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The Significance of Social Security at 79

Social Security is important to all communities, including Latinos who depend on this social insurance program to make ends meet month after month. What would happen if Social Security didn’t exist?

More than half of all U.S. older adults would live in poverty. 

 

This means that about 1 in 2 seniors is economically insecure, making difficult choices to somehow meet their basic needs. Most times, however, they fall short. They are forced to make unthinkable decisions, sacrificing one basic need to meet another. Older Americans should not have to choose between eating a meal and paying for a dose of medication, but that is the reality many of our seniors face on a daily basis.

For the last several years NHCOA has traveled to different regions of the country with high populations of Hispanic older adults to listen to their stories, which we then use in Washington to advocate on their behalf.

 

Almost all of the stories we hear from Hispanic older adults on these listening tours are related to economic security— or rather, lack thereof. 

 

According to the Social Security Administration, Hispanics have lower median earnings because they tend to work in lower paying jobs:

  • In 2012, the average annual Social Security income received by Hispanic men 65 years and older was $13,295, and for women it was $10,500.
  • In 2012, among Hispanics receiving Social Security, 40% of elderly married couples and 62 percent of elderly unmarried persons relied on Social Security for 90% or more of their income.

How does this data translate into real-world situations? Here is one story from our Los Angeles Promoting Communities of Success Regional Meeting in 2013:

I earn $400 in Social Security and $400 for supplemental. But I pay more than $600 in rent… [and] I have to pay for other bills and food is expensive. I also have to pay for medicines. If Social Security is cut, are we going to end up in the streets?  – Ana Margarita

As we celebrate the 79th year of Social Security’s existence, let it serve as a reminder of its significance to millions of seniors, disabled persons, and families across the country and may we never forget the words of President Franklin D. Roosevelt during the signing of the Social Security Act in 1935:

“This law represents a cornerstone in a structure which is being built but is by no means completed… a law that will take care of human needs and at the same time provide for the United States an economic structure of vastly greater soundness.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

Social Security Celebrates 78 Years of Helping Americans

On August 14th Social Security celebrates 78 years of never missing a single payment and helping millions of Americans live with dignity and honor.

Social Security was created during President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s first term as the Old Age, Survivors and Disability Act, more commonly known today as the Social Security Act, with the mission to provide financial assistance to the most vulnerable in our country. It is a federal program that includes insurance and disability programs funded by payroll taxes.   Over the years, the Social Security Act has grown to provide several programs, including retirement insurance, unemployment benefits, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, Medicare, Medicaid and Supplement Security Income, among others. The largest of its programs is the payment of retirement benefits. Retirement benefits are based upon individuals’ earning histories and the age at which they choose to retire. Once retirees choose to receive benefits, they receive a Social Security check each month.

Social Security is particularly important for Hispanics, who are disproportionately affected by poverty. In 2011, the median earnings of working-age Hispanics who worked full-time were about $30,000 compared to $42,000 for all working-age people. However, Social Security returns a greater percentage of pre-retirement earnings to a lower-wage worker than to a higher-wage worker. Additionally, due to their longer than average life spans, Hispanics especially benefit from Social Security’s annual cost of living and inflation protections.

While Social Security has undoubtedly provided economic security to millions of Americans since its inception, the program should be strengthened.  According to projections from its trustees, Social Security’s liabilities may exceed its funds by 2033. Policy-makers have a wide variety of options to support Social Security and keep it solvent.  For example, increasing the amount of income subject to the payroll tax, covering new state and local government employees, and passing comprehensive immigration reform can all keep Social Security solvent for decades beyond 2033.

Social Security is an essential program that helps us care for our fellow Americans. Therefore, NHCOA encourages everyone to work together to support and protect Social Security in order to ensure that it can continue to provide assistance to those in need.

The Chained Consumer Price Index (CPI) is Harmful for Hispanic Older Adults

For Hispanic seniors, one of the main sources of reliable income comes from Social Security. Without the Social Security program, their poverty rate would be over 50%.[1] And although Social Security benefits allow Hispanic older adults to live just above the poverty line, its benefits are still not enough to bring them complete economic security.

Hispanic older adults will be facing another burden in Social Security by the Chained Consumer Price Index (CPI), which was recently announced in President Obama’s budget proposal. The chained CPI to calculate Social Security’s cost of living adjustment would be especially harmful to Hispanic older adults because it cuts the benefits of Social Security by reducing their annual cost of living adjustment. Low-income older adults cannot alter their spending to purchase less expensive items, as the chained CPI assumes they can. In fact, many Hispanic older adults have already reduced their spending to basic necessities. Overall, Hispanics have longer than average life expectancies,[2] but they are disproportionately affected by diabetes and lack of immunizations.[3] Longer than average life expectancy, combined with health disparities, means Hispanics greatly rely on Social Security for income security in their later years.

