Benefit Bulletin: October 2018

Benefit Bulletin: October 2018

Poverty Among Older Americans Getting Hard to Ignore

For a growing share of older Americans, retirement has come to mean a lower standard of living as they age.  Fewer people are retiring with pensions or adequate retirement savings, and at the same time, medical expenses are soaring.  In 2017, the U.S. Census Bureau’s annual poverty report found that adults aged 65 and older were the only population group shown to experience an increase in the number of people in poverty, from 16.0% in 2015 to 18.1% in 2016.  Meanwhile the national poverty rate declined marginally for other groups.

To help address this problem, TSCL supports recently introduced legislation “The Elder Poverty Relief Act” (S.2653) that would help alleviate poverty among older Americans by creating a new Poverty Relief Benefit for the most vulnerable individuals.  This benefit would provide an additional $85 per month, and it would increase every year by roughly 4%.  Individuals would qualify for the monthly poverty relief benefit under any of the following set of requirements:

  • Social Security beneficiaries who are 82 or older.
  • Individuals who have received Social Security benefits for at least 20 years.
  • Social Security beneficiaries at full retirement age with low monthly benefits (roughly $944 a month, adjusted annually).

The poverty relief benefit would increase annually by changes to the average wage index, rather than changes in consumer prices.  Because the wage index increases more quickly than prices, the Social Security Chief actuary says the $85 boost would compound faster than COLAs and would become a larger share of benefits over time.  The Social Security Administration estimated that 96% of people age 82 and older would receive the benefit.

To stay up to date on this proposal, watch your mail, and visit TSCL’s website at