Release: Sanders, Leahy Call for Emergency Social Security Boost for Seniors and Disabled

BURLINGTON, Vt., Oct. 15 – After the federal government announced today that more than 58 million Americans on Social Security will go a second straight year without a cost-of-living raise, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) said he wants a Senate vote in November on his proposal to provide $250 emergency payments to seniors and the disabled.

“It makes a lot more sense to me to protect some of the most vulnerable people in our country with the equivalent of a cost-of-living adjustment than it does to give huge tax breaks to millionaires and billionaires,” Sanders said. “I very much hope that the Republicans will not filibuster this proposal.”

Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) said, “Vermont seniors living on fixed incomes are among those who are struggling most in this tough economy.  They need this modest help far more than the wealthiest Americans need more of the Republicans’ costly top-tier tax breaks.”

Sanders and Leahy said Congress should approve the emergency payments to help cover rising health care costs that have driven up living expenses for seniors while overall costs for consumer products  held steady.

Unless Congress acts, today’s announcement from the Bureau of Labor Statistics will mean there will be no cost-of-living adjustments for retirees and the disabled for only the second time since 1975 when a law took effect requiring annual adjustments. 

President Obama, AARP and organizations representing disabled veterans last spring backed a Sanders proposal for  a $250 payment, but Sanders’ amendment was blocked in the Senate last March 3 when all but one of the Republican senators voted against it.

Sanders said the estimated $13 billion cost of the help for seniors is only a fraction of the $70 billion in annual tax breaks that Senate Republicans are pushing for the wealthiest Americans. "Seniors and disabled veterans deserve a fair and reasonable cost-of-living adjustment this year.”

In the long-term, he added, Congress should update the system for determining Social Security COLAs developed during the 1970s that is fundamentally broken. “We need to establish a new formula for determining Social Security COLAs that more accurately reflects the spending patterns of senior citizens."