Legislative Update: March-April 2024

Legislative Update: March-April 2024

How TSCL Is Working For You In 2024

By Daisy Brown, TSCL Legislative Liaison

Most of the older Americans who take our surveys aren’t very confident about the future of their retirement. Less than one out of five adults aged 65 and up expects their income to be adequate and last through their entire retirement.

TSCL’s latest survey found that most of our survey participants — 56% — rely on Social Security for one third to as much as 90% of their total retirement income.  But there is a huge portion of retirees — 44% of participants in our latest survey who told us that they rely on Social Security for 90% or more of their income. That group is at high risk of falling into debt, may be seeking low-income assistance, and visiting food pantries.

Social Security is the most critical source of retirement income that older Americans have today. TSCL works to strengthen Social Security benefits as well as to protect our nation’s older Americans from benefit cuts.

In 2024, enactment of legislation that provides financial and tax relief for older Americans is our top priority. TSCL is working for legislation that would:

Boost retirement income.  TSCL supports legislation that would provide a $1,400 stimulus payment for Social Security recipients in 2024. With historically high inflation, retirees received high cost-of-living adjustments (COLAs) of 5.9% in 2022 and 8.7% in 2023. But even as the rate of inflation has moderated, some prices for big ticket items, such as housing, hospital costs and home care, auto insurance and repairs have remained high and unaffordable for many. A $1,400 stimulus payment can help pay down high interest credit cards or pay the heating and cooling bills.

Boost benefits and provide stronger inflation protection. TSCL supports legislation that would provide more adequate benefits by boosting benefits by 2%  or roughly $35 per month on average. In addition, we support tying the annual inflation adjustment to a seniors’ consumer price index, the Consumer Price Index for the Elderly (CPI-E) when it would yield a higher COLA than the currently used Consumer Price Index for Urban Wage Earners and Workers (CPI-W).

Adjust the income thresholds that subject Social Security benefits to taxation. Up to 85% of Social Security benefits can be taxable when your income exceeds certain income thresholds. For example, if you file a federal tax return as an individual and your “combined income” exceeds $25,000; or file a joint return, and you and your spouse have a “combined income” of over $32,000 you may pay federal income tax on a portion of your Social Security benefits. Unlike income tax brackets and the standard deductions, these income thresholds have NEVER been adjusted for inflation since the law became effective in 1984.  If those thresholds were adjusted to today’s dollars, the $25,000 threshold would be about $75,330, and the $32,000 threshold would be about $96,424.

Fight efforts to cut your earned Social Security and Medicare benefits.  Over the past three decades, numerous plans have been put forward to cut deficits and bring Social Security into balance. Virtually every major plan shared one key element — COLA cuts. One major proposal would tie the annual inflation adjustment to a more slowly growing “chained” consumer price index. A recent analysis by Advisor editor Mary Johnson compared COLA increases from 2015 to 2024 with what those increases would have been if using the chained CPI instead. The analysis found that a starting monthly benefit of $1,294 (the average monthly benefit in 2014) would be $1,692.20 in 2024. Had the chained CPI been used to calculate the annual increase, the monthly benefit would only be $1,653,10 in 2024 — about $39 per month less. Total Social Security income since 2015 would be about $1,808 lower.

TSCL is working to be your voice in Congress.  To stay up to date visit us on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/seniorsleague