WASHINGTON, Nov. 5 – Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), introduced legislation today to boost Social Security and other critical benefits for seniors, veterans and other Americans following last month's announcement that there will be a zero cost-of-living adjustment in 2016.
Although the cost of core goods and services is projected to rise next year, millions of Americans will see no increase in the benefits they rely on to make ends meet. Meanwhile, CEO compensation for the top 350 firms increased by 3.9 percent last year. The Seniors and Veterans Emergency Benefits Act would give about 70 million seniors, veterans, people with disabilities, and others an emergency payment equal to 3.9 percent of the average annual Social Security benefit, about $581 – the same percentage raise as the top CEOs.
"It is unacceptable that millions of senior citizens and disabled veterans did not receive a cost-of-living adjustment this year to keep up with their rising living expenses. At a time when senior poverty is going up and more than two-thirds of the elderly population rely on Social Security for more than half of their income, our job must be to expand, not cut, Social Security," said Senator Sanders. "At the very least, we must do everything we can to make sure that every senior citizen and disabled veteran in this country receives a fair cost-of-living adjustment to keep up with the skyrocketing cost of prescription drugs and health care."
A $581 increase could cover almost three months of groceries for seniors or a year's worth of out-of-pocket costs on critical prescription drugs for the average Medicare beneficiary. The bill would lift more than 1 million Americans out of poverty. The cost of this emergency payment would be covered by closing a tax loophole allowing corporations to write off executive bonuses as a business expense for "performance pay." The substantial additional revenue saved by closing the CEO compensation loophole would be used to bolster and extend the life of the Social Security and Disability trust funds.
"If we do nothing, on January 1st, more than 70 million seniors, veterans, and other Americans won't get an extra dime in much-needed Social Security and other benefits. And while Congress sits on its hands and pretends that there's nothing we can do, taxpayers will keep right on subsidizing billions of dollars' worth of bonuses for highly paid CEOs," Senator Warren said. "Giving seniors a little help with their Social Security and stitching up corporate tax write-offs isn't just about economics; it's about our values. Congress should pass the SAVE Benefits Act today to give a boost to millions of Americans who have earned it."
The SAVE Benefits Act is supported by AFL-CIO, AFSCME, Alliance for Retired Americans, The ARC of the United States, B'nai B'rith International, Campaign for America's Future, Center for Community Change, Center for Effective Government, CREDO, Daily Kos, Democracy for America, Economic Opportunity Institute, International Brotherhood of the Teamsters, Justice in Aging, MoveOn.org, National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare, National Council of La Raza, National Organization for Women, OWL-the Voice of Women 40+, Progressive Change Campaign Committee, Puget Sound Advocates for Retirement Action, Social Security Works, Strengthen Social Security Coalition, UltraViolet, and VoteVets.
The bill is also cosponsored by Senators Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.), Patty Murray (D-Wash.), Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.), Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Bob Casey (D-Pa.), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Al Franken (D-Minn.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), Mazie K. Hirono (D-Hawai'i), Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.) and Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.).