  • The average annual Social Security benefit for Hispanic men is $12,921 and for women it is $10,438.[4] The chained CPI would cut these benefits by nearly $1,000 for a 75-year old.[5]
  • According to the Census Bureau, 18.7% of Hispanics 65 and over live in poverty.[6]
  • Without Social Security, the elderly Hispanic poverty rate would increase from roughly one out of five to one out of two.[7]
  • Social Security currently benefits over two million Hispanic households, nearly one out of every six Hispanic households.[8]

In an effort to protect the Social Security program and help increase economic security of Hispanic older adults, NHCOA makes the following recommendations:

  • Preserve the benefits of Social Security and do not alter the cost of living adjustment calculation to a standard, like the chained Consumer Price Index, that does not accurately reflect the cost of living for older adults.
  • Implement reforms to Social Security that ensure its long-term solvency, that maintain its guaranteed benefits, and that do not reduce benefits to current or future beneficiaries.
  • The federal government should take a leading role in creating defined benefit pensions, like Senator Tom Harkin’s USA Retirement Fund, that are universal, pool risk, place minimal administrative burden on employers, and provide incentives to all workers, particularly low-income workers, to begin saving early and regularly.
  • To help older adults become self-sufficient and maintain their independence, increase funding for programs like the Senior Community Service Employment Program, which are specifically designed for older adults.

NHCOA encourages you to take action to show your support for Social Security and oppose the chained CPI by calling and emailing President Obama and your members of the Senate and House of Representatives.

  • To find your member of the House of Representatives, click here.
  • To find your Senators, click here
  • Call Congress toll-free at 1-888-876-6242 and tell your Representative and Senators not to reduce the Social Security benefits we have all earned.
  • To email President Obama, click here.
  • To call President Obama, dial 202-456-1414 or 202-456-1111 and tell him that you oppose the chained CPI.


[1] Torres-Gil, Fernando et al. “The Importance of Social Security to the Hispanic Community,” Washington, DC, Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, 2005.

[2] National Center for Health Statistics. Health, United States, 2011: With Special Feature on Socioeconomic Status and Health. Hyattsville, MD. 2012.

[3] The Office of Minority Health, “Hispanic/Latino Profile,” at http://minorityhealth.hhs.gov/templates/browse.aspx?lvl=2&lvlID=54

[4] Social Security Administration, “Social Security is Important to Hispanics,” 2013, at http://www.ssa.gov/pressoffice/factsheets/hispanics.htm

[5] The Chained CPI-U Proposal: A Devastating Benefit Cut for Latino Seniors. Latinos for a Secure Retirement. July 2011.

[6] United States Census Bureau, “Income, Poverty, and Health Insurance, 2011,” 2012.

[7] Torres-Gil, Fernando et al. “The Importance of Social Security to the Hispanic Community,” Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, 2005.

[8]  U.S. Census Bureau, “Selected Economic Characteristics,” in 2006-2010 American Community Survey.

Sequestration and its role in the Hispanic community

Congress and President Obama are prepared to allow budget cuts to take effect March 1. Although Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security will still provide the same benefits and not have their budgets cut, the budget of most other federal programs will be cut by millions of dollars if nothing is done.

The Sequester of the Budget Control Act (BCA) will sharply reduce the budget of most federal government programs. When it was enacted in 2011, the BCA set limits on the amount of money the federal government can spend on each program. Because Congress has not been able to identify cuts to federal spending, the Sequester, which is a provision of the BCA, will reduce the budget of most federal government funded programs starting on March 1st.

If Congress and President Obama fail to stop the Sequester, communities caring for the most vulnerable will feel the effect the most. Those vulnerable include many Hispanic older adults relying on home delivered meals, housing units, and rides the senior centers provide. In 2010, there were 2,781,624 Hispanic older adults in the United States. With that number continuing to grow, if the federal government cuts the budget for important programs such as Meals on Wheels, older adults will not be receiving the quality care they deserve in their golden years.

If Congress and President Obama can identify $1.2 trillion of budget cuts or agree to another budget deal, the Sequester can be avoided. The National Hispanic Council on Aging (NHCOA) – the leading national organization working to improve the lives of Hispanic older adults, their families, and caregivers – calls on Congress and President Obama to carefully develop a budget that would foster economic recovery and preserve programs for the most vulnerable. Programs that help older adults live a healthy and safe life are wise investments for current and future older adults in the United States.

Health Care in President Obama’s 2013 State of the Union address

Amongst the issues of education, job creation, gun control, immigration, and tax reform, the rising cost of health care stood out to many Americans in President Obama’s 2013 State of the Union address.

