Members of Congress may lose an election but unlike other Americans, they never lose their retirement and health benefits. A Member of the House or Senate who retires at age 60 after just 12 years in office will receive a Congressional pension of $25,000 a year and lifetime benefits that could total more than $800,000. That doesn't even include 401(k) benefits or their Social Security benefits - (and yes, they do pay into, and receive, Social Security).
It makes no difference if a Member of Congress has broken the law. This newsletter recently reported that former Representative Randy "Duke" Cunningham (CA), who was sentenced to eight years in jail for bribery charges, is entitled to an annual pension of about $36,000. Currently, it takes an act of treason for a Member of the House or Senate to lose a pension.
The retirement pensions of most average Americans, however, have not received the same level of dedicated protection from our elected lawmakers over the years. In 1977, Congress enacted changes to the Social Security benefit formula that cut benefits for persons who first became eligible to retire just two years later. Because of flaws in the transition and unexpectedly high inflation during the period, benefit reductions were even greater than anticipated. Seniors born from 1917 through 1926, known as Notch Babies, receive lower benefits than other seniors with similar work and earnings records. According to studies for TSCL, Notch Babies' benefits are $1,000 to $3,000 per year lower, on average, than those of other retirees with similar work and earnings records.
To allow this situation to languish so long is a national disgrace when there's a surprising high level of bipartisan support for Notch Reform through "The Notch Fairness Act." This legislation would allow Notch Babies born from 1917 through 1926 a choice between a lump-sum of $5,000 payable over a four-year period, or a higher monthly benefit. As of this writing, more than 94 cosponsors have signed on.
Your persistent support in signing petitions, sending email, and letters to your Members of Congress have helped build the highest level of co-sponsorship in more than ten years.
Because this is an election year, elected lawmakers are likely to be listening extremely carefully to their constituents. Your help now, and that of family and friends, could make the difference in pushing through the $5,000 lump-sum legislation.
Sources: "Lawmakers Never Faced With Losing Benefits," The Associated Press, April 19, 2006.