September 03, 2010

Tell Congress: Don’t Raise Retirement Age!

Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ) plans to introduce a resolution expressing the sense of Congress against raising the retirement age when Congress reconvenes this month. “This resolution, especially with a large number of cosponsors, can be a good counterweight to proposals at the Fiscal Commission to raise the retirement age,” said Edward F. Coyle, Executive Director of theAlliance. In a “Dear Colleague” letter sent to members of the House recently, Giffords said that an increase in the retirement age is simply a cut in benefits. Current cosponsors include: Reps.Travis Childers (D-MS), Paul Tonko (D-NY), Peter DeFazio (D-OR), Laura Richardson (D-CA), Diane Watson (D-CA), Joseph Crowley (D-NY), Carol Shea-Porter (D-NH) and Joe Courtney (D-CT). To ask your Member of Congress to co-sponsor the resolution, go to

“For 75 years, Social Security has been a bedrock promise.  Seniors have earned it with a lifetime of hard work and depend on it to live independently and with dignity in their retirement. That’s why I unequivocally oppose proposals to cut Social Security benefits and balance the budget on the backs of seniors by raising the Social Security retirement age,” Giffords wrote in her letter. Rep. Giffords listed several reasons for not raising the retirement age: the surplus within the Social Security trust fund is estimated to grow to more than $4 trillion by 2023; also, the normal retirement age, currently 66, was already increased by two months each year in 1983 until it reaches 67 in 2022.  In addition, she wrote that raising the retirement age will place a greater burden on older, blue-collar workers in physically demanding occupations, like nurses, auto workers and teachers, who may not be able to continue to work in their jobs into their mid-to-late 60s; that the burden of raising the retirement age will fall most heavily on older workers with limited employment opportunities; and that life expectancy numbers are skewed in favor of men, higher income earners, and the more educated.

Illinois Activists Protest Rep. Paul Ryan’s “Road Map” for Social Security

Members of the Illinois Alliance for Retired Americans, the Illinois Main Street Alliance, and Citizen Action/Illinois met outside of Chicago’s Four Seasons Hotel on Wednesday to protest U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan’s (R-WI) endorsement of Illinois’ 9th Congressional District candidate, Joel Pollack (R). Ryan is the architect of the controversial “Roadmap for America” plan, which would dismantle Social Security.  In the 10th Congressional District, nominee Dan Seals (D) has also taken a swing at opponent Robert Dold (R) for encouraging supporters to read up on Ryan’sRoadmap. “Social Security seems destined to play a key role in these Chicago-area campaigns this fall,” said Ruben Burks, Secretary-Treasurer of the Alliance. For pictures of Wednesday’s event, go to

New Health Care Benefits Kick in, Address Early Retirees and the Doughnut Hole

This week, The Washington Post reported that 2,000 groups have now been approved for early-retiree health care funds []. One of the provisions of The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Law is a $5 billion program to reimburse employers for health claims of early retirees (retired workers over 55 but too young to receive Medicare), encouraging employers to cover early retirees.  Many companies and state governments involved in a lawsuit contesting the constitutionality of the health law applied successfully for the early retiree health care funds. The provision aims to curb the rapid decline of employers who offer health coverage to early retirees.

Also this week, the Department of Health and Human Resources announced that the millionth $250 “doughnut hole” rebate check was mailed to a senior who falls in the Medicare doughnut hole. Many Alliance members across the country will receive partial relief this year, as a $250 one-time check is mailed to them – the first step to ultimately closing the doughnut hole in 2020. More on the closing of the doughnut hole here:

Alliance Part of Growing Wave of Tech-Savvy Seniors

Seniors and baby-boomers are the most rapidly-growing group of social networking internet users.  A new report by Pew Research Center [] shows that social networking use among internet users over the age of 50 nearly doubled in the last year alone. Between last April and this May, 50+ social networkers jumped from 22% to 42% of the population. In addition to basic use, the frequency of use (i.e. logging in at least once a day) has dramatically increased. The report included blogs, Facebook, Twitter and other interactive social media applications. Many Alliance leaders and activists have already added social networking applications to their organizing tool belts – using blogs to get their messages out and organizing events on Facebook to keep in touch with their state Alliances, allies, elected officials and reporters. “If you have not yet checked out the Alliance Facebook page at, please do, as it’s one of the speediest and most interactive ways we can keep in touch on a regular basis!” said Barbara J. Easterling, President of the Alliance.

Alliance Travel

Ms. Easterling was in St. Louis on Tuesday to address both the Missouri AFL-CIO convention and the Missouri Alliance for Retired Americans convention.  Mr. Coyle and the Alliance’s Director of the Department of Government and Political Affairs, Richard Fiesta, were in Las Vegas this week to address the Machinists Retirees Conference.

Intergenerational Economic Trouble Ensues as Kids Go to College

According to Reuters, a growing number of families are tapping retirement accounts to fund soaring tuition bills in the midst of the toughest economic climate since the Great Depression. The number of families raiding retirement accounts for college this year has doubled, according to a new study by Gallup and student lending giant Sallie Mae []. The study of more than 1,600 families with college-age children found that 7 percent withdrew or borrowed funds from a 401(k) or IRA for the 2009-2010 academic year, up from 3 percent in the previous year. And the amounts withdrawn or borrowed increased to $8,554, up from $5,318 in the previous year. The reliance on retirement accounts mirrors a broader trend of cracked retirement nest eggs due to economic stress. Fidelity Investments reported recently that customers borrowing or withdrawing from a 401(k) account rose to 11 percent of active plan participants, up from 9 percent a year ago.

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