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AARP Op-Ed in USA TODAY: ‘Seniors Need Relief to Keep Up’

Posted on by Karina

Last week, Speaker Pelosi announced the House will vote on the Seniors Protection Act of 2010 (HR 5987)—fiscally responsible legislation to provide 54 million seniors with a one-time payment of $250 in light of last week’s announcement by the Social Security Administration that there will be no automatic Cost-of-Living-Adjustment (COLA) for America’s seniors in 2011. This legislation has at least 200 co-sponsors and Democratic Members who have agreed to sign on. As of this morning, no Republicans have announced their support.

An op-ed in this morning’s USA TODAY by Nancy LeaMond, Executive Vice President of the state and national group for AARP, highlights why this legislation is so needed:

While the recent recession has hurt Americans of all ages, older Americans are feeling squeezed in unique ways and risk falling further and further behind.

Older Americans on fixed incomes are paying more for utilities and food while suffering massive losses in their home values and nest eggs. Those still able to work face the longest periods of unemployment since the 1940s.

Next year will be the second year in a row without a cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) since automatic Social Security adjustments went into effect in 1975. Even if inflation is low, that doesn’t mean prices haven’t gone up on the things seniors spend the most on, particularly health care, where costs have far outpaced inflation. As just one example, brand name drugs rose more than 8% in 2009.

Social Security’s guaranteed, life-long benefits continue to provide essential income for millions of Americans, especially those with modest incomes. Social Security is the primary source of income for 64% of retiree households, and one out of three relies on Social Security for all or almost all of their income.

We hear from our members and older Americans across the country who are worried. For those on fixed incomes, the COLA can mean the difference between getting by and going without basic needs.

For example, Claire E., a widow who raised three children, lives only on Social Security, her small pension and her savings, and her savings have been depleted 30% since the recession began. She struggles to keep up with rising medical costs and wants to stay independent as long as possible.

For Claire and millions like her, the COLA makes a difference.

Claire’s challenges are not rare, unfortunately. We believe that Congress and the administration should provide fiscally responsible relief for millions of Americans who count on an increase in their check to help pay their mounting bills.

Providing relief when there’s no COLA isn’t about getting more — it’s about keeping up.

Congressional Democrats pledge to provide this Social Security payment in a fiscally responsible way. Congressional Republicans are pledging to privatize and cut Social Security and Medicare, turning it over to Wall Street.

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