Schwartz Fights to Protect Seniors and Veterans

Feb 19, 2014 Issues: Seniors, Veterans

LEADS PUSH URGING PRESIDENT TO EXCLUDE ‘CHAINED CPI’ FROM BUDGET

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Rep. Allyson Y. Schwartz (PA-13) today led 117 U.S. Representatives in urging President Obama to rule out cuts to Social Security and veterans’ benefits in his budget proposal for next year.

In their letter, Schwartz and her fellow House members called on the president to avoid using the chained consumer price index to calculate cost-of-living adjustments (COLA) for Social Security and other federal programs. Switching to this measure of inflation, known as “chained CPI,” would reduce payments and have a negative financial impact on seniors, veterans and people with disabilities.

“Social Security doesn’t drive the federal deficit and the Pennsylvania seniors who depend on it must not be used as bargaining chips to fix our nation’s fiscal problems. Social Security must be strengthened, not weakened. Shifting to chained CPI will make it harder for Pennsylvania seniors and veterans to pay their bills and have the dignity and financial independence they deserve,” Schwartz said.

The full text of Schwartz’s letter is below and can be here. The lead cosigners are Reps. Bruce Braley (IA-1), Cheri Bustos (IL-17), David Cicilline (RI-1) and Jan Schakowsky (IL-9). Reps. Robert Brady (PA-1), Matthew Cartwright (PA-17) and Mike Doyle (PA-14) of Pennsylvania’s congressional delegation signed the letter.

Social Security provides more than 1.7 million seniors in Pennsylvania with the foundation for a dignified retirement. It also provides benefits to more than 400,000 Pennsylvanians with disabilities and more than 192,000 children. In addition, Pennsylvania is home to nearly 980,000 veterans and their families, many of whom receive Social Security and veterans’ benefits that also would face COLA cuts under chained CPI.

Schwartz is a cosponsor of the Strengthening Social Security Act of 2013, which Rep. Linda Sanchez (CA-38) introduced in September 2013. The bill increases benefits and extends the solvency of the Social Security trust fund an additional 17 years, through 2049. Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA) introduced companion legislation (S 567) in the Senate in March 2013. Harkin and Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) are leading the effort in the Senate to expand Social Security.

As a member of the House Ways and Means Committee’s Subcommittee on Social Security and as a member of the Seniors Task Force, Schwartz has long been a staunch advocate for preserving Social Security and has fought tirelessly to strengthen it. She has consistently opposed efforts to privatize these guaranteed retirement benefits that have helped millions of Americans for more than 75 years.

STATEMENTS OF SUPPORT

Max Richtman, President and CEO, National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare: “Cutting Social Security benefits by adopting a stingier cost-of-living formula will have a devastating effect on millions of current and future retirees.  For too many seniors, their inflation-protected Social Security benefit is the only thing standing between having to choose between buying food or medicine.  Congresswoman Allyson Schwartz knows that the ‘Chained’ Consumer Price Index (CPI) proposal would hurt seniors, veterans and people with disabilities and should not be a part of the President’s budget.  That’s why the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare stands with Representative Schwartz and her colleagues in urging the President to keep the chained CPI out of his 2015 budget.” 

Eric Kingson, Co-chair, Strengthen Social Security Coalition: “We applaud Representative Schwartz for leading this letter urging the President to exclude the chained CPI from his FY15 budget. Social Security’s earned benefits are modest, on average less than $15,000 per year. It’s good that Representative Schwartz and the other 116 members who have signed onto the letter recognize the chained CPI for what it is—a cut in benefits for everyone who receives benefits today and in the future, including retirees, persons with severe disabilities and veterans. Ten years out, a typical worker retiring at age 65 would have lost roughly $4600 dollars; $8,700 by age 80. Instead of proposing to cut benefits, it is time to talk about expanding them.”

Campaign for Community Change Managing Director Mary Lassen: “The Campaign for Community Change and our partners across the country have been organizing to not only protect our Social Security system from harmful cuts, but to expand it so that it works better for everyone, and particularly for the women, low-income communities and people of color who rely on it. We are excited to work with Congresswoman Schwartz to protect our seniors from the devastating cuts that would result from chained CPI.”

