WASHINGTON, Dec. 15 – Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), slated to take over as the ranking member of the Senate Budget Committee, announced today that he will use the position to defend and expand Social Security, “the most successful government program in history.”
“At a time when prescription drug prices are skyrocketing and one-third of all seniors depend on Social Security for a least 90 percent of their income, we should not be cutting Social Security, we should be expanding it,” said Sanders. “Despite what you may hear from some politicians or pundits on TV, Social Security is not going broke. In fact the program has a $2.76 trillion surplus and has paid out every nickel owed to every eligible beneficiary since its inception.”
Speaking on the Senate floor, Sanders said one of the major threats to Social Security is a proposal promoted by Republican budget negotiators to change how the consumer price index is calculate in a way designed to cut annual cost-of-living adjustments for Social Security benefits. Under the so-called chained CPI, the average senior who retires at age 65 would see their Social Security benefits cut by about $658 a year when they reach 75 and by about $1,100 a year once they turn 85. At the beginning of 2014, the average Social Security benefit for a retired worker was $1,193.92 a month.
The change in the formula for calculating inflation also would also substantially cut benefits for nearly 4 million veterans. The largest cuts would impact young, permanently disabled veterans who were seriously wounded in combat. It would also impact more than 350,000 survivors who receive service-connected death benefits. Veterans who started receiving VA disability benefits at age 30 would have their benefits reduced by $1,425 at age 45, $2,341 at age 55 and $3,231 at age 65.
Sanders has introduced legislation that would lift the cap on contributions to Social Security in order to secure the program for future generations. “Right now a billionaire pays the same amount into Social Security as someone who makes $117,000 a year,” said Sanders. “If we lifted this cap and applied the Social Security payroll tax to income above $250,000 we could expand Social Security. That is exactly what we have got to do. And that is exactly what the American people want us to do.”
Sanders is the outgoing chairman of the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs and the founder of the Senate’s Defend Social Security Caucus.