Release: Seniors Support Social Security Boost

WASHINGTON, September 30 – Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.) were joined today by seniors supporting their bill to provide a one-time, $250 payment next year to more than 50 million seniors so Social Security benefits do not shrink.

Unless Congress acts, benefits will drop for the first time in decades because there will be no cost-of-living adjustment while Medicare prescription drug premiums, which are deducted from Social Security, will go up. 

More than 120,000 signatures supporting the legislation were gathered on petitions presented at the Capitol Hill press conference by Barbara B. Kennelly, president of the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare.  Esther Lenett, 91, a Social Security recipient from Bethesda, Md. also attended the press conference.

“As a result of the most severe economic and financial crisis since the Great Depression, millions of Americans are experiencing a major decline in their living standards.  Senior citizens have not been exempt from that reality and in many cases have been hit especially hard,” Sanders said. “The bottom line is that seniors deserve a fair increase in benefits to keep up with these added costs and economic hardships.”

DeFazio said, “It’s absolutely outrageous that America’s seniors won’t see a cost of living adjustment in their Social Security checks this year.  Many of the necessities that they buy, including Medicare, are going up in cost.  As a result, many seniors without cost of living adjustment, will see their incomes decrease this year.  Our bill will fix this inequity and give every senior an approximately 2% increase to their Social Security this year so that they can afford some of the these necessities.”

“For our members, and millions of seniors nationwide, no COLA next year will make already difficult economic times even harder,” Kennelly said. “They’ve already seen their retirement savings plummet and health care costs skyrocket.  When you consider that one-third of the average retirees’ Social Security check will be consumed by out-of-pocket health care costs next year, you can see how even a few extra dollars can make the difference.”

Nearly 70 percent of beneficiaries depend on Social Security for at least half of their income, and Social Security is the sole source of income for 15 percent of recipients.

To pay for the benefits boost, the legislation Sanders introduced in the Senate and DeFazio offered in the House of Representatives would apply the Social Security payroll tax on household incomes above $250,000 and below $359,000 in 2010. Under current law, only the first $106,800 of earned income is subject to the payroll tax.  A worker earning $106,800 pays the same payroll tax as a CEO who makes millions of dollars a year. The legislation begins to correct that inequity in 2010, while making sure that seniors receive a fair increase in benefits next year.

No one earning $250,000 or less would see their taxes go up under the Sanders and DeFazio bills.

Also attending the press conference were bill co-sponsors Sens. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) and Robert Casey (D-Pa.), and Congressmen Maurice Hinchey (D-N.Y.) and Bill Delahunt (D-Mass.).