Legislative Update for Week Ending April 24, 2015

Legislative Update for Week Ending April 24, 2015

This week, one House lawmaker introduced legislation that would reform the Social Security program and extend the solvency of the trust funds responsibly, without cutting benefits for seniors. In addition, The Senior Citizens League (TSCL) saw support grow for two key bills.

Social Security Reform Legislation Introduced

On Thursday, Rep. Peter DeFazio (OR-4) introduced the FAIR Social Security Act (H.R. 1984), a bill that would take three major steps to reform the Social Security program without enacting any benefit cuts for seniors.

First, the bill would make cost-of-living adjustments (COLAs) more fair and accurate by basing them on the Consumer Price Index for Elderly Consumers (CPI-E). Currently, COLAs are based on the spending patterns of young, urban workers, and they do not reflect the inflation that seniors actually experience. According to Rep. DeFazio, if the CPI-E were adopted, the average senior would see a significant monthly benefit increase of $43 at the age of 80, and an increase of $70 per month at the age of 90.

Second, the bill would eliminate the cap on income that is subject to the FICA tax. Currently, all income above $118,500 is exempt from this tax, which means that the wealthiest 6 percent of Americans only pay Social Security taxes on a small portion of their annual income. Rep. DeFazio’s bill would ensure that all Americans pay the same rate, and it would extend the solvency of the trust fund through 2057, according to his office.

Finally, the bill would address the looming insolvency of the Disability Insurance (DI) program without taking any funds away from the retirement program. It would use only the new tax revenues from incomes above the indexed cap – currently set at $118,500 – to return the program to solvency. The DI program is set to become insolvent next year, in 2016, and lawmakers will need to act soon in order to prevent serious cuts for disabled beneficiaries.

In a letter of endorsement from Ed Cates, Chairman of TSCL’s Board of Trustees, he wrote: “We believe your bill would go a long way in ensuring the retirement security that senior citizens have earned and deserved … Thank you for being a positive voice for America’s seniors in the U.S. House of Representatives.”  TSLC enthusiastically supports the FAIR Social Security Act, and we look forward to working with Rep. DeFazio in the coming months to help build support for it.

Two Key Bills Gain Support

This week, ten new cosponsors signed on to the Social Security Fairness Act (H.R. 973), bringing the total up to ninety-seven. The new cosponsors are: Reps. Derek Kilmer (WA-6), Michael Doyle (PA-14), Anna Eshoo (CA-18), Beto O’Rourke (TX-16), Lloyd Doggett (TX-35), Markwayne Mullin (OK-2), Greg Walden (OR-2), Zoe Lofgren (CA-19), Mike Thompson (CA-5), and Grace Napolitano (CA-32).

If signed into law, H.R. 973 would repeal the Windfall Elimination Provision (WEP) and the Government Pension Offset (GPO) – two federal provisions that unfairly reduce the earned Social Security benefits of millions of teachers, firefighters, peace officers, and other state or local government employees each year.

In addition, one new cosponsor – Sen. Chuck Grassley (IA) – signed on to the Safe and Affordable Drugs from Canada Act (S. 122), bringing the cosponsor total to four. S. 122, if signed into law, would allow individuals to import prescription drugs from approved pharmacies in Canada. According to Senator John McCain (AZ), the bill’s sponsor, it would also “spur much-needed competition in the pharmaceutical market and save individual Americans up to hundreds of dollars a year.”

TSCL supports H.R. 973 and S. 122 enthusiastically, and we were pleased to see support grow for both of them this week.