"Raising the retirement age would inflict further hardship among a group of workers who are likely to face health and economic problems in their 60s." –Doug Hart, President, Arizona Alliance for Retired Americans
"Of all the lies and confusion that still surround the Affordable Care Act, perhaps the greatest is that it is bad for seniors." - Dave Meinell, President, Missouri Alliance for Retired Americans
"My father died when I was three. Because of Social Security (survivors) benefits, my Mom, my younger sister and I survived." – Diane Fleming, DC Alliance Member
"We fear that Congress will balance the budget on the backs of the 98 percent, which is working Montanans and retired Montanans. We simply cannot afford these devastating cuts to vital services such as Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid," –John Forkan, President, Montana Alliance for Retired Americans
"Along with national parks and Social Security, Medicare is one of the best ideas we Americans have ever devised." -Tim Cunningham, New Mexico Alliance Member
"Seniors have earned and deserve their Social Security checks, and they shouldn't have to go to Congress every 10 years and beg for the program to be renewed." –James Parent, Alliance for Retired Americans Regional Board Member
"Today's retirees paid Medicare and Social Security taxes in every paycheck we ever earned. Now that we are retired, these programs help us to be able to stay healthy and pay our bills. They are the promise we make to people who worked hard all their lives, and we need to keep that promise for today’s workers." –Tony Fransetta, President, Florida Alliance for Retired Americans
"Today's seniors want to lower the budget deficit. We do not want a large debt to be the legacy we leave to future generations, but we should not punish people who have paid Social Security taxes all their lives." –Jim Moore, President, North Carolina Alliance for Retired Americans
"Social Security should remain what it has been for 77 years – a solid, reliable way that generations of workers have been able to retire with dignity, economic security, and peace of mind." –Barbara J. Easterling, President, Alliance for Retired Americans
"The fight for Social Security and Medicare is part of a larger fight for justice and fairness"—Barbara J. Easterling, President, Alliance for Retired Americans
"The health insurance reform helps not just seniors, but also middle-class families and young Americans, who are just starting to see the benefits. Don’t let Republicans take all that away." –Don Rowen, President Emeritus, Iowa Alliance for Retired Americans
"Honoring the promise of Social Security and Medicare should not be a partisan issue. Honoring the contributions that we make throughout our working years so that we may feed and clothe ourselves, keep a roof over our heads and those of our family, there is no reason for that to be a hotly contested partisan issue." –Edward Coyle, Executive Director, Alliance for Retired Americans
"We need to make sure that people who need Social Security to make ends meet will have it, and not fall victim to ill-informed and unnecessary cuts to these vital programs."
–Barbara J. Easterling, President, Alliance for Retired Americans
Alliance, AFGE, Acting SSA Commissioner Detail Sequester Effect on Social Security
Alliance President Barbara J. Easterling co-authored an op-ed in Huffington Post last week with Witold Skwierczynski, President of the American Federation of Government Employees National Council of Social Security Administration (SSA) Field Operations Locals, on the impact of the sequester on the SSA. The Locals represent about 25,000 Social Security employees in field offices and telephone centers nationwide.
“Two straight years of budget cuts and hiring freezes have crippled Social Security's ability to handle dramatic workload increases, and the additional cuts required under sequestration will cause further erosion,” the two stress. “Office hours nationwide have been slashed by 23 percent, which has had a detrimental effect on processing new claims. In most offices, citizens have to wait more than 30 days to get an in-person meeting or telephone interview to file benefit applications or complete appeal requests. The odds of getting a busy signal when calling the toll-free number have tripled in the past six months alone, with 16 percent of citizens unable to reach even the automated menu when they call.” To see the whole piece, go to http://tinyurl.com/cltleoe. To see a letter from Acting Social Security Administration Commissioner Carolyn W. Colvin detailing what the cuts would mean – including longer waits and shorter hours - go to http://tinyurl.com/cxy28oo.
An article in The Los Angeles Times recently specified the ways in which the sequester would seriously affect health care. According to the article, “Although the Medicare program will account for the largest chunk of dollars cut from health care simply because of its great size, the scheduled 2% reduction in its payments to doctors and hospitals is significantly smaller than what many public health and research programs face.” To read more, go to http://tinyurl.com/buqpr3y.
