Alexandria, VA: A leading proposal to temporarily fix the looming insolvency of the Social Security disability trust fund by reallocating payroll taxes has virtually no support among seniors, according to a new poll by The Senior Citizens League (TSCL). Less than one percent of seniors polled said shifting revenues from the Social Security retirement trust fund to pay disability benefits was the best way to fix the disability program’s financing. “TSCL believes this ‘band aid’ approach will not be quietly tolerated this time around,” says TSCL Chairman Ed Cates. “Today’s senior voters have clear preferences for how they think lawmakers should address the disability program’s funding shortfalls — reallocation of payroll taxes from the trust fund that pays retirement benefits is not one of them,” Cates states.
Congress has reallocated payroll taxes at least 9 times in the past to temporarily avert trust fund financing crises, according to the Congressional Research Service. “Doing so now would be much more difficult, because the retirement program is in cash deficit, and the government is borrowing money to cover retirement and survivor benefits,” Cates points out. “Reallocation from the retirement trust fund would mean the government would have to borrow more, a recipe for more explosive debt limit show downs in coming months,” he says. “The situation could put all Social Security benefits, including retirement and survivors benefits, at risk of cuts in debt limit negotiations,” Cates explains.
Although the Social Security trust fund is often reported as being solvent until 2033, there are two separate trust funds, each with separate insolvency dates. The trust fund for the disability insurance program is in the biggest financial trouble and is estimated to become completely exhausted in 2016 or by 2017. “With 2016 being a major presidential election year, either the next Congress will need to enact program changes next year, or risk running out the clock and triggering across the board benefit cuts,” Cates points out.
If Congress does nothing and the Social Security disability trust fund is allowed to become fully exhausted, there will still be payroll taxes coming into the program, but 11 million disability beneficiaries would see their benefits automatically cut by about 20%, according to the Congressional Research Service. The reallocation of payroll taxes from the retirement trust fund is likely to gain increasing attention from Congress in coming months, although it’s unclear when or if Congress will act.
The TSCL poll found seniors were closely split over the two other leading approaches to address the disability program’s solvency. Forty-eight percent favored tightening Social Security’s disability eligibility requirements and conducting more annual eligibility reviews to reduce fraud. Fifty-one percent favor requiring high wage earners to pay Social Security taxes on all of their incomes. “TSCL believes that the only way Congress will forge an agreement is through bipartisan efforts that use a combination of the two approaches,” Cates states. What do you think about issues affecting seniors? Take a poll. Visit TSCL’s website at www.SeniorsLeague.org.
With about 1 million supporters, The Senior Citizens League is one of the nation's largest nonpartisan seniors groups. Located just outside Washington, D.C., its mission is to promote and assist members and supporters, to educate and alert senior citizens about their rights and freedoms as U.S. Citizens, and to protect and defend the benefits senior citizens have earned and paid for. The Senior Citizens League is a proud affiliate of TREA The Enlisted Association. Please visit www.SeniorsLeague.org or call 1-800-333-8725 for more information.
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