July 16, 2015
United States Senate
Washington, D.C. 20510
On behalf of the millions of members and supporters of the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare, I write to express our strong opposition to enacting legislation that reduces Social Security benefit payments to America’s seniors for unrelated programs in the surface transportation reauthorization bill.
By law, the revenues received by the Social Security Trust Funds are reserved exclusively for the purpose of paying benefits to the American people and covering associated administrative costs. Americans understand this arrangement and overwhelmingly support it as a vital element of the program’s status as an earned right benefit. Clouding this understanding by proposing Social Security benefit cuts as a means of financing other federal spending fuels the public’s mistrust of business as usual in Washington and leads more and more people to believe that their Social Security contributions are being stolen or converted to other purposes.
I understand there are at least two Social Security policy changes that are currently being considered as “offsets” for legislation that would extend highway transportation funding. One of these is a measure barring payment of Social Security benefits for seniors with outstanding warrants for their arrest. Almost none of the seniors who would be affected by this provision are actual fugitives from justice and most of the warrants in question are many years old and involve minor infractions. Moreover, the Social Security Administration attempted to administer a similar provision for a number of years, with catastrophic effect for many vulnerable elderly seniors, employing procedures that did not withstand judicial scrutiny. Reenacting this requirement should be something the Congress does only after careful analysis and with ample opportunity for public discussion.
The second provision relates to the concurrent receipt of both Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits and unemployment compensation. Given the importance that all policy makers ascribe to encouraging disabled Americans to return to the workforce, I am perplexed by the desire on the part of some in the Congress to strip working SSDI beneficiaries of their eligibility to receive unemployment compensation when, through no fault of their own, they lose a job. Concurrent eligibility, which derives directly from a disabled person’s efforts to return to work, is a work incentive. That incentive should be altered only after the committees of jurisdiction have carefully considered all of the ramifications associated with such a change and, again, after ample opportunity for public comment.
For these reasons, the National Committee urges you to oppose any legislation, including bills that extend highway transportation funding, that are offset by the enactment of Social Security policy changes that reduce benefits to America’s seniors.
President and CEO