touches the lives of virtually all Americans.  More than many other federal programs, Social Security does exactly what it was designed to do by providing basic income protection to 38 million retired people, 9 million people with disabilities, as well as to 6.2 million widows, widowers and the surviving children of deceased workers. 

Each year, Americans for Democratic Action, the organization co-founded by Eleanor Roosevelt to keep FDR’s New Deal dream alive, honors their former counsel Winn Newman with an award in his name. The Winn Newman Equality award honors those who, like Winn, are fighting for equality in America.  The National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare’s President, Max Richtman, has been chosen as the 2014 Winn Newman honoree. 

Each year 58 million Americans use the purchasing power of their Social Security benefits to pump billions of dollars into their local businesses and state economies. Families spend $816 billion in Social Security benefits nationwide each year.  When Americans use the purchasing power of those benefits, they are supporting local businesses and state economies with billions of dollars they simply wouldn’t have without Social Security.   State and local lawmakers who value Social Security’s economic impact are joining the national movement to Boost Social Security Now.

The Older Americans Act helps millions of American families each year thru a variety of programs. It’s critical that Congress reauthorize this vital program.

The nation’s current minimum wage of $7.25 per hour has not been increased since 2007.  President Obama has proposed increasing the nation’s minimum wage to $10.10 per hour.  The Fair Minimum Wage Act of 2013, introduced by Senator Tom Harkin and Representative George Miller would increase the minimum wage from its current rate of $7.25 per hour in three steps – to $8.20 in 2014, $9.15 in 2015 and $10.10 in 2016.  Although many retirees may question what impact an increase in the minimum wage would have on their lives, the increase could make a difference for seniors.

Medicare beneficiaries are being denied access to Medicare’s skilled nursing facility (SNF) benefit because acute care hospitals are increasingly classifying their patients as “outpatients” receiving observation services, rather than admitting them as inpatients. Patients are called outpatients despite the fact that they may stay for many days and nights in hospital beds and receive medical and nursing care, diagnostic tests, treatments, medications, and food, just as
they would if they were inpatients. Under the Medicare statute, however, patients must have an inpatient hospital stay of three or more consecutive days, not counting the day of discharge, in order to meet Medicare criteria for coverage of post-acute care in a SNF.
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