Legislative Update for Week Ending September 14, 2018

Legislative Update for Week Ending September 14, 2018

This week, The Senior Citizens League (TSCL) announced its support for legislation that would increase the administrative funding of the Social Security program, prevent field office closures, and eliminate two waiting periods that Disability Insurance (DI) beneficiaries must endure. In addition, six key bills gained new cosponsors in the House.

TSCL Endorses Social Security Administration Fairness Act

This week, The Senior Citizens League announced its support for the Social Security Administration Fairness Act (S. 3147, H.R. 6251), which was recently introduced by Senator Bernie Sanders (VT) and Representative John Larson (CT-1) with the support of six Senate cosponsors and twenty House cosponsors.

Their bill would address the administrative funding challenges that the Social Security Administration has been facing for several years. Since 2010, the Social Security Administration’s budget has declined by 9 percent, resulting in a loss of 10,000 employees and the closure of more than 10 percent of all field offices nationwide. At the same time, the number of Social Security beneficiaries has increased dramatically by 15 percent since 2010.

As a result of the inadequate funding, both the both the Old-Age and Survivors Insurance (OASI) and the Disability Insurance (DI) programs have been struggling to serve the public. More than one million applicants are currently waiting to hear whether they qualify for DI benefits, and those who have appealed recent rejections must wait 600 days or longer for their cases to be re-heard. In 2017, 10,000 individuals died while waiting on their DI eligibility decisions. While waiting, they had no access to DI benefits or Medicare coverage, which recipients with long-term disabilities can receive after they are enrolled in the program for two years.

If adopted, the Social Security Administration Fairness Act would accomplish the following:

  • It would permanently set the Social Security Administration’s administrative funding at 1.5 percent of overall benefit payments, more than doubling the funding that the administration currently receives.
  • It would implement a moratorium on all field office and contact station closures to ensure that beneficiaries have access to the essential services they provide.
  • It would eliminate two waiting periods that approved DI recipients must endure. Under current law, approved DI beneficiaries must wait five months to begin receiving monthly benefits, and two years to begin receiving Medicare coverage.

In a letter of support, Art Cooper – Chairman of The Senior Citizens League’s Board of Trustees – wrote: “The Senior Citizens League’s supporters – most of whom are enrolled in the Social Security program – question why Congress has not yet acted to address the funding challenges of the Social Security Administration in order to ensure the service that beneficiaries have earned and deserve … As such, The Senior Citizens League salutes you for introducing the Social Security Administration Fairness Act.”

The Senior Citizens League thanks Senator Sanders and Representative Larson for their leadership on this important issue, and we look forward to working with their offices in the months ahead to help build support for their bill. For more information about the Social Security Administration Fairness Act, visit the Bill Tracking section of our website. For progress updates, follow TSCL on Twitter.

Six Key House Bills Gain Cosponsors

This week, The Senior Citizens League was pleased to see support grow for six key bills that would strengthen the Social Security and Medicare programs.

First, one new cosponsor – Representative Brian Fitzpatrick (PA-8) – signed on to the CPI-E Act (H.R. 1251), bringing the total up to fifty-three. If adopted, H.R. 1251 would make the Social Security cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) more adequate by basing it on the spending patterns of older Americans – not the spending patterns of young, urban workers.

Second, Representative Brian Fitzpatrick (PA-8) also signed on to the CPI for Seniors Act (H.R. 2016), bringing the total up to six cosponsors. If adopted, this bill would require the Bureau of Labor Statistics to create and publish a new inflation index specifically for seniors so that lawmakers can better understand the price increases older Americans are experiencing.

Third, two new cosponsors – Representative Julia Brownley (CA-26) and Representative John Delaney (MD-6) – signed on to the Social Security 2100 Act (H.R. 1902), bringing the total up to 174. If adopted, H.R. 1902 would responsibly reform the Social Security program while strengthening benefits for seniors. It would also ensure the program’s solvency through the year 2100.

Fourth, one new cosponsor – Representative Raul Ruiz (CA-36) – signed on to Medicare Prescription Drug Price Negotiation Act (H.R. 242), bringing the total up to forty-four. This bill, if adopted, would require the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) to negotiate lower prescription drug prices on behalf of Medicare Part D beneficiaries. Under current law, CMS is prohibited from doing so.

Fifth, one new cosponsor – Representative Steve Cohen (TN-9) – signed on to the Nursing Home CARE Act (H.R. 4704), bringing the total up to twenty-five. If adopted, H.R. 4704 would protect Medicare and Medicaid beneficiaries by more quickly codifying emergency preparedness rules for nursing home facilities that receive funding from the federal government.

Finally, one new cosponsor – Representative Mark Pocan (WI-2) – signed on to the CHANGE Act (H.R. 4957), bringing the total to twenty-one. If adopted, this bill would direct CMS to create programs that would promote early identification of Alzheimer’s disease, improve support for family caregivers, and provide continuous care for those battling many forms of dementia.

The Senior Citizens League enthusiastically supports the six bills listed above, and we were pleased to see support grow for them this week. For more information about these and other TSCL-backed bills, visit the Bill Tracking section of our website.