Bob King, President of the International Union, United Automobile, Aerospace and Agricultural Implement Workers of America (UAW): “I am proud to thank Rep. Allyson Schwartz for her long and storied history of standing up for America’s seniors. At a time when income security for seniors is less and less certain, we need to find ways as a nation to strengthen Social Security—not weaken it.”

Robin Burstein, Executive Director of Greater Harleysville and North Penn Senior Services: “On a daily basis our seniors live in fear that they will be unable to pay their bills.  Some have to choose between filling up their oil tank or having cataract surgery.  The potential loss of Social Security income would have a devastating effect on many older adults who are already struggling to meet their basic needs. I appreciate and support Congresswoman Schwartz’s continued efforts to strengthen Social Security and ensure our seniors receive the benefits they contributed towards and depend upon to live with dignity in their older age.”

AFL-CIO Government Affairs Director Bill Samuel: “Against a backdrop of broad retirement insecurity, switching to the Chained CPI to determine Social Security cost-of-living adjustments (COLAs) is both callous and short-sighted public policy.  We applaud Rep. Allyson Schwartz’s efforts to protect current and future Social Security beneficiaries.”

Vice Admiral Norbert R. Ryan, Jr., (Ret.), President, Military Officers Association of America: "By not adopting the chained CPI, you are protecting the benefits of more than 3.2 million disabled veterans; 350,000 surviving spouses and children who have lost a loved one in battle or as the result of a service-connected disability; the pensions of 310,000 extremely-low income veterans; and 9 million veterans receiving Social Security benefits.”

 

SUPPORTING ORGANIZATIONS

Social Security Works; Strengthen Social Security Coalition; International Union, United Automobile, Aerospace & Agricultural Implement Workers of America (UAW); National Organization for Women (NOW); American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO); National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare (NCPSSM); Main Street Alliance; Alliance for a Just Society; Campaign for Community Change; National Active and Retired Federal Employees Association (NARFE); Leadership Council of Aging Organizations (LCAO); Military Officers Association of America (MOAA); Fleet Reserve Association (FRA); Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA); United States Army Warrant Officers Association (USAWOA); Marine Corps Reserve Association (MCRA); Air Force Women Officers Associated (AFWOA); Chief Warrant & Warrant Officers Association, USCG; B'nai B'rith International; Alliance for Retired Americans

FULL TEXT OF LETTER

President Barack Obama

The White House

1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W.

Washington, DC 20500

 

Dear Mr. President:

We write to urge you to rule out using the chained Consumer Price Index (CPI) to calculate cost-of-living and inflation adjustments for federal programs in your Budget for Fiscal Year 2015.

Switching to a chained CPI would be devastating for seniors, veterans, federal retirees, disabled individuals and others.  Under legislation enacted in 1983, Social Security benefits for seniors retiring in the coming years are already scheduled to be reduced.  Today, the average worker earning $43,000 annually who retires at age 65 will find that Social Security replaces 41 percent of their previous earnings.  Soon, this will decline to just 36 percent of previous earnings, as the full retirement age climbs from 66 to 67 over the 2017-2022 period.

Chained CPI would further reduce those earned benefits over time because it fails to take into account inflation for older Americans.  While the Affordable Care Act has had a positive effect in reducing Medicare spending growth, increased medical costs continue to take a larger and larger share of Social Security earned benefits.  As you know, many seniors already face tight personal budgets, challenges that the recession has only exacerbated.  For many seniors living on a fixed income, any reduction in benefits would have a serious impact on their ability to afford basic necessities.

While there have been protections proposed to mitigate the impact of chained CPI on the very elderly and certain vulnerable populations, such as the blind, disabled and seniors with limited income, many with limited, modest incomes would still be impacted.  For instance, even with the benefit enhancements that have been proposed, a low-wage retiree receiving $9,600 per year would see their benefits reduced by an average of 1.5 percent between ages 62 and 81, a loss of more than $140 per year. 

Your Budget for Fiscal Year 2014 proposed a comprehensive $1.8 trillion deficit reduction package that sought to replace sequestration and reflected the compromise you offered to House Speaker John Boehner in December 2012.  That plan incorporated a Republican proposal to use chained CPI to reduce cost-of-living increases for Social Security recipients, as well as military veterans, people with disabilities, and beneficiaries of other federal programs.   Since then, however, the Republican majority has consistently refused to discuss a balanced approach that would include increased revenues and the closing of tax loopholes.

