Leahy Urges Action As COLA Deadline Approaches For Seniors, Veterans

…Legislation Would Boost Social Security By Closing Multi-Million Dollar Corporate Bonus Loophole

WASHINGTON (TUESDAY, Dec. 01, 2015)  -- With one month to go until seniors and veterans face a rare zero Cost-Of-Living Adjustment (COLA), Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) and other senators Tuesday urged action on the Senate Floor to pass the SAVE Benefits Act.

Cosponsored by Leahy, the bill would boost Social Security and veterans benefits by ending tax subsidies for multi-million dollar corporate bonuses.  If Congress does not act, seniors and veterans will face a zero COLA on January 1st.

The Seniors and Veterans Emergency Benefits Act (SAVE Benefits Act) would provide about 70 million seniors, veterans, people with disabilities and others an emergency supplemental payment of about $581. This payment is equal to 3.9 percent of the average annual Social Security benefit -- the same percentage raise that CEOs at the top 350 firms received last year.  The cost of the bill would be covered by closing a tax loophole allowing corporations to write off executive bonuses as a business expense for "performance pay."

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) also supports the bill, whose chief sponsor is Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.).

Statement of Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.),
On the Senior and Veterans Emergency (SAVE) Benefits Act
December 1, 2015

I want to thank Senator Warren for her leadership on a matter of great importance to millions of Americans.

In October, Social Security beneficiaries received some upsetting news.  For the third time in 40 years, the Social Security Administration announced that, in 2016, Social Security payments will not include a cost-of-living increase.  Unless Congress Acts, seniors and others who receive Social Security benefits will not see an additional dime in payments in the new year.  For the nearly two-thirds of beneficiaries who depend on Social Security for at least half of their income, and for the 24 percent of those where Social Security is the sole source of income, this news is not just distressing – it is devastating.

In order to address this issue, I am proud to stand with thousands of Vermonters and millions of Americans, and to support Senator Warren’s bill to provide Social Security recipients, those who receive disability benefits, and veterans, among others, a one-time payment next year.  This payment would be equivalent to an average increase of 3.9 percent—the same pay increase that the top CEOs in the United States saw last year. 

Many in Congress have turned a blind eye to the problems facing Social Security, arguing that we cannot as a country possibly afford to spend resources on our seniors.  Yet each year, hardworking Americans subsidize billions of dollars in tax subsidies for the compensation packages of corporate CEOs.  By no longer allowing corporations to receive tax deductions for performance pay packages for their executives, we could give a one-time, emergency payment to our nation’s seniors and increase the solvency of the Social Security Trust Fund without adding a penny to the deficit.  

It is a matter of priorities.  Are we as a country going to support the millions of Americans who depend upon Social Security to make ends meet?  Or are we going to continue to allow the country’s top CEOs—whose average salary in 2014 topped $16 million each—to continue to rake in billions of dollars thanks to the performance pay tax loophole?  The choice here should be clear.     

Social Security is an immensely important program, one that has helped millions of Americans stay out of poverty once entering retirement.  This program has always represented a strong commitment to our nation's seniors. Ever since Ida May Fuller of Vermont received the first Social Security check issued, vulnerable seniors have had a safety-net to fall back on in retirement or to supplement individual retirement savings or pensions. Support for this bill represents a continued commitment to our nation’s seniors and those with disabilities in this uncertain economy.

I hope we can redouble our commitment to seniors, veterans, and those with disabilities in this country by passing this important legislation. 

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