Support Grows for Seniors and Disabled Vets

There is growing momentum behind Sen. Bernie Sanders' push to give seniors and disabled veterans a $250 emergency payment to make up for the lack of a cost-of-living increase in Social Security benefits for a second year in a row.  "Our nation continues to struggle with the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression, far too many senior citizens are experiencing a decline in their living standards," Sanders and senators said in a recent letter supporting a vote on the emergency payment.  The Senate is expected to take up the proposal when Congress reconvenes later this month. Among outside groups joining the cause are the AARP, the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare, the Alliance for Retired Americans and the Economic Policy Institute.
 
"During these frightening economic times it's easy to understand why so many seniors are worried about news there will be no Social Security Cost of Living Adjustment (COLA) for the second year in a row.  However, it's important America's retirees understand there is something they can do about the loss of a COLA, and that's to urge their representatives in Congress to support passage of COLA relief legislation.  Majority Leader Harry Reid has announced the Senate will vote on legislation providing a $250 payment to beneficiaries after the November election and we applaud his decision to consider this legislation, in spite of conservatives' defeat of a similar bill last year. Providing a one-time payment to seniors is an economic strategy that works. The $250 stimulus payment passed in 2009 not only provided relief to millions of older Americans but was also proven to help stimulate our troubled economy." - Barbara Kennelly, President and CEO, National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare  
 
"The purchasing needs of seniors are unique, and often include medications needed to stay alive.  We thank Senator Majority Leader Harry Reid for calling this vote, and urge quick passage of this critically important legislation.  $250 may be just dinner and drinks if you are on Wall Street, but it will make a real difference for those on Main Street." - Edward F. Coyle, Executive Director, Alliance for Retired Americans
 
"EPI research has shown that one of the most effective components of the 2009 Recovery Act was the $250 lump-sum payments that went to recipients of Social Security and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits. Because these Social Security and SSI payment were quickly spent, they stimulated local economies and likely boosted GDP by roughly 0.5 percent in the second quarter of 2009. That translates to about 125,000 jobs created or saved due to these payments." - Ross Eisenbrey, Vice President, Economic Policy Institute 

“While the recent recession has hurt Americans of all ages, older Americans are feeling squeezed in unique ways and risk falling further and further behind.  Older Americans on fixed incomes are paying more for utilities and food while suffering massive losses in their home values and nest eggs. Those still able to work face the longest periods of unemployment since the 1940s.  Next year will be the second year in a row without a cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) since automatic Social Security adjustments went into effect in 1975. Even if inflation is low, that doesn't mean prices haven't gone up on the things seniors spend the most on, particularly health care, where costs have far outpaced inflation. As just one example, brand name drugs rose more than 8% in 2009.  Social Security's guaranteed, life-long benefits continue to provide essential income for millions of Americans, especially those with modest incomes. Social Security is the primary source of income for 64% of retiree households, and one out of three relies on Social Security for all or almost all of their income.  We hear from our members and older Americans across the country who are worried. For those on fixed incomes, the COLA can mean the difference between getting by and going without basic needs … We believe that Congress and the administration should provide fiscally responsible relief for millions of Americans who count on an increase in their check to help pay their mounting bills.  Providing relief when there's no COLA isn't about getting more — it's about keeping up.” - Nancy LeaMond, executive vice president of the state and national group for AARP.