Ever since Ida May Fuller of Vermont received the first Social Security check issued, seniors have a reliable safety-net to fall back on in retirement and to supplement individual retirement savings or pensions. Over 40 percent of elderly Americans are kept out of poverty by their monthly benefits, and these benefits are the major source of income for two-thirds of all beneficiaries.
Senator Leahy knows how important Social Security is and how it helps millions of seniors stay out of poverty and is critical for so many Vermont seniors to make ends meet. Senator Leahy strongly believes that America’s seniors deserve the full benefits that they have been promised. He has continually pushed for initiatives to preserve Social Security and maintain its strength for future generations. In the 113th Congress, he cosponsored the Keeping our Social Security Promises Act, which would keep Social Security solvent for 75 additional years by allowing the payroll tax to apply to salaries above $250,000.
Cost-of-Living Adjustment (COLA)
The Social Security Act specifies a formula for determining each COLA. In general, a COLA is equal to the percentage increase in the Consumer Price Index for Urban Wage Earners and Clerical Workers (CPI-W) from the third quarter of one year to the third quarter of the next. If there is no increase, there is no COLA. The amount of the COLA for Social Security beneficiaries is not voted on each year by Congress, but determined by an automatic formula based on the CPI-W. Although Vermonters will receive a 1.7 percent increase in COLA in 2015, Senator Leahy agrees that this does not adequately account for price changes affecting seniors. That is why he supports the provision included in the Older Americans Act Reauthorization Act of 2015 to calculate COLA based on the Consumer Price Index for the Elderly (CPI-E), which calculates inflation rates based on consumption in households of Americans aged 62 and older.
Social Security Frequently Asked Questions
Q) What is the future solvency of Social Security?
A) Social Security faces a long term funding imbalance, not an immediate crisis. Both the Social Security Trustees and the Congressional Budget Office project that there will be enough money in the Social Security Trust Fund to continue to pay full benefits for Social Security recipients through 2033.
Q) Do Members of Congress pay Social Security?
A) Yes. Before 1984, all federal employees, including Members of Congress, were covered by the Civil Service Retirement System (CSRS) which was designed as a comprehensive system that did not include payment of Social Security taxes. That changed in 1983, when Congress passed the Social Security Act (P.L. 98_21). That legislation required all Members of Congress, who were elected after 1984, to be covered under Social Security. Today, Members of Congress do pay into Social Security, and they do collect from it just like any other taxpayer.
Q) What other benefits are paid by Social Security?
A) In addition to being the most reliable source of income for many seniors, Social Security also provides spousal benefits, survivor benefits, and disability benefits. To find out if you qualify for these benefits, visit the Social Security website.
Should you require additional assistance regarding your Social Security, or your need help signing up for benefits, please contact Senator Leahy’s office.