We recognize that additional measures are required to address our nation’s long-term budget challenges, and we appreciate the difficult choices you are wrestling with as you prepare a fiscal blueprint to promote economic growth. But, we respectfully ask that you not place the burden of additional deficit reduction on the backs of seniors, veterans, federal retirees, disabled individuals and others by including chained CPI in your Budget for Fiscal Year 2015.

Sincerely,

Rep. Allyson Y. Schwartz

Rep. Bruce L. Braley

Rep. Cheri Bustos

Rep. David N. Cicilline

Rep. Janice D. Schakowsky

Rep. Ron Barber

Rep. Joyce Beatty

Rep. Earl Blumenauer

Rep. Suzanne Bonamici

Rep. Robert A. Brady

Rep. Corrine Brown

Rep. Lois Capps

Rep. Tony Cardenas

Rep. Andre Carson

Rep. Matthew A. Cartwright

Rep. Judy Chu

Rep. Katherine Clark

Rep. Yvette D. Clarke

Rep. Wm. Lacy Clay

Rep. Emanuel Cleaver

Rep. Steve Cohen

Rep. John Conyers

Rep. Joe Courtney

Rep. Elijah E. Cummings

Rep. Danny K. Davis

Rep. Peter A. DeFazio

Rep. Rosa L. DeLauro

Rep. Theodore E. Deutch

Rep. Lloyd Doggett

Rep. Michael F. Doyle

Rep. Donna F. Edwards

Rep. Keith Ellison

Rep. William L. Enyart

Rep. Elizabeth H. Esty

Rep. Lois Frankel

Rep. Marcia L. Fudge

Rep. John Garamendi

Rep. Alan Grayson

Rep. Al Green

Rep. Gene Green

Rep. Raul M. Grijalva

Rep. Luis V. Gutierrez

Rep. Janice Hahn

Rep. Colleen W. Hanabusa

Rep. Alcee L. Hastings

Rep. Brian Higgins

Rep. Rubén Hinojosa

Rep. Rush Holt

Rep. Michael M. Honda

Rep. Steven A. Horsford

Rep. Jared Huffman

Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee

Rep. Hakeem Jeffries

Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson

Rep. Henry C. "Hank" Johnson

Rep. Marcy Kaptur

Rep. William R. Keating

Rep. Robin Kelly

Rep. Daniel T. Kildee

Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick

Rep. James R. Langevin

Rep. Rick Larsen

Rep. Barbara Lee

Rep. John Lewis

Rep. David Loebsack

Rep. Zoe Lofgren

Rep. Alan S. Lowenthal

Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham

Rep. Stephen F. Lynch

Rep. Daniel B. Maffei

Rep. Carolyn B. Maloney

Rep. Doris O. Matsui

Rep. Carolyn McCarthy

Rep. Betty McCollum

Rep. Jim McDermott

Rep. James P. McGovern

Rep. Grace Meng

Rep. Michael H. Michaud

Rep. Gwen Moore

Rep. Jerrold Nadler

Rep. Gloria Negrete McLeod

Rep. Richard M. Nolan

Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton

Rep. Beto O'Rourke

Rep. Frank Pallone

Rep. Bill Pascrell

Rep. Gary C. Peters

Rep. Collin C. Peterson

Rep. Chellie Pingree

Rep. Mark Pocan

Rep. Mike Quigley

Rep. Nick J. Rahall

Rep. Charles B. Rangel

Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard

Rep. Raul Ruiz

Rep. Bobby L. Rush

Rep. Tim Ryan

Rep. Gregorio Kilili Camacho Sablan

Rep. Linda T. Sanchez

Rep. John P. Sarbanes

Rep. Adam B. Schiff

Rep. Robert C. "Bobby" Scott

Rep. Jose E. Serrano

Rep. Carol Shea-Porter

Rep. Albio Sires

Rep. Louise McIntosh Slaughter

Rep. Eric Swalwell

Rep. Mark Takano

Rep. Dina Titus

Rep. Bennie G. Thompson

Rep. Paul Tonko

Rep. Juan Vargas

Rep. Marc A. Veasey

Rep. Maxine Waters

Rep. Peter Welch

Rep. Frederica S. Wilson

Rep. John A. Yarmuth