This week, lawmakers returned to Washington following a week-long holiday recess and The Senior Citizens League (TSCL) announced its support for one new bill that would improve the Social Security cost-of-living adjustment (COLA). In addition, three key bills gained cosponsors in Congress.
TSCL Endorses CPI for Seniors Act
This week, The Senior Citizens League announced its support for new legislation called the CPI for Seniors Act (H.R. 2787). The bill, sponsored by Congressman Dan Lipinski (IL-3), would mandate the monthly formulation and publication of a consumer price index (CPI) specifically for senior citizens for the purpose of establishing a more accurate Social Security cost-of-living adjustment (COLA).
Under current law, annual COLAs are based upon the spending inflation experienced by young, urban workers, using the CPI-W. This index underestimates the inflation experienced by Social Security beneficiaries since it does not give enough weight to major expenses like health care, prescription drugs, or housing costs.
A new inflation index specifically for older Americans would go a long way in improving the adequacy of the Social Security COLA. According to The Senior Citizens League’s research, Social Security benefits have lost 33 percent of their purchasing power since 2000 due in large part to rising health care costs and annual COLAs that do not keep up with growing expenses.
Since 2000, average out-of-pocket spending on prescription drugs has grown by 253 percent. Medicare Part B premiums have grown by 198 percent. And home heating oil has grown by 170 percent. Meanwhile, Social Security benefits have grown by only around 50 percent since 2000.
Data shows that Social Security benefits are clearly failing to keep up with the rising costs experienced by older Americans. To address this growing issue, TSCL enthusiastically supports the adoption of the CPI for Seniors Act. We thank Congressman Lipinski for sponsoring this important bill in the 116th Congress, and we hope to see it signed into law before the end of this year.
For more information about the CPI for Seniors Act (H.R. 2787), visit the Bill Tracking section of our website. To read the full Loss of Buying Power report released by The Senior Citizens League last month, click here.
Three Key Bills Gain Cosponsors
This week, The Senior Citizens League was pleased to see support grow for three key bills that would strengthen the Social Security program if adopted.
First, ten new cosponsors signed on to the Social Security Fairness Act (H.R. 141), bringing the total up to 182. The new cosponsors are: Representatives Kathy Castor (FL-14), Dina Titus (NV-1), Alcee Hastings (FL-20), Michael Doyle (PA-18), Rashida Tlaib (MI-13), Robert Wittman (VA-1), Henry Cuellar (TX-28), Kendra Horn (OK-5), Marcia Fudge (OH-11), and Juan Vargas (CA-51).
This bipartisan bill, if adopted, would make the Social Security program more equitable by repealing the Windfall Elimination Provision (WEP) and the Government Pension Offset (GPO). These two provisions of law unfairly cut the Social Security benefits of millions of teachers, police officers, and other state or local government employees, often by 40 percent or more. By repealing both provisions, the Social Security Fairness Act would ensure that public servants receive the Social Security benefits they have earned and deserve.
Second, one new cosponsor – Representative Peter Visclosky (IN-1) – signed on to the Protecting and Preserving Social Security Act (H.R. 2302), bringing the total up to eight. This bill, if adopted, would improve the adequacy of the Social Security COLA by adopting the CPI-E. It would cover the cost of this change and improve the solvency of the Social Security Trust Funds for decades to come by phasing out the payroll tax cap – which currently sits at $132,900 – over the course of seven years.
And third, one new cosponsor, Representative David Loebsack (IA-2), signed on to the Social Security 2100 Act (H.R. 860), bringing the total up to 207. This bill, if adopted, would comprehensively reform the Social Security program by adopting the CPI-E, boosting benefits by 2 percent, creating a new minimum benefit set at 125 percent of the poverty line, and cutting taxes for millions of seniors. It would also strengthen the solvency of the Trust Funds through the remainder of this century by applying the payroll tax to income over $400,000 and by gradually increasing the payroll tax rate from 6.2 percent to 7.4 percent.
The Senior Citizens League was pleased to see support grow for these three bills this week, and we thank the new cosponsors for their support. In the months ahead, we will continue to advocate for the passage of H.R. 141, H.R. 2302, and H.R. 860, and we urge Congress to enact them this year.