Senator Bernie Sanders Reintroduces “Keeping Our Social Security Promises” Act
On Thursday, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) reintroduced S. 500, the “Keeping Our Social Security Promises Act” in the Senate. Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-OR) introduced a companion bill in the House of Representatives, H.R. 1029. This legislation would require those making incomes over $250,000 to contribute their fair share to Social Security. Currently, Americans who make over $113,700 do not have to pay Social Security payroll contributions on any income exceeding that amount. The result is that ordinary Americans pay a much larger share of their incomes into Social Security than the wealthiest Americans do. Rectifying this unequal pay rate will strengthen Social Security by ensuring its solvency for the next 50 years – all without cutting Social Security benefits.
“The Alliance strongly endorses this important legislation,” said Edward F. Coyle, the Alliance’s Executive Director. “At a time when far too many are trying to weaken Social Security by pushing misguided benefit cuts, it is encouraging to see lawmakers introduce a bill that instead takes the positive step of increasing contributions into Social Security so that the program will be sure to remain strong for our children and grandchildren.” To see the Alliance letter supporting the legislation, go to http://tinyurl.com/bqekpep.
Health Insurers Launch Ad Campaign over Medicare Advantage Cuts
The health insurance industry is escalating its lobbying battle against a proposed Medicare Advantage pay cut to insurers by launching a television and online advertising campaign to garner public support among the program's 14 million beneficiaries. According to Reuters, America’s Health Insurance Plans (AHIP), a leading Washington-based trade group, said a 30-second commercial titled "Too Much" would be shown in a dozen states and the Washington, D.C., area in hopes of dissuading the Obama administration from imposing a 2.3 percent cut in government payments next year. The ad buy was launched on Wednesday on cable TV in the Washington, D.C., area. Ads with state-specific Medicare Advantage enrollment numbers will also air in New York, Louisiana and Pennsylvania, where the plans are popular.
“The cuts are justified,” said Mr. Coyle. “We had been bestowing government subsidies on insurance companies for too long, and we cannot afford to do that anymore.”
Viral Video Shows the Shocking Reality of Wealth Inequality in the United States
A web video that demonstrates the extent of wealth inequality in the United States went viral this week, as sequester cuts began to take effect. The video, uploaded by an anonymous YouTube member last December, has been viewed nearly four million times. The narrator presents a series of charts that illustrate wealth inequality. Viewers learn that the top 1% of Americans control 40% of the country’s wealth, while the bottom 80% has only 7% of the wealth. The narrator explains that when Americans are surveyed, they believe that the wealth distribution is far more equal than it actually is, but 92% still want an even more equal distribution. Go to http://tinyurl.com/cpn2oe3 to see the video. The Mother Jones article the video was based on is at http://tinyurl.com/c5z46cd.
“This video illustrates why the sequester is a bad idea,” said Ruben Burks, Secretary-Treasurer of the Alliance. “The sequester is forcing cuts to many vital programs for the needy, including Meals on Wheels for impoverished seniors. If House Republican Budget Committee Chair Paul Ryan gets his way and Medicare and Social Security are cut instead of raising taxes on the top 1%, ordinary Americans would wind up with an even smaller share of the country’s wealth.”
California Senior Dies after Nurse Refuses to Perform CPR
Lorraine Bayless, an 87-year-old woman from California, died on February 26th after collapsing in the dining room of a retirement home. She lived in the home’s independent living facility. After she collapsed, a bystander called 911 and passed the phone to a woman claiming to be a nurse, who was instructed to perform CPR. The woman responded that the facility’s policies prevented her from performing CPR on a resident. California lawmakers are considering passing legislation to ensure that a tragedy like this does not happen again. To read the Huffington Post’s write up of the story, go to http://tinyurl.com/d4mp48r.
“We can learn from this tragedy,” said Ms. Easterling. “When you are searching for a new place to live, take into account not just the amenities, but also what their policies are in a health emergency situation such as this one.”
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