February 23, 2022
The Honorable Joseph Robinette Biden Jr.
The White House
Washington, D.C. 20500
Dear President Biden,
On behalf of the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare’s millions of members and supporters, I urge you to keep the promises you have made over the years to America’s seniors by including a plea in your State of the Union address for Congress to improve Social Security benefits and solvency now. Toward this end, we hope you will persuade the House and Senate to approve H.R. 5723/S. 3071, the Social Security 2100: A Sacred Trust Act.
We share the belief you stated during the 2020 Democratic National Convention that “Social Security is a sacred obligation, a sacred promise” made to America’s seniors that they paid for through a lifetime of hard work and sacrifice. You clearly promised that: “If I’m your president, we’re going to protect Social Security and Medicare. You have my word.” Your State of the Union address is the perfect opportunity for you to honor this promise to the American people by highlighting the urgent need to improve Social Security benefits and solvency.
As President Franklin Delano Roosevelt so famously stated, Social Security was created to “provide some measure of protection to the average citizen and to his family” against the hazards and vicissitudes of life. As you well know, Social Security is not merely a retirement program nor is it welfare. It is a contributory social insurance program – an earned benefit that American workers contribute to with each and every paycheck.
The Social Security program provides important financial security to America’s workers by assuring them they will receive a foundation of retirement income which will allow them to live their retirement years in dignity. But Social Security was never intended to only be a retirement program. It was designed to protect workers and their families from loss of income due to death, disability or retirement. In fact, while most individuals who receive Social Security are retirees and their family members, over 14 percent of all Social Security beneficiaries are disabled workers and their families.
Disability insurance can be critical for workers and their families: One in four of today’s 20-year-olds will become disabled before reaching age 67. Yet the vast majority of workers have no long-term disability insurance. Individuals with a prior history of medical problems or who work in industries with a high rate of injury frequently find it prohibitively expensive or impossible to obtain coverage. Many workers do not realize their Social Security payroll taxes are also buying them this critical protection. For a young disabled worker with a spouse and two children, the disability insurance value of the benefit they get through Social Security is over $580,000. And, unlike private disability policies and annuities, Social Security benefits are increased annually to keep up with the cost of living.
Social Security also provides life insurance to protect families from the loss of the earnings of their primary breadwinner. Nine percent of beneficiaries qualify as the survivors of deceased workers. About one in nine of today’s 20-year-olds will die before reaching the full retirement age of 67. Many workers do not have life insurance to protect their families, and many may not realize that their payroll taxes entitle their families to survivor’s benefits, providing life insurance protection worth over $725,000.
No other wage-replacement program – public or private – offers the protection Americans receive from the Social Security program. The benefits it provides to the families of retired, deceased or disabled workers make Social Security our nation’s most important permanent anti-poverty program for children.
As you know, while Social Security provides a financial bulwark against an uncertain financial world – a world in which Americans are acutely aware of their vulnerability – the value of some of its benefits has eroded over the years. The last major Social Security amendments were enacted almost a half-century ago, and it is well past time for the program to be updated to meet the needs of today’s workers and beneficiaries.
On behalf of our members and supporters, and for the future of America’s workers and their families, we urge you to weigh in on the importance of Congressional action to improve and protect Social Security in 2022. H.R. 5723/S. 3071, the Social Security 2100: A Sacred Trust Act, is legislation that represents a collection of the best ideas for making critical improvements to this important program. The benefit improvements included in this legislation have been considered for a number of years and include proposals you have advanced, in addition to ideas suggested by numerous Members of Congress.
The Social Security 2100: A Sacred Trust Act includes your proposals:
- To increase benefits for the lowest income seniors to help keep them out of poverty after a lifetime of hard work
- Improve the formula by which Cost of Living Adjustments are calculated to better reflect the goods and services purchased by seniors
- To provide a ‘bump’ for those receiving benefits for twenty years or more – a provision important to help those who are least able to continue working and who are the most likely to have exhausted any savings they may have had upon retirement
- Improve the benefits of widows and widowers from two-income households, especially important for women as they are most likely to survive their husbands and face their own retirement with significantly reduced resources. Elderly widows are among the poorest women in America. According to the Congressional Research Service, among women aged 65 and older, about 14.4 percent of widows had total incomes below the official poverty threshold compared with 4.7 percent of married women. This provision would take an important step toward keeping them out of poverty
- Various improvements to the disability program, Social Security credits for caregivers, and repeal of the unfair Windfall Elimination Provision (WEP) and the Government Pension Offset (GPO) (also important to elderly women)
Of all age cohorts, young people tend to be the most concerned about Social Security not being there for them when they retire. Sadly, there are some who take advantage of their anxiety by suggesting the only way to guarantee the program’s future is by privatizing it or cutting benefits. Enactment of H.R. 5723/S. 3071 will provide some peace of mind to these younger workers who have been repeatedly told the program’s days are numbered.
The Social Security 2100: A Sacred Trust Act has been endorsed by more than 100 activist groups, has 200 original cosponsors, and is extremely popular with the American public, whether they identify as Democrats, Republicans or Independents. Enactment of this legislation would provide positive proof that Congress takes Social Security seriously, and that Congress and the Administration can work together to strengthen and improve this program that is so important to their lives and future economic wellbeing without privatization or benefit cuts.
Mr. President, you have an opportunity to remind Congress of its responsibility to protect this “sacred obligation” in your State of the Union speech, as well as during your conversations with members of Congress directly and with the American people. Social Security has long been an extremely popular program across the political spectrum. It has provided security and financial stability for hard-working Americans irrespective of where they live, where they work or how much income they earn. Social Security has the power to bring our country together, and to give Congress and your Administration a bipartisan issue to rally around for the good of the American people. We urge you to make improving and strengthening Social Security a top priority of your Administration, and to persuade Congress to enact the Social Security 2100: A Sacred Trust Act without delay.
President and CEO