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Public Policy: Social Security

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?

On February 2, 2015, President Obama submitted his Fiscal Year (FY) 2016 budget to Congress. For seniors, there is good news and bad news in some of the key proposals which are summarized below. In addition to the National Committee’s long-standing opposition to any benefit cuts, we will vigorously support proposals that enhance benefits, strengthen safety net programs and improve the quality of life for older Americans and their families.  Some of the more significant proposals, including the National Committee’s positions, are detailed in our budget analysis.      

A state by state breakdown of the Social Security Benefits. Figures include the number of beneficiaries, the total Social Security annual benefits, the average retirement age monthly benefit, and the aged SSI population.
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