Report: Entitlement changes to put seniors at financial risk

By:  Michael A. Fletcher

Nearly half of the nation’s elderly population is “economically vulnerable” and would be particularly hard hit by even modest changes in the Social Security and Medicare programs being considered to slow the growth of the nation’s long-term debt, according to a new report.

The liberal Economic Policy Institute said that 48 percent of the elderly population earns less than double the supplemental poverty threshold, putting those seniors at financial risk if their income is cut even slightly. Older blacks and Hispanics are especially vulnerable, the report said, as the vast majority of them live on the financial edge.

There is no fixed supplemental poverty line for the entire nation, as the measure shifts depending on the cost of living in various parts of the country. The national average for single adults is $10,652 — but that ranges from $8,313 for an Iowa homeowner with no mortgage to $15,079 for a homeowner paying a mortgage in Hawaii, according to David Cooper, an EPI researcher who co-
authored the report. The government estimates that about 9 percent of the elderly population lives in poverty.

The District of Columbia has the nation’s highest share of financially vulnerable senior citizens, with nearly three out of five elderly people living on incomes that amount to less than double the supplemental poverty threshold. In Maryland, 48 percent of seniors are vulnerable, and in Virginia, 41.6 percent of seniors have incomes equal to less than half of the supplemental poverty line.

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