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Public Policy: Social Security

November is National Caregiver Month.  Caregiving is especially important to women because they disproportionately provide and receive caregiving. It is estimated that 60 percent of all caregivers are women and 65 percent of all care recipients are women.


The 2016 COLA represents the third time in the last six years that benefits have remained flat.  In the 40 years that the COLA has been available for Social Security beneficiaries, 2010, 2011 and 2016 are the only years the benefit has not been increased to preserve the purchasing power of seniors.


This fall, must-pass legislation will provide opportunities for Congress and the President to strengthen and/or harm the economic and health security of over 50 million older Americans.  Before they leave for recess in December, Congress faces bill approval deadlines to avoid a government shutdown, a default, and to extend transportation funding and certain tax breaks. As part of the annual appropriations process, a deal will be sought to mitigate the full return of the “sequester” – automatic across-the-board limitations on defense and non-defense discretionary spending.  Some or all of the bills that must be passed by the end of the year could be combined into a single legislative vehicle if a larger agreement can be made between the President and Congressional leaders.     

Social Security is among the nation’s largest programs serving children.  About 4.4 million American children receive approximately $2.billion in Social Security benefits each month because at least one of their parents is disabled, retired or deceased. Although Social Security is well known as an essential source of retirement security for older Americans, there is less awareness of the critical income protection it has provided for survivors since 1939, and for the disabled since 1956. Social Security is a safety net for millions of working parents who may have no other resources to fall back on when tragedy strikes and they are no longer able to earn an income to support their family. 

Since its inception, Social Security has been the foundation on which America’s retirement security rests.  It has demonstrated its strength by paying benefits without interruption in good times and bad, during periods of recession and disaster and during recovery and healing.  The program’s durability is demonstrated yet again in this year’s Trustees Report. The report is good news for working Americans and for seniors.


The House and Senate Budget Resolutions for Fiscal Year 2016 would make cuts to the Medicare and Medicaid programs and repeal the Affordable Care Act, actions which would jeopardize health care for millions of Americans.  Moreover, the House of Representatives would obstruct commonsense proposals that would strengthen the finances of the Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) program.


The Social Security Administration (SSA) advises Americans to keep their Social Security card in a safe place.  At the same time, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) tells their beneficiaries to carry their Medicare card – which includes their Social Security number – with them at all times.  What is a Medicare beneficiary to do?  And what should the government do about this conflict?
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