Undoubtedly, we cannot put the burden of high cost health care onto seniors, for most are retired. Instead, we need to implement reforms that lower the cost of all health care.

“The biggest driver of our long-term debt is the rising cost of health care for an aging population. And those of us who care deeply about programs like Medicare must embrace the need for modest reforms. Otherwise, our retirement programs will crowd out the investments we need for our children and jeopardize the promise of a secure retirement for future generations,” said President Obama

Hispanic older adults, especially, are feeling the burden of high cost health care programs. For Hispanic older adults, the standard of living is at a very challenging state. According the U.S. Census Bureau, in 2009 the median income for Hispanic households of all ages was $38,039, compared to $49,777 for all households. Many Hispanic older adults have far more modest incomes. In fact, over 18% of Hispanic older adults lived in poverty in 2011, according to the report Income, Poverty, and Health Insurance Coverage in the United States: 2011.

For this reason, Hispanic older adults rely on Social Security benefits, for it is a major source of income for most elderly in the United States. If social security benefits are cut, seniors will struggle in keeping up with the rising costs of prescriptions and anything needed for their overall health. The Hispanic population as a whole contributes continuously to the role of Social Security and Medicare. According to the report Labor force projections to 2020: a more slowly growing workforce, Hispanics make up 14.78% of labor force, and their payroll tax dollars help pay for the benefits of current retirees.

NHCOA advocates to make sure Hispanics are receiving the proper funding and best quality for health care. Putting our concentration on the disparities in health care for a fast growing community is necessary to protect current and future seniors.

 

Resources:

To receive more information on health care options, click here.

Click here for more information on Medicare coverage.

Click here for the official Obama-Biden plan on social security, and for general social security facts, click here.

Two Percent Tax Holiday Expiration: What Does It Mean?

Many workers received their first paycheck of 2013 yesterday and they most likely realized that the ‘holiday’ is over. We’re not talking about Thanksgiving, Christmas or the New Year. We’re talking about the elimination of the payroll tax holiday, a temporary relief for working taxpayers under the Tax Relief Act of 2010.
Continue reading “Two Percent Tax Holiday Expiration: What Does It Mean?”

NHCOA President and CEO Calls on Congressional Leaders to Protect Our Most Vulnerable

Washington, DC— Dr. Yanira Cruz, President and CEO of the National Hispanic Council on Aging (NHCOA)— the leading national organization working to improve the lives of Hispanic older adults, their families, and caregivers— released the following remarks to call on further cooperation from Congressional leaders to put the nation’s finances in order, while protecting the country’s most vulnerable populations:
Continue reading “NHCOA President and CEO Calls on Congressional Leaders to Protect Our Most Vulnerable”

6 Things to Add to your Holiday Checklist

The holidays are a busy time of year, but before you finish making your list and checking it twice consider adding these six things to your holiday checklist this year:

1)  Fight Medicare Fraud

Did you know you are the best defense against Medicare fraud? Every year we lose billions of dollars to Medicare fraud. This is why the National Hispanic SMP (NHSMP) works to empower Latino seniors, their families, and caregivers to protect, detect, and report Medicare fraud. There are simple steps we can take to ensure older adults don’t become victims of Medicare fraud. Visit www.nhcoa.org/medicare for more information.

2)  Keep Up-To-Date With Vaccinations

Immunizations aren’t just for babies and children. We need to get vaccinated at every stage of life to ensure we protect our health and that of our friends, families, and communities. One immunization everyone should get each year is the flu shot. This year the flu season seems to have peaked early, so be sure to get vaccinated before ringing in the New Year! Medicare recipients can get the flu shot for free as part of preventative care coverage. Click here to find a nearby clinic or pharmacy.

3)  Avoid the Fiscal Cliff

The future of Medicare, Social Security and other programs that impact Hispanic families and older adults are at risk as we face a series of budget cuts and elimination of tax breaks and temporary tax cuts known as the ‘fiscal cliff.’ Make your voice heard! Call your Representative and Senator and let them know that they are putting families at risk by not acting now to solve the budget crisis.

Senate switchboard: (202) 224-3121

House of Representatives’ switchboard: (202) 225-3121

4)  Empower Your Loved Ones to Talk HIV

It is known that HIV/AIDS impacts Hispanics and other diverse communities disproportionately. However, one segment of the population that is often looked over or neglected is Hispanic older adults. In fact, in recent years we have experienced an increase in HIV/AIDS infections among the Latino aging population, and older adults in general. Almost 25% of all people living with HIV/AIDS in the U.S. are ages 50 or older, which is up from 17% in 2001. For more information, visit www.actagianstaids.org.

5)  Adopt Healthier Eating Habits

The holiday season is a time when we gather around tables to share delicious meals. While these meals represent family memories and holiday cheer, the increased calorie intake can affect your health and well-being. This is why NHCOA helps to educate and inform Hispanic older adults, their families, and caregivers on how to prevent and/or manage diabetes and its complications through its signature program Salud y Bienestar (Health and Well-Being), which is supported by the Walmart Foundation. Salud y Bienestar has helped thousands of Latino seniors and families over the last several years make healthier lifestyle changes.

6)  Plan a Budget

Be sure your 2013 budget accurately reflects your needs. Different health concerns, new diet restrictions and family visits should all be represented in your future budget. Also, it is important to know that in states there are laws that make it possible for workers to take paid time off to care for sick family members or make trips to the doctor, such as California. Ask your employer about leaves that pay to make sure you’re not losing wages due to a family emergency. After budgeting, www.benefitscheckup.org/ to see if you or your family members are eligible for assistance paying for medicine, food, utilities and more.

Happy 2013!

NHCOA Statement Regarding Signing Into Law of Temporary Debt Limit Deal

Urges Congress and President Obama to uphold promise made to our generations by protecting federal senior programs

Washington, DC– Dr. Yanira Cruz, NHCOA President and CEO, made the following remarks regarding the passage and enactment of a temporary debt ceiling deal:

“NHCOA is heartened by the passage of a debt ceiling deal and its promise to not place the burden of deficit reduction on lower-income and middle-class families. We applaud Congress and President Obama for reaching this temporary agreement that will protect and preserve Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid for our older adults and their families.

“However, NHCOA believes that any changes made to these vital seniors programs should be subject to a fair, open, and bipartisan debate, which would be difficult to achieve in this current political climate. We need to stand behind our seniors and protect their needs and interests—not place more financial burden on their backs.
“Therefore, NHCOA is concerned with the conditions Congress proposed for the creation of a ‘super committee’, tasked with shaving another $1.5 trillion from the deficit by year’s end. Fast-tracking recommendations to cut these vital senior programs without an amendment process or more open debate, puts seniors and future generations in great peril and hinders real legislating.

“NHCOA redoubles its commitment in protecting the promise of Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid so these programs continue to be a reality for our older adults and future generations, and urges Congressional leaders and President Obama to uphold them.”

NHCOA Joins Diverse Elders Coalition in Opposing Budget Cuts Affecting Seniors’ Ability to Age With Dignity

In Particular, Coalition Urges Congress and White House to Protect Diverse Elders

Washington, DC—The National Hispanic Council on Aging (NHCOA)— the leading organization working to improve the lives of Hispanic older adults, their families, and caregivers— has joined its colleague members of the Diverse Elders Coalition (DEC) in a joint letter opposing budget cuts to federal programs that benefit seniors, in particular diverse elders.

“As we face difficult decisions to solve our national budget issues, we must not do so at the expense of our older adults, who have done their part in protecting, strengthening, and ensuring the well being of the country through their hard and invaluable contributions,” said Dr. Yanira Cruz, NHCOA President and CEO.  “Particularly, we must consider diverse elders, who stand to suffer the most if these damaging reductions or cuts are enacted.”

In the letter signed by the National Hispanic Council on Aging (NHCOA), the National Asian Pacific Center on Aging (NAPCA), the National Association for Hispanic Elderly (ANPPM), the National Caucus & Center on Black Aged (NCBA), the National Indian Council on Aging (NICOA), the Services and Advocacy for Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgender Elders (SAGE), and the Southeast Asia Resource Action Center (SEARAC), the DEC urges President Obama and Congressional leaders to “strongly oppose cuts of any nature to Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security in the budget and debt reduction discussions” as “putting seniors’ programs on the budget chopping block…would be a shortsighted, unjust, and detrimental approach to overcoming our financial strife in the long term.”

The letter goes on to express the DEC’s “concern about protecting programs that seniors and low-income individuals need to survive daily and provide for themselves,” such as the Senior Community Service Employment Program (SCSEP) and the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP).

In closing, the DEC stresses that “we cannot continue to use these life-saving programs as political bargaining chips if we are truly serious about fixing our economic situation. There are many balanced approaches to containing government spending that do not require placing increased financial burden on the backs of our seniors. Therefore, it is time we stand behind our seniors and show them the respect and care they deserve.”

The Diverse Elders Coalition (DEC) is a group of seven organizations working to improve the lives of racially and ethnically diverse older adults and LGBT seniors. Broadly speaking, the DEC works to promote elder economic security and employment as well as achieve health equity and eliminate health disparities among racially, ethnically diverse, and LGBT communities. Although its work is primarily focused on diverse groups, the issues DEC’s constituencies face reflect the shared challenges all Americans are confronted with in aging